What Couples Counseling Is All About

What Couples Counseling Is All About. As a Couples Counselor, let me tell you what couples counseling is not about. It’s not about taking sides and becoming one of the two partner’s ally while blaming and attacking the other. Getting some couples counseling doesn’t mean your relationship is so bad it won’t work. Divorce or a break up isn’t inevitable. I get it, it’s scary for some as some couples because they think they should be able to fix their problems. They think airing out their dirty laundry is personal and can be embarrassing. Nearly half of couples come to counseling to learn how to better handle conflict. As a Marriage Counselor, the majority of my couples say they need help with communication. Communication includes not being able to initiate conversation, express thoughts and feelings, and ask for want they need and want. They need help managing their emotions when they can’t agree to disagree.

There are many reasons couples go to counseling.  To name a few:

Needing communication skills

Needing conflict resolution skills

Looking for a stronger physical connection

Wanting more intimacy for an emotional connection

Wanting to learn new skills to maintain their relationship

Affair recovery

Help with decision making

Blended family issues

Change of life issues

Need help with child related concerns

Couples therapist


Couples who start their process are pleasantly surprised when they look back at the progress they’ve made and the concrete strategies they’ve learned. Resistance and defensiveness is replaced by empathy, effective communication, and emotional safety

Couples counseling can be effective if both partners are willing to undergo the process with good integrity. Meaning they will put in the effort and do what is required of them to receive their desired outcome.

For more information on couple counseling please give me a call at (858) 735-1139 or visit my website at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com


Better Off Going To Couples Counseling Alone?

Better Off Going To Couples Counseling Alone? In the 25 years that I’ve been working with couples I find it challenging to work with partners who are resistant and argumentative. They drain me of my own energy. I can imagine what they do to their partners. In the first session I can detect a resistant partner. They do more talking than listening and they tend to say “yes, but” after everything I say. They seldom let the other partner talk and sometimes it becomes a screaming match. I bring to their attention that both their perspectives are correct and not to turn discussions into power struggles.

unhappy couple in couples counseling

Couples counseling can be highly effective. Partners must be able to recognize and admit when their actions or expectations are unreasonable. It takes some insight to be able to do that. Bad signs that some aren’t able to do that is when they do a “rage quit” where they walk out of session yelling and sometimes crying because they can’t take constructive criticism. During the counseling process I assess whether that partner is capable or incapable of gaining insight. Some clients can’t or won’t adjust their behavior. If they won’t I find out why they won’t as they do have a choice. If they can’t I assess whether or not their is a psychological challenge (code for mental disorder) that prohibits understanding reality vs. “their reality.” If a mental illness does exist, prognosis is poor as people with mental disorders don’t see their shortcomings as irregular (ego syntonic) which means their reality is the only thing that registers to them as it’s part of their personality.

If this is the case, you’re better off going to counseling alone. The partner who continues through Marriage Counseling for One, can acquire the tools to help the relationship move forward. Implementing the newly acquired tools role models for the resistant partner what is appropriate and effective. Since individuals can only control themselves they can get the relief they need to cope when challenges exist. Couples Counseling for One does focus on the Relationship, not the Individual and adapt couples counseling techniques for use with one spouse only.  Relational skills training is received by the one spouse and then teaches those skills to their partners behaviorally through day to day interaction.

Effective couples counselings requires both participants to reflect on his or her beliefs, behaviors, and impact on the other.

For more information on couples counseling for one or marriage counseling for one contact me at (858) 735-1139 visit my website at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com


How To Soothe Your Child’s Anxiety

How To Soothe Your Child’s Anxiety. Being a parent is the most important job in the world. We want to protect our children and keep them safe from physical and emotional distress. We all have anxiety to a certain degree. When stressful situations come up anxiety can fall off the charts. As adults we sometimes know how to manage it. And when we don’t we find a resource to help. Hopefully that resource is healthy and doesn’t exacerbate it. Anxiety can trigger fight or flight responses that trigger the release of chemicals that ramp up heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure to mobilize the body for action. With that, kids who become anxious may scream, cry, shake, cling, hide, become quiet, be silly, feel sick to their stomach or act out (bad behavior). It can take about a half hour for the body to return to normal.

courtesy Seattle Children’s

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, In those moments, parents tend to try and reason with their kids saying things like “you’ll be fine” “calm down” “be brave” “stop crying.” Sometimes anxiety in children can look like defiance (when they act out) where parents punish them. But none of that is helpful. Until the fight or flight feelings are reduced it is not helpful nor effective to minimize or fix any symptom. What is helpful is to show empathy for how they feel and validate they are not feeling/doing well. “I can see how afraid you are” “it must feel awful to feel scared” “let’s sit it out until you feel better. The last thing you want to tell someone with anxiety is that it’s all in their mind. Not addressing the anxiety creates more anxiety. And for God’s sake don’t rush someone to calm down because your schedule doesn’t permit it.

When my eldest daughter was entering middle school she was excited and nervous at the same time. She had a wonderful time in grade school but didn’t know what to expect in middle school. She went from a private school to public. Anxiety was understandable. On the first day of school she said she had a stomach ache. I said, “it’s understandable if you feel a little scared.” I told her I felt a bit nervous during my first days of school. When she came home she said she had a great day. The next day, same thing. She had a stomach ache. I asked her if she would like to see her pediatrician to rule out anything physical. She said, “let’s wait and see.” I reassured her we would go this week if that’s what she wanted. The pediatrician said there was nothing wrong as I expected but was relieved to know she was ok. I knew she was experiencing anxiety. I asked her how she felt about the new school, new friends, etc. and how she felt about the change. She was pretty good about sharing. With her expressing her feelings and the peppermint antacid we gave her the next morning she felt much relief.

Here are some tips to manage your child’s anxiety:

  1. Take deep breaths (belly breaths) / meditation
  2. Show them some empathy
  3. Talk about what could be upsetting them
  4. Don’t minimize their feelings
  5. Insert some humor (laughing can distract and relax muscles while releasing endorphins)
  6. Develop a plan for prevention (can help to understand and tolerate stress)

These tips can help kids, as well as adults, calm down, regain their sense of safety, and address their anxiety.

As we are still in social distancing mode, I commend parents who are home with their children as some are teacher and parent. Talk about anxiety for both parent and child. It’s important to set limits and put appropriate boundaries in place so all can thrive. This apparent “new normal” is creating much anxiety for all. Don’t push your limits and be good to yourself. If you don’t take care of you, your children suffer the consequences.

Call me at (858) 735-1139 or visit my website at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com if you need help managing anxiety within your household.