Santa Barbara Couples Psychotherapy

Couples Psychotherapy

It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy  marriages.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Why Couples Therapy?

During the last century tremendous cultural and social changes have had a significant impact on primary relationships. In a mobile society we are often no longer connected to our family of origin. We can find ourselves isolated in our jobs and our (new) communities.

The changing role of men and women and changing sexual mores add complexity and stress to relationships. Raising children during these times of social and cultural change becomes more complicated. Financial pressures often result in both members of a couple working full time jobs. These realities can result in great expectations that our partner will fulfill all the mental and emotional gaps that exist in our lives.

Couples Therapy provides a forum for developing a healthy relationship
Couples Therapy provides a forum for developing a healthy relationship

It might be said that couples need more support now, during this time, than in any other time in human history. There are often just too many pressures and not enough time to process the relationship challenges of daily life. The result is that couples fall into habits and instead of supporting one another end up ventilating their life frustrations on one another.

Couples therapy provides a forum to enrich emotional engagement, to review and enhance relational commitment, to resolve power struggles, to improve communication (especially related to anger, jealousy, and extramarital involvements), to develop conflict resolution skills, to enhance sexual satisfaction, to learn to avoid abusive behaviors, and to build on the love and affection that brought the couple together in the first place.

The types of relationships are varied today. Therapist has extensive experience in treating straight, bisexual and same sex relationships.

With the Supreme Court allowing same sex marriage in California, marital therapy will continue to grow and adjust to the changing cultural mores. However, no matter what type of relationship, each couple has their own unique dynamic and special challenges.

Ultimately the ability to develop a deep friendship with romance is key to a successful relationship.

When is Couples Therapy Indicated?

Successful Marriages are based on Developing Effective Skills
Successful Marriages are based on Developing Effective Skills


There are typically 15 major reasons. This may include one major issue or a combination of reasons listed below for seeking professional help:


  1. Poor Communication or "everything ends in a fight."
  2. Financial problems or "we don't have enough money to have a quality life."
  3. Lack of romance or "we just don't have a strong sexual relationship anymore."
  4. Disagreements over the children, or "the children are getting between us."
  5. Interference by other extended family members or "you love your family more than me."
  6. A significant problem never gets resolved or "we just go over the same issue over and over and it really wears me out."
  7. Can't get over the past or "I'm afraid you will hurt me again."
  8. Balancing the needs of home and work or "we don't have any time to really talk or enjoy one another."
  9. An emotional or physical affair or "why am I not good enough."
  10. Substance abuse problems or "why is my partner always getting high or drunk."
  11. Domestic violence or "when we fight it often gets verbally abuse and/or physically violent."
  12. Significant medical problems or "all we talk about are our illnesses."
  13. Trying to combine families of a previous marriage or "my partner doesn't understand my children and/or our previous life." 
  14. Childhood traumas or "I can't get close because it brings up previous memories and wounds."
  15. Loss or death or "the family is not the same since we lost our loved one."

Marital Statistics:

The statistics indicate that developing a successful marriage can be difficult in modern times.

The Goal is to avoid divorce, however individuals can change
The Goal is to avoid divorce, however individuals can change

Fifty percent all of first marriages end in divorce. In the United States this means a divorce every 16 seconds or 6,000 divorces a day and 42,000 a week. Second and third marriages don't do much better. Sixty percent of second and seventy per cent of third marriages end in divorce.

This data doesn't mean that being married is hopeless. As stated above there are tremendous pressures on marriage to fulfill so many of our needs and dreams. That is why it is often helpful to seek an unbiased professional to assist in exploring realistic expectations and to develop the skills to develop a successful marriage. A successful marriage does occur for fifty per cent of the population. It is possible.

Communication is the Key to a Successful Marriage

We learn effective communication skills, we are not born with good communicate skills. We usually learn these skills for better or worse from our parents.

Some tips:

The foundation for to a successful relationship is a deep respect for our partner. That's where we start in Couples Therapy, assuring that the first step is to create a safe environment where all interactions and communications are based on mutual respect. That doesn't mean that negative feelings can't be expressed. It means that feelings like anger and frustration are expressed in a non abusive and respective manner. The fact is that couples who learn to fight in a healthy manner usually have developed excellent communication skills and experience a high level of intimacy. 

There's no Substitute for setting aside Quality Time
There's no Substitute for setting aside Quality Time

Another key for couples who want to save and improve their relationship is to set aside time for communication. It is amazing what 10-15 minutes a day can do for a marriage.


Some other key communication skills learned in Couples Therapy:

Learning to understand each other's viewpoints leads to success
Learning to understand each other's viewpoints leads to success
  1. Learning to more effectively listen - which creates a strong emotional environment of mutual understanding.

  2. Learning new ways to communicate your thoughts and feelings - reducing defensiveness and "the reading the mind" of your partner.

  3. Learning that owning your mistakes is not a sign of weakness - in fact it enhances communication.

  4. Learning to fight fairly - knowing what is abusive and "below the belt" in order for each partner to feel safe in expressing disagreements.

  5. Learning to communicate very clearly what you want and need - not expecting your partner "to read your mind."

  6. Learning to accept differences - different interests and viewpoints can enrich communication.

  7. Learning to cultivate new and old interests together - developing time to enjoy positive communication and life experiences that enrich the relationship.

Is Couples Therapy Effective?

When you both win, you also win as individuals
When you both win, you also win as individuals

Couples Therapy is highly effective. Every controlled, randomized clinical trial of couples therapy found treatment superior to no treatment.

Research indicates significant positive outcomes for at least two thirds of treated couples. When compared to clinical samples of untreated couples, 70% in the treated samples show improvement.  Couples therapy is more effective than individual therapy when there is a significant relational issue dominating an individual's life.

Couples therapy also has a preventative and remedial role in treating depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and anxiety problems. Often these problems are the result of the inability to develop healthy and intimate relationships.

A loving relationship enriches all aspects of our daily lives.
A loving relationship enriches all aspects of our daily lives.

Having a loving primary relationship enriches all aspects of our daily lives. Like all aspects of our lives in which we are successful, relationships need effective skills, a strong effort, and an ongoing commitment to learn and improve.

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.
Mary Englebreit

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