Couples Therapy

Couplehood is filled with challenges that unfold over the life-cycle. Most relationships come with periods of heightened tension, unrest and crisis, and, even in the best of times, managing a relationship can be stressful. Regardless of the reasons you are seeking couples therapy — money, sex, parenting — Ian provides a fresh perspective that will help you constructively communicate, secure your attachment, resolve issues and evolve as a couple so that you are better able to manage problems in the future.

Ian often describes couples therapy using the metaphor of a house with a main floor and basement. The main floor is where the action is: it's where we eat, sleep, cook clean, argue, make love and generally deal with all the problems that life throws at us. But we also have a basement, which is our emotional underground (both our own and the one we've built with our partner). In the basement are our emotions, vulnerabilities, attachment schemas, traumas and the legacy of our childhoods. Up on the main floor, we may engage the defensive emotions of anger, frustration, anxiety, jealousy and resentment when arguing with a partner.

But down below, in the basement, underneath our defensive emotions, we may feel hurt, alone, shameful, neglected and unloved. Learning to communicate from the basement, from a place of primary emotion and vulnerability rather than defensiveness and escalation, is at the heart of couples therapy. Our work happens on both the main floor of the house (the world of behavior) and in the basement (the world of our deeper emotions and thoughts) and ultimately creates a solid staircase between the two so that we are better known to ourselves and to our partners and feel safe in the house we've created together.

Areas of focus include:

  • Communicating in ways that engender a sense of connection rather than triggering defensiveness.
  • Revealing, appreciating and soothing each other's vulnerabilities.
  • Understanding and changing underlying patterns of negative interaction that repeat themselves regardless of the issue at hand.
  • Making structural changes in your relationship and family system that reflect your goals and reinforcing those goals with appropriate behaviors.
  • Navigating impasses and getting on the other side of difficult issues.
  • Reconnecting with the ideals, values, dreams and pleasures that brought you together in the first place and recreating positive internal images of each other.
  • Looking at where you may be enmeshed in your relationship and need more differentiation and where you may be overly-individualized and need more togetherness.
  • Learning to self-regulate your emotions as well as to co-regulate with your partner.
  • Understanding how your attachment needs may differ from your partner's and where there have been injuries to the attachment that need to be healed.
  • Processing emotional and sexual infidelity.

Like sex therapy, couples therapy often includes homework assignments that target areas for change. Couples therapy sessions are generally scheduled every two weeks.

If you are interested in a combination of couples therapy and sex therapy, please click here to read more about combination therapy.