Marriage Counseling – Can it Help?

marriage counselingMaking the decision to seek marriage counseling is often a challenging process. Fear kicks in with the uncertainty of outcome, losing control of self and partner, disclosing your personal feelings, and even admitting there is a problem. These fears are common but do not have to stop you from getting help.

In my experience, couples enter counseling with fear as the underlying culprit. Fear can hinder communication, clouds our perception of issues, keeps us in a protective stance of defense. These reactions prevent us from feeling heard and appreciated and certainly prevent us from hearing our partner. They also obstruct change and lock us into negative cycles that stifle the relationship and increase overall frustration. And communication is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy relationship.

The time spent in marriage counseling should be a safe place for each of you to explore the issues, find common ground, recognize the negative patterns, and seek solutions. Marriage counseling is not about blaming or changing your partner but learning to be accountable for your own growth while, at the same time, reconnecting to the common values you share and to what is working in the relationship. You each have strengths and differences that can, and should, enrich your relationship.

Marriage counseling can help you to see how each of you contribute to the issues and how each of you can be part of the solution. Therapy should be solution-focused and not just problem oriented. We focus on specific actions each person can take to improve communication and become more fulfilled in the relationship.

We too often lose sight of what we love and appreciate about our partner and it is alright to say we need help. No relationship is perfect. However, achieving a vibrant, loving and mutually respectful relationship requires attention and dedication.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
– Maya Angelou

Do not let fear stop you from improving your relationship and quality of life. Marriage counseling can help you gain a new perspective and thus a new opportunity for change and growth together.

What to Expect in Marriage Counseling

Here are a few things to expect in marriage counseling:

  • A safe and empathetic environment to share feelings and issues
  • Returning to the basics of appreciation and gratitude
  • Temporary feelings of vulnerability as issues are discussed
  • Learning skills to be supportive during this process
  • Improved ability to communicate and listen to one another
  • Understanding core emotions and how to communicate one’s needs
  • Personal growth by being accountable and responsible for yourself and your own happiness
  • Increased understanding of negative cycles that keep you stuck and ways you can make lasting changes
  • Get in touch with your core values – knowing what is important to you
  • Reduction in relationship pitfalls such as criticism and generalizations
  • Building on friendship and things that are working in the relationship

The Boca Raton Therapists at Morgan Center use the latest therapy modalities to help you address your relationship issues and achieve a happier life. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please contact us at (561) 366-2476.

ACT Therapy (Acceptance and Commitment)

ACT Acceptance and Commitment TherapyWhen faced with unpleasant experiences resulting in anxiety, depression, and emotional pain, it is only natural for a person to attempt to avoid such feelings and fight against them. Research has shown that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. Each can, and does, influence the others in both positive and negative ways. Feeling depressed influences how we perceive, or think, about the world in a negative and pessimistic way and can lead us to isolate. Accomplishing a difficult or exciting task, on the other hand, may foster a joyful feeling and thoughts of competence. Fearful thoughts bring anxiety and precipitate avoidance of many mundane activities. It is generally when our internal experience causes suffering that problems ensue.

It is difficult for many of us to “get out of our heads.” The internal experience of thoughts and emotions are so powerful that they can, when negative and chronic, subdue and limit us. The way we think and feel so color our perceptions of ourselves and the world that we tend to identify with them and allow them to create our reality. The problem that arises from thoughts and emotions is not the form and intensity, but their excessive literal quality. In other words, the internal self-talk may not accurately reflect what is happening externally – yet we believe it.   Cognitive Behavioral Therapy proposes challenging and changing the negative thinking which can be difficult.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, takes a different approach. It suggests that we accept these internal experiences, though distressful, and continue to actively work toward desired goals. In this understanding, we learn that we have the power to find fulfillment and make changes in the midst of suffering and not wait indefinitely until the absence of it.

“Life is a process of becoming, of conditions arising and passing…”
– Joseph Goldstein

ACT researchers have emphasized the benefit of acquiring new behaviors, rather than eliminating symptoms. Thoughts and emotions are impermanent, though in the moment we feel as though no relief will come. Through action, however; we can facilitate change even in the most difficult of circumstances. The idea is to remain present with the experience. ACT proposes that our attempt to avoid unpleasant experiences only perpetuates the suffering. Remaining present, however; allows for behavior to be more flexible and in tune with the world around us. Avoidance only provides temporary relief and we often find ourselves engaged in the same struggle over and over again.

The acceptance aspect of ACT does not mean that we simply accept all circumstances apathetically. It is more accurate to say that we live and act despite difficult circumstances. This process allows us to recognize the constricting and limiting aspect of problematic thinking that have the power to dominate and obscure other aspects of our lives. This thinking is often inaccurate and self-fulfilling. ACT works to help us recognize that our internal experience does not have to hinder our commitment to engage our lives in meaningful ways. Thoughts have no inherent meaning in and of themselves other that what we ascribe them. We have the power to define our reality.

Values that give us personal meaning to life are more defining of our reality. ACT helps us to explore what is important to us and then connect these to goals that motivate us to enhance, maintain, and live by these values. In order for personal goals to be achieved, a commitment to action is needed. As we continue living in a desired way, we further understand the distinction between the internal and external experience and further recognize the strength we have to enhance our lives and empower ourselves.

Finally, it is important to understand that we are not our problems or our problem-thinking. When we separate ourselves from an experience, we gift ourselves the opportunity to remember that there are other parts of our identify beyond the restrictive and self-limiting aspect of any thought, belief, or circumstance. This broadening allows us to identify with any number of life experiences allowing us to develop an alternate story that is more in line with who we want to be. These internal processes are impermanent and as such arise and fall. It is we who cling to them and attempt to have them define our entire being.

Boca Raton Therapists at Morgan Center use ACT techniques and want to help you live a full and meaningful life. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Jody Morgan, LCSW at (561) 366-2476.