Family Therapy

Whether you are arguing about different ways to raise your children, dealing with infidelity and broken trust or struggling with relationships with your parents or children,  I work closely with you to help you establish a renewed sense of calm. If you are considering separation or divorce, couples therapy can help you manage the intense emotions around the end of the relationship in order to minimize the fallout for your children, family and friends. Blended families also can benefit greatly from having the time to discuss mindfully in therapy how they wish to bring their families together to create a new, caring and respectful family unit.

Family Counseling

If you are struggling in your family with conflict, distance or withdrawal, or you feel that there is no longer a positive emotional connection between family members, it can be helpful to work with a therapist.  It is not just as easy as “how you communicate.” Therapy can help you take an objective look at emotional, thought and behavioral patterns that perhaps no longer are effective and test new methods of interaction to improve your relationships.

I can work individually with you in this process or we may decide that it would be more helpful to bring in other family members. In my experience, even if only one individual is willing to begin to examine objectively the emotional dynamics and make some small changes, the entire family system will begin to change too. That, in essence, is what “systems theory” tells us…if one person can change it often results in others in the system changing as well.  This effort can be applied in many different relationships — with your partner or spouse, your children, your own parents and even friends, neighbors and work colleagues.

Couples Counseling

In general, research shows that most couples have been experiencing problems for several years before seeking help with a couple’s therapist. In couple’s therapy, I begin by helping clients review what assumptions they brought into their marriage or partnership from their family of origin. Initial work begins on looking at emotional patterns between partners and identifying triggers for those reactions. Together, we identify both the roadblocks and the building blocks of effective communication and begin to learn and practice new, more effective communication skills.

You will also examine where differences exist between you and your partner in your belief systems, personal values and life principles and how to manage those differences and repair any damage from the past. Often in couple’s therapy, there are homework assignments to complete, so I expect both partners in this process to actively participate and prioritize the effort. Sessions can often be highly structured, will have specific ground rules and eventually lead to recommended changes in the day-to-day relationship. Couple’s therapy is challenging and one of my primary goals is to not become a mediator or arbitrator of your relationship but to assist you in developing a relationship plan that meets both partner’s values and life goals.

 

Parenting and Grandparenting

Parenting has changed significantly over the past several decades. Two parent working families are stretched for time, divorce and blended family result in real challenges of co-parenting and grandparents are now often raising children while their parents must work. Getting clear in your own mind about what is most important to you and defining your parenting principles are the first steps toward mindful and responsible parenting. Often it is necessary to examine where your beliefs come from and if needed, make adjustments that fit more in line with your personal values. Once you do the hard work of defining what is important to you as a parent, you will have the courage to stand by your parenting decisions with considerably more conviction.

I have worked with parents and guardians on a wide range of issues including:

  • the stress of academic and athletic endeavors
  • body image and appearance
  • social competition
  • puberty and adolescence
  • early dating relationships
  • developing family rules
  • sibling relationships
  • helping children deal with stress
  • substance experimentation and use
  • parent networking
  • multi-generational issues

Divorce, Co-parenting and Blended Families

Separation and divorce often bring significant stress to the families involved. Working with a therapist when a couple is considering separation or has already begun the divorce process, can be helpful to minimize the impact on their children and help manage stress. I firmly believe that how two parents handle this is critical to how their children will adapt. Parents who are able to learn how to effectively manage their emotions and deal with issues between them without bringing children into the fray will see children who can continue to do the necessary work of growing up, with minimal anxiety or acting out.

Blended families resulting from remarriage can be particularly challenging. Many more “players” exist and stepfamily dynamics become more complex. Varying degrees of “investment” in children often complicate the process and assumptions and expectations about how “close” family members “should” be are thrown about. Examining and defining the emotional leadership of the family is helpful to achieving success and often does not result in a 50-50 split of roles and responsibilities.  Additionally, both parents and their children can struggle with divided loyalties in blended families. Differing “life cycles” sometimes exist — children demanding intense attention at a time when the parents are experiencing a new, budding relationship — how does that all get balanced?

Taking the time to work with a therapist can provide couples the opportunity to thoughtfully examine and reflect on these issues and make healthy and positive choices on how best to support everyone in the family system.