Archive for August, 2010

20140707-192412-69852722.jpgSeven Tips To Improve Your Marriage @ ClinicalPsychotherapists.comThe ability to achieve a fulfilling and long term marriage reflects emotional maturity and resilience. It is often taken for granted that successful marriages just “happen.” Indeed, I disagree. I think that marriage is not for children. Marriages require the best of one’s adulthood. It is necessary that each partner keep their eye on the prize, the success of the marriage. Below are seven tips to improve the quality of your marriage. At my Affordable Relationship Counseling practice in San Diego, I routinely counsel my clients in these areas, and they often report back to me their positive results.

1. Remember that love is a verb. If love is an action, keep your eye on what you are doing for the love between you. Do not make demands on your partner. Develop strategies to help you self-soothe your anxiety when he or she is not doing what you wish they would. There are myriad ways to self soothe, such as exercising, seeing a friend, doing a crossword, reading a book, writing a journal, or listening to some good music. Keep your focus on yourself rather than on your partner to get to a changed place in your dynamic. You cannot change another. The only person you can change is yourself.

2. Make your marriage the number one priority. This means that you have a weekly date night. Do not veer from this tradition except in the face of illness or an urgent work or school-related deadline. Make sure the date you plan involves time to talk rather than just viewing a movie.
Take turns planning the surprise date for the other. Develop a tradition just for the two of you, such as Care Days. With Care Days, you each select one day of the week that you will regularly be pampered with acts that each of you have previously identified to the other. These acts will be tangible, observable acts that make you feel as if your partner cares to make you feel good.

3. As individuals and as a couple, do not forget to acknowledge the triumphant things you have achieved separately and together. Keep your eye on what you are doing right rather than on what you have done wrong. Have a solution-focus, not a problem focus.

4. Develop your own assertiveness skills, In other words, know your bottom line. Decide what you will do and won’t do in relationship to your partner. And be proud that you are a principle-driven partner.

5. Consider all your “yes-es” carefully. Instead of just going along and accommodating in order to avoid making waves, be willing to say no. Also, do not let angers pile up like so many old clothes piled up in the middle of the room. They will clutter your positive feelings, create escalating resentment, and can lead to explosions. Monitor and express your truest feelings….self awareness and then the ability to “be a self” is key in good marriages.

6. Avoid what John Gottman, a pioneer in marriage and family therapy, calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Defensive communication, Critical communication, Contemptuous Communication, or Stonewalling (lack of communication). Research has shown that these forms of communication are lethal to a marriage.

7. Learn to respect–and even- celebrate difference in one another. Yes, opposites often attract. Learn to acknowledge the reciprocity in your relationship. Yin and Yang, Dark and Light, Close and Distant, Distancing and Pursuing, Over-functioning and under-functioning….these examples and other opposites are always at play in relationships as they are in life. Getting to acceptance on opposing and opposite forces and tolerating the contradictions is part and parcel of relational maturity.

If you want to learn more about my model of practice and pick up some more free tips just for stopping, come to http://www.cunninghamtherapy.com/ or call 619-990-6203 for a complimentary phone consultation.

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At Affordable Relationship Counseling in San Diego, clients often come to appreciate that fulfilling relationships are the basis for joy and satisfaction in life. When we live in them in an emotionally mature way, relationships can offer each of us the opportunity to grow and mature. After all, we are always “becoming.” Unresolved issues from one context or from another relationship, including our earliest relationships with parents and siblings, frequently fuel fires in another, new relationship. When anxiety and tension flood our relationship dynamic, it can make us feel unsafe, lost, and disconnected. In my practice, I have worked with hundreds of couples and individuals, including lesbian couples and gay couples. What I have learned is that we are all more alike than we are different. When we feel a threat to our well being, whether it is a real threat or an imagined threat, we may either go into “flight or fight” mode. Good therapy can help us make less reactive and more reflective choices in the face of relational threat. We do not have to fight and we do not have to flee. We can remain present and accounted for and hold on to who we are in the relationship while still remaining connected to that important other. Oftentimes, we confuse “closeness” with” sameness,” and in that confusion can lie the seeds that create either incorporation anxiety or abandonment anxiety.Please call me for a complimentary phone consultation at 619 9906203 and get some free tips just for stopping by my web site at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com

To create a more secure bond is the goal of good couples therapy. I am located in the heart of San Diego and welcome a beginning conversation about getting you started on a therapy journey.

Keywords: affordable relationship counseling san diego, marriage counseling san diego, psychotherapy san diego, couples counseling san diego

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Role of the Therapist (Typical Intervention Techniques and Process Used in Sessions)

Bowen family systems theory is unique in its emphasis upon the self-development of the therapist.  Thus, I continually work on an increasingly healthy separation from my own family of origin in a way that I still remain connected. 

Friedman (1991) points out that “Bowen has consistently maintained that it is hard for the patient to mature beyond the maturity level of the therapist, no matter how good his or her technique” (p. 138).  In fact, Friedman explains that “In Bowen theory, the differentiation of the therapist is the technique” (p. 138).  One cannot possibly be a Bowen therapist merely by reading about it or taking workshops (Kerr, 1981).  The therapist must go through an emotional transformation, which happens experientially after continued exposure to revisiting one’s family of origin while applying the complex ideas of the theory.  Work with one’s family of origin and work with a supervisor is a central part of the therapist’s development.  Similarly, psychoanalysts must first complete their own psychoanalysis with a supervising analyst, before they are deemed competent to analyze clients.

It is important to maintain a non-anxious presence.  To be objective and to promote differentiation in others is directly related to the being of the therapist, not to his/her technical skills (Friedman, 1991).  To be able to think in terms of the system and not the emotionality or content requires a high level of differentiation.  I push myself to work continually at separating my thoughts from feelings and knowing where I stop and my client begins.

I am warm, respectful, engaging, and matter of fact in asking questions.  I maintain a collaborative atmosphere in all stages of treatment.  The process of gathering family facts is, in itself, collaborative and inherently conducive to reducing anxiety.  Additionally, the types of questions asked move the client toward a deepening appreciation for pattern and process.  In a sense, I assume the role of researcher and am always curious.  One question leads to another, and the calmer I am, the more I can call on my best thinking to expand the line of questioning into broadening perspectives.  Eventually, clients begin to see replicating patterns from past to present and connections between events in their nuclear families and family of origin legacies.

I encourage family members to speak through me rather than to each other.  By remaining a non-anxious presence in a triangle, I can induce a change in the relationship of the other two that would not occur if the same things were said in the absence of the therapist.

In my work with couples, I work to identify and reflect back repetitive, dysfunctional cycles of interaction early in treatment.  For example, I want to identify patterns such as distancer/pursuer, overfunction/underfunction, or withdrawer/blamer.  Initial progress is facilitated if the couple becomes aware of their pattern early in treatment and works toward interrupting it.

There are times when I depart from The Bowen method of having a couple talk through me.  For example, in the early phases of marital therapy, I believe that it is important to assess a couple’s ability to talk to one another about sensitive material.  To assess their ability to connect with one another, I may ask them to turn to one another and repeat important things to the other that they have just said to me.  I watch their verbal and nonverbal styles of communication carefully.  As treatment continues, I use the same method to heighten important material.  I encourage communication in which one assumes responsibility for oneself, whether it is about expressing wishes for space or connection. 

I am a coach, in that I teach differentiation moves, or ways that the client can increase his/her neutrality, especially in hot triangles.  I also act as an educator in teaching the family about family systems dynamics.  Often, I diagram or illustrate BFST concepts on a white board to increase clients’ ability to think about their processes in a systemic way.  Homework may include relevant readings and letter writing assignments, which may or may not be mailed.  Clients may be asked to journal and/or generate questions to ask their extended family members.  Photograph albums and videos brought to session touch the past, adding a rich layer of experience to the treatment and also enhancing the joining effort of the therapist.  This material may also aid in the effort to bridge cutoff, resolve attachment, or make contact with the deceased.  Socratic questions that highlight process over content challenge the client to engage his/her cognitive process. 

Kerr and Bowen (1988) encourage therapists to use humor and playfulness where appropriate, but warn that the maturity and differentiation of the therapist is critical to communicating that what is taken so seriously by the family can be seen in a humorous light.  The client is honored as the expert on his/her own family and is often asked questions that lead him/her to take responsibility for his/her part in a family problem.  A helpful guideline is that within the session, I work on making myself “small.”  Such an effort means that I have succeeded in being a non-anxious presence who does not overfunction for the client.

To learn more about this model of therapy practice, visit Dr. Cunningham’s web site at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com. Dr. Cunningham, whose practice is conveniently located in the heart of San Diego, specializes in treating individuals and couples.

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Often, couples come into therapy looking for the therapist to fix their partner. They want their partner to say and do things to make them feel as if they are loved and valued. Every one wants to feel loved and valued. However, sometimes we go about getting the love we want in a backwards way.

Mistakenly, many people think love needs to be proven by action. Instead of getting busy loving, many people are checking to see if they are getting the love they want. These misguided couples may be hypervigilant in looking to see whether their partner has done something wrong, or they are hypercritical of everything the partner says or does not say to them about their value or their attractiveness or anything else. This is the wrong approach!

I tell my clients to think of love as an action, as a verb. Erich Fromm, in his classic entitled THE ART OF LOVING, points out that love is an art. He asserts that to truly love, one must possess maturity, self-knowledge and courage. What this looks like in real life varies. However, one facet of this behavior is to be able to hear difficult material from your partner without clobbering him or her for being authentic. It is in being transparent–in being able to be naked emotionally when one wants to be “seen”–that wall socket connections to important others can be made. Love is a developmental triumph. It takes self-discipline, creativity, and courage. As Katherine Hepburn once said, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get–only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything.” To learn more about my model of practice, visit me at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call 619 99906203 for a complimentary phone consultation.

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