Couples Counseling

Intimate relationship intensifies our human experience by bringing our “attachment system” into the foreground.  Intimacy can elicit intense emotions that are less accessible in friendships or work relationships.  Abandonment, rejection, and neglect are potent feelings we risk when we enter into intimacy.

The challenge of relationship is complicated by “triggers” or symbols in the present that elicit unresolved experiences from the past. At best, intimacy allows for corrective experiences and lasting change and growth.

Boulder Emotional Wellness offers a structured approach to couples’ work, including:

Psychological education:   Education is a valuable component of couple counseling. Concepts such as “defending”, “processing”, and how the past influences our perception and choices in the present are crucial for an efficient therapy.  It is vital for partners to understand the functions of feelings, emotions, and thought in emotional regulation.

Interrupting patterns:  Therapeutic change requires safety and reciprocity.  In therapy emotional safety is the basis for constructive work.  Therapy brings awareness to patterns of escalation when couples communicate.

Challenge:  By inviting clients to consider new ways of framing concerns and new ways of communicating, clients are challenged to be creative and break habits.

Contact and Boundaries:   Relationship happens when there is contact, and contact happens at boundaries.  By assessing and practicing contact the couple becomes more aware of contact that feels distant or invasive and contact that feels nourishing.  Boundaries are often lost in abuse and our ability to communicate and re-set boundaries is vital.

Gestalt:   This therapy relies on the psychodynamic that what needs to be worked on is present.  Emerging issues are slightly below the surface of formality and by tracking word choice, language of responsibility, avoidance, and facial and postural changes the energetic edges are acknowledged and then worked with.

Biofeedback and HeartMath’s emWave:  Heart rate variablity (HRV) is a reliable indicator of a person’s state of mind.  By using a simple, non-intrusive, biofeedback tool, clients gain insight into what their triggers are, how quickly the change of state can happen, and develop resources to actively, effectively, change into an engaged present state.

Communication and conflict resolution practice:  Using techniques from Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and other approaches to conflict resolution, clients practice having conflict in a safe and structured way.

Mindfulness training:  Essential to tracking internal states of body, emotion, and thought, mindfulness techniques are offered within session and as home exercises.

Self-care check in:  Nutrition, sleep, and exercise are the foundations of emotional regulation and mental health.  Couples are asked about how they’ve attended to these important tasks between sessions.

Homework:  Various exercises are offered for couples to learn and practice skills outside the therapy office.

Individual family of origin work:  For supportive couples where one or both partners have experienced emotional trauma, the conjoint EMDR protocol can be used for resolution.  When couples are more at odds, individual family of origin work may be brought into the counseling session using experiential techniques such as gestalt, or referals are made to individual therapy.