Developing healthy relationships by building communication skills and confronting individual issues to work towards shared goals.
I consider myself primarily a family systems therapist; that is, my conceptualization of the situation is based on the dynamics of whatever systems you are or have been a part of -- the primary and most powerful system being, for most of us, the family of origin.
In couples, the focus begins on the relationship: your shared vision of life together, what's good, what's not so good, and where compromise is possible. We might work on communication techniques that will help you discuss problems that come up and share your feelings calmly. I can help you identify patterns in the way you relate to each other. As in individual work, a good history is important. We can look into the history of the relationship itself, the families you both came from, and your individual experiences to determine what might be causing problems under the surface.
In my view, there are three levels at work in the relationship. Two of these are fairly obvious and you are probably aware of them on a conscious level. The first is the underlying bond of affection and commitment you share. The second is the negotiations of daily life -- who does which chores, how decisions get made, and so on. The third element is often less obvious, and is probably the cause of many of the most difficult problems. It's what is called, in the popular lingo, baggage; that is, all the unresolved issues from childhood, all the false beliefs about yourself, all the unconscious expectations of each other and of the relationship, all the hidden hurts and defenses. With the support of each other, the work you can do on this hidden layer can be very powerful. We will get a sense of what's going on in all these areas and determine the best way to proceed to a mutually satisfying relationship.
When the whole family is involved, powerful changes can occur. We begin to see how each family member affects the group and how the dynamics of the group affect each individual. We can point out the role and function of each person and see how to "soften up" the rigid structures that might be keeping the family locked in the old dysfunction. We then go on to talk out any conflicts and make conscious decisions about the new rules the family will live under. When everyone is heard, great progress can be made and the whole family can be supportive of the changes.