Having healthy relationship is critical to our health. In fact, several studies have shown that individuals who have healthy social connections with friends, family and their community are happier and have better physical health. On the other end of the spectrum, individuals with a lack of social connections have an increased risk of premature death by 50% (comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day). Even though we are wired to connect as a species, we can struggle with isolation, loneliness, and unhealthy relationships of all kinds.
Improving our relationships isn’t limited to couples therapy. While many people seek couples therapy to improve their romantic relationship, becoming curious about the ways we connect and communicate with others opens the doors to improve our work relationships, friendships, and family ties. This exploration can foster a better understanding of when we should be vulnerable and open versus when we should put up boundaries and protect ourselves. Understanding which relationships are worth investing our time and energy into is a key component in building healthy social community.
Interpersonal-Process therapy is the treatment orientation I utilize to improve relationships. This type of treatment explores how you came to be a social being by looking at early family interactions and friendships. By understanding how we interact with people in both a historic and present context (including attachment style and personality type), we can better identify our areas of growth. An example of this could be an individual who came from a family where the father struggled with substance abuse and the mother was emotionally volatile. This individual learned that their words, opinions, thoughts did not matter because the father would withdraw (using substances) and the mother would become agitated. While this person may have adapted in the family by being quiet and reserved, they may need to grow towards being assertive and being known to others to build healthy relationships.
Within couples therapy, I use both Integrated Behavioral Therapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). My goal is to cultivate a new experience with the couple where both parties can be heard, understood, and cared-for. Many couples come into therapy with fractured communication that has been damaged through unresolved painful experiences. When couples improve in their communication and are more attuned to the other’s emotional experience, conflicts and differences become easier to work through.