Couples Counseling

There aren’t many things in life that are as satisfying as feeling “at home” with your partner. You feel safe, seen, and connected. You feel like when you express yourself, you’re being heard, and you’re being given the benefit of the doubt. Because you’re generally on the same page with your partner, you feel free to focus on tackling the many challenges that life brings including work, finances, intimacy, parenting, coordinating, scheduling, extended family, friendships, hobbies, grief, etc. knowing that your partner has your back and is a valuable member of your team.

Alternatively, there aren’t many things in life that can feel as miserable as feeling disconnected from your partner. You feel misunderstood, uncared for, unheard, defensive, angry, resentful, hurt, and alone. And it feels like there’s no escape from this suffering.

My approach to couples counseling is derived from Internal Family Systems, Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy, and Attachment Theory. I believe that when we interact with others, we are unconsciously leading with a part or parts of us (please see ‘My Approach’ for a more detailed explanation of Parts work). For example, sometimes we interact with others by leading with parts of us that value logic, other times we may lead with parts of us that value vulnerability. Other times, especially when we are feeling uncomfortable, we lead with parts of us that developed when we were young to protect us from early attachment wounds. These parts, our fierce protective parts, often get activated when an emotional threat is perceived, and can take over our entire system.

Different people have different protective parts that have developed over time. Sometimes protective parts seek control and aggressively pursue a partner for connection and resolution. Sometimes protective parts yell really loudly to be heard or they say really cutting things. Or maybe a part protects by withdrawing; slamming the door, leaving the house, not engaging. Other parts will binge on food, alcohol, or other substances to escape uncomfortable feelings.

While all of these parts are wonderful at protecting and defending us, they do not always work well in re-establishing connection. In fact they often have the opposite effect. When our fierce protectors are running the show we are often left feeling even more disconnected, misunderstood, hurt and alone.

My aim in couples counseling is to allow you to acknowledge and understand your own parts and protectors so that you may speak for them, not from them. You will also learn to acknowledge and understand your partner’s parts and protectors and how their defensive jobs developed. When you and your partner are able to remain curious with all of these parts, their needs, their fears, and their jobs, you then have the tools to cultivate a connected, compassionate relationship in which you can feel seen, heard, understood, and supported.

1130 SW Morrison, Suite 328
Portland, OR 97205
(971) 804-0148

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