*The term "couple" is not meant to refer solely to dyadic relationships, but also to diverse forms of intimate relationships, such as open and polyamorous relationships. A synonymous term could be: therapy for intimate relationships.
At the beginning of couple* therapy, we develop consensual goals and discuss the conditions, with no mandatory structure. The sessions usually last 50 minutes and cost 100€ per couple*. My contributions have the character of recommendations, with which the couple* can experiment within and outside of the sessions.
A basis of my perspective on couple* therapy is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Other approaches that I like to work with in couple* therapy are Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and common communication models: the controlled dialogue, the Four-Ears model, Nonviolent Communication (NVC). I have experience with intercultural and LGBTQI* relationships and like to reflect with them on how gender- or culture-specific characteristics are relevant in their cases.
Even if outcome openness is important and peaceful separation can be a valid goal, I try to focus the attention in the sessions primarily on the positive aspects of the relationship, which sometimes receive too little attention. I strive to understand each perspective impartially. Not only to convey acceptance to each individual person, but also because the principle of emotional connectedness implies that only joint solutions can work.
I believe that problems in a relationship are part of it and not an exception, but the norm. Many couples* believe that what has already happened to them is extraordinary and particularly bad and make profound conclusions about their inadequacy. My view of people and my experience with relationships is that we all make mistakes, but are rarely malicious or sick, but - more compassionately thought - have simply lost our way and should find better alternatives. A mindful perspective and caring accompaniment from the outside can help to develop new ways of thinking and behaving that can give the relationship a new perspective. Developing a common gentle language - verbal, but also in gestures - is often important in improving the communication and the emotional connection.
Many people experience partnership problems as a "heart against mind" and demand insight from themselves, that the clear mind should finally prevail against the dull heart. There are undoubtedly cases where this is true. But from my experience, too rigid a mind is more often than a sluggish heart the cause of the problem. Too often we get tangled up and lost in the constructions of our mind. If we can trust our hopes more than our fears, a brighter perspective can often emerge.
I would like to encourage to see the quality of the emotional relationship as a product of behavior and not as a purely physiological coincidence. I am convinced that through an attentive and loving attitude and caring actions we can create the basis for trust, security and intimacy.
In my experience, partnership problems often span multiple levels, which is why attempts for solutions should involve diverse approaches. When problems have already manifested, symptoms of withdrawal or escalation usually become evident. Typical causes of conflict and approaches to them can include:
- Everyday stress: Recognizing contextual factors and applying pragmatic problem-solving strategies
- Withdrawal: Learning to communicate needs, accept them, and implement them cooperatively
- Dysfunctional patterns of interaction (aggression, power games, mistrust, etc.): It may involve developing an understanding of biographical interaction patterns, mindfulness, and techniques for emotional regulation
- Frustrations regarding intimacy/sexuality: Finding paths to acceptance, reconnection, or opening the relationship
- Stagnation/Lack of orientation: What vision do you have for each other? What qualities of your relationship do you want to foster in the future?
- Questioning rigid concepts, entrenched attributions, and subjective truths critically and opening up to new experiences
- Hurtful communication: Learning to speak more gently and empathetically with each other
"In couples therapy with Stuart, I took the opportunity to gain a new perspective on my long-term partner. Before therapy, I was confident that I knew pretty much everything about my partner, understanding his wishes and needs. Through Stuart's reflection of what he perceives from us as a couple and individually, I noticed how rigid the interpretation I had set for my partner over the years was. I learned that I can change conversation patterns and also influence my mode of perception. Stuart refrained from imposing these thoughts on me, allowing me to develop them myself, but in the conversation, he could guide and assist us through targeted questions, breaking routine conversation patterns, and partially disentangling us from mutual fixations. Specifically, he provided us with formulation options and showed alternative courses of action that were not apparent to us before. Stuart always created a pleasant atmosphere in the therapy sessions and established a safe space within which even burdensome and ambivalent feelings or thoughts could be communicated. Through his empathetic and intelligent way of deciphering underlying issues, my partner and I were able to penetrate deeper structures of our conflicts. Looking back on our years of relationship, my partner and I should have sought therapeutic support earlier. In the decision not to continue the partnership romantically, Stuart also accompanied me in individual sessions and helped me reflect on this decision-making process. I find comfort in knowing Stuart as a resource, finding assistance for situations where I feel stuck."