Couples Therapy

Couples Therapy at the ICFE

We understand that making the decision to seek help for your relationship can be difficult. Finding the right therapist can make this process much easier. The therapists at the ICFE are all Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associates- meaning that we have extensive training and specific expertise for working with couples. We understand the significance of your relationship, and approach our work with couples with humility, respect, and care. We understand that we are being trusted with one of the most important parts of your life - your closest and most important relationship - and we take this responsibility very seriously.

The approaches used with couples at the ICFE are systemic therapies, which means that we focus on understanding the beliefs, emotions, communication, and actions working together within the relationship. Our couples therapy techniques are based on decades of research that has helped therapists understand how healthy, satisfying relationships work- and how to help you have one!

Your therapist will work to understand the experiences, perspectives, and goals of both partners- and help you both to move your relationship in a positive direction. We avoid taking sides, but strive to help each partner to understand how they can play a role in creating the relationship you long for by building positive communication skills and breaking the destructive patterns in your relationship.

Common Issues Leading Couples to Seek Therapy:

  • either or both partners frequently feel unheard or misunderstood,
  • one or both partners complains about feeling a loss of connection and intimacy,
  • dissatisfaction with sexual intimacy in the relationship,
  • the couple needs assistance coping with a significant change that has occurred in their life (such as birth or child, child leaving household, employment changes, illness of family member),
  • the couple is unable to have a 'productive' disagreement and solve problems together,
  • the couple is frequently struggling with conflict over money management or household tasks,
  • the couple has experienced a significant loss or traumatic event,
  • infidelity (physical, emotional, or 'virtual') has been discovered or disclosed,
  • disagreement over parenting styles and other decisions related to children,
  • conflict within the couple is escalating to physical or verbal aggression,
  • concern or conflict related to one partner's substance use or abuse,
  • a threat of separation or divorce by one partner.

The specific approach utilized by your ICFE therapist to assist your relationship will depend largely on the nature of the problem you and your partner describe- your relationship's history, your current interactions, and the personality of each partner. However, in any case, the therapist will seek to:

  • develop a relationship with each partner that allows each member of the partner to feel comfortable and safe with the therapist,
  • understand how each partner experiences the relationship in general and the ‘problem’ specifically,
  • understand what each partner needs from the relationship in order to feel connected, satisfied, and fulfilled,
  • and help the couple build the skills, trust, confidence, and connection to create the relationship they want and need.

Are you or your spouse considering separation or divorce?

A significant proportion of couples who seek couples therapy include at least one spouse who has or is considering ending the relationship. If this is the case, before beginning ‘couples therapy’ or ‘marriage counseling’ it can be beneficial to spend time in a therapeutic process referred to as ‘Discernment Counseling’. Several of the therapists at the ICFE are trained in the Discernment Counseling model developed by Dr. Bill Doherty at the University of Minnesota specifically for couples in which one or both spouses is not sure he or she wants to remain in the relationship. Traditional marital therapy is often not experienced as helpful for couples in this situation for a number of reasons, with most of these reasons stemming from the fact that marital therapy is assuming that both spouses are ready and willing to work for change, and that both are at least somewhat hopeful that positive changes are possible. Therefore, we have pursued this training to provide an alternative short-term step for couples prior to a longer term commitment to marital therapy.

Discernment Counseling is a brief (1-5 session) therapeutic process focused on providing clarity and confidence for both partners regarding both an understanding of the current state of the marriage and how it got there, as well as options for the direction of the marriage. Most of the time with the therapist is individual due to the fact that spouses are often at different places regarding the relationship. The goal of this process is to allow both partners to explore options of moving forward together or separately with the same therapist who has the benefit of information from both parties. In contrast, each spouse pursuing individual counseling at this point in a relationship is often detrimental for both the marriage and each spouse’s ability to understand their own roles in the history and future of the relationship.

Are you unsure how to invite your spouse to attend Discernment Counseling with you? If so, we are able to schedule a single individual session specifically focused on formulating a plan for extending an invitation to your spouse who is expressing a desire to end the marriage.

For more information about Discernment Counseling, please complete the Appointment Request form, check out the blog post by Dr. Davenport focused on Discernment Counseling, or visit . Specifically mention that you are interested in Discernment Counseling for your relationship to ensure that our Intake Coordinator connects you to an ICFE therapist trained in the Discernment Counseling model.

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