In couples therapy, I seek to serve both partners. How is that possible? I assume you both want the relationship to succeed, and I help you both to do what’s best for that to happen.

I do not take sides, or act as a judge.

One reason is that, most frequently, there is no absolutely right or wrong position. By finding shared values and expanded vision, there can be many ways for couples to get along.

Another reason is that blaming or chastising, either by a therapist or by the partner, is usually counter-productive. The target person may lash out in angry reprisal, or withdraw in shame or self-protective resentment. Punishment does not work to motivate good behavior, it just motivates retaliation.

Instead, I assume that people usually have good reasons (or at least somewhat understandable reasons) even when they do bad things (meaning things that hurt others, and hurt themselves in the long run). I credit people with having done the best they could in any given situation. I can then help them cope, learn, grow, and do better, if that is their choice.

At times, I find it helpful to point out when I can see that someone might be unmindful of acting or speaking in ways that are not in their long-term best interest. However, it is my goal to move out of that role as quickly as possible so that couples learn to regulate their own emotions and behavior without our presence.

I do have a few basic rules to prevent abuse and loss of control in a session. Rarely, it may be necessary for me to help a partner protect themselves against aggression or abuse, while avoiding deliberate antagonizing or escalation. In rare cases, if I determine couples therapy cannot safely proceed, I must refer individuals for specialized help.