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The First Couple’s Counseling Session and What to Expect

Posted on: May 15th, 2019 by Our Team No Comments

Most relationships at some point experience challenges. Life events such as major illness or disease, health challenges, betrayal, and financial problems can certainly stress a relationship. Many couples will experience communication and conflict difficulties. When a couple feels they are unable to solve their problems on their own, one or both partners may decide to seek the help of an objective third party. It may be a mutual decision, or one partner in distress may seek help and ask the other to join. Whatever the situation, it is important for one or both parties to seek help early, and not wait until one or both partners are ready to leave the relationship. When you or your partner are having trouble communicating, managing conflict, stuck in negative patterns of interacting or become emotionally disconnected, it is time to get help.

A good licensed couple’s therapist will listen, respect, understand and facilitate better interaction between partners. The therapist can help the couple to examine perceptions and expectations that underlie discord and core issues.

When choosing the right couple’s therapist, it is important to know that a relationship therapist has trained for and developed specialized skills and expertise that will play a major role in the couple’s success. It is a good idea to ask specifically about a therapist’s education, training and expertise in couple’s therapy.

Dr. Angela Bisignano is a licensed clinical psychologist in the South Bay of Los Angeles County, serving the communities the Palos Verdes Peninsula and beach cities. She specializes in relationship counseling. She understands that healthy relationships require cultivation with care and effective communication.

Dr. Bisignano will provide you with the tools, resources and techniques that allow you to take control of your relationship and to heal together. Her goal is to help you develop deeper connection, to support, and strengthen your relationship. Managing conflict, creating shared meaning, and a developing a positive perspective contribute to happiness and life satisfaction. Fulfilling relationships take time and commitment.

Dr. Bisignano answers your questions about what to expect during your first therapy session. She will explain the research – based approaches that have been proven successful with couples and that she uses in her practice.

What can a couple expect in their first session with you?

In our first initial session together I will meet with both partners. This is an introduction to me and to the therapy process. I will ask questions about what brings you into therapy at this time. What you believe are some of the main issues you are struggling with. I will ask questions about your relationship and your story together. We will also discover if we are a good fit for the therapeutic process. You will have an opportunity to ask me questions.

What can a couple expect after their Intake Session?

If we feel it is a good fit after the initial session and I believe I can help you, I will schedule an individual session with each of you. I will also have you take some assessments to further develop my understanding of your relationship and challenges. After I have conducted my initial intakes and assessments I form a treatment plan based on what I believe is the best strategy for helping you. I will then schedule our feedback session where I present the results of my assessment and provide you with my treatment plan. The treatment plan is like a roadmap that guides us during therapy.

What if one partner is not motivated or willing to participate in the process?

It is important that both partners are willing to participate in therapy. If one partner is not motivated or reluctant for whatever reason, it can hinder or thwart the therapeutic process. I generally recommend both people be willing to participate in therapy. If one of the partners has reservations or concerns, I offer a complimentary phone session to answer any questions they may have. I find this often puts people at ease if they can first talk with me before making an appointment.

How long does couple’s therapy take?

This is a common question. Every couple is different and has varying degrees of challenges they may be dealing with. If a couple is motivated and willing to do the work they will finish therapy sooner than a couple who doesn’t do the work. I have about 45 minutes a week with most of my couples. During this time, I have my couples engage in the therapeutic process which involves learning new relationship skills, healthy communication, strategies to help couples heal, deepen their emotional connection and learn to strengthen their relationship. I often have couples practice the skills and tools I give them during our session. If couples practice and do the work, they will have better relationships.

What type of couple’s therapy do you do?

My approach to couple’s therapy is informed by the Gottman Method, Attachment theory and Interpersonal Neurobiology.

What is the Gottman Method?

The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy is a scientifically-based approach developed by Dr. John Gottman. He is one of the premier researchers in couples therapy. Dr. Gottman has over 4 decades of evidence-based research that undergirds his methodology. Dr. Gottman has studied what challenges many couples experience and developed tools and strategies to help with difficulties, such as communication, managing conflict, healthy interaction, and emotional connection. He has also studied what emotionally intelligent couples do. He has developed his skills and strategies based on his findings.

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment Theory was first introduced and studied by Dr. John Bowlby. He looked at how our first primary relationships, usually with our mother and / or our father, influence us. He believed that our first experience with love and relationships is formed by our interactions with our primary care givers. Bowlby was instrumental in helping us to understand that these primary relationships in our lives create deep and enduring emotional bonds. According to Bowlby, our attachment with them whether secure or insecure, can affect our other relationships. We form internalized models of what love and attachment mean based on our relationships with our primary caregivers.

Later in the work of Mary Ainsworth, Bowlby’s hypothesis was tested in the Strange Situation Experiment. Ainsworth found that we generally have one of 3 styles of attachment: secure, insecure avoidant or insecure anxious. Over the last decade researchers are continuing to carry out and further research in this area. Dr. Sue Johnson and her work with Emotionally Focused Therapy is one example of attachment theory influencing current research and practice.

What is interpersonal neurobiology?

Interpersonal neurobiology, introduced by Dr. Dan Siegel, is a theory that helps us understand human development and functioning as being the result of the affiliation between the mind, body and relationships. It is an interdisciplinary field that brings together a wide array of scientific disciplines to help understand the mind, human experience and mental well-being. Interpersonal neurobiology is a scientifically grounded approach that helps us to understand the processes of integration, regulation and the importance of relational experiences in the development of a healthy mind.