What is your typical process for working with a new customer?
After we get everyone in the room and start the process, the first session is built around getting all the details on the table and teaching the foundational concepts and habits at the same time. Couples don't wish to prolong their problems any longer than they have to so this combination approach meets that need. The couple decides if they want to go forward and do their online relationship check up, and does that outside of the session on the internet. The results are discussed in the follow up session and a plan of action proposed which involves assigned daily 20 min conversations the couple has at home with all the topics and structure set up in advance, as well as specific habits to put in use right away and as needed. We work on an every other week schedule which has better outcomes for couples in counseling. While everyone is still new, there are also 1 to 1 times set aside to get more individualized coaching for one partner or the other. This option is something that is available as the counseling continues often not more than 3 months total. Couples stretch out the time between session as they graduate so that they can wind down at once a month then every couple or few, to 6 months or annual check ins. The added check ins are for fine tuning, boosting long term success, and for relapse prevention, and are optional but encouraged.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I have a Master's degree in Counseling with a Marriage and Family Therapy emphasis, 3 thousand hours of supervised internship, mostly at a county children's services working with entire families who had drug use, trauma, and more, and licensing in 1996. My first license is the Marriage and Family Therapy license for California, and the second is an Oregon Licensed Professional Counselor License- both kept up to date.
My clients include individuals, not just couples, but since I am a specialist in couples, people are drawn to me for that expertise.
I also spent years in my youth and young adult years doing theatre and a few radio/tv sketch comedy appearances. My sense of humor and extraversion comes in handy sometimes in session and often for public presentations to make learning more fun and amusing.
My post Master's training includes advanced workshops at a cognitive therapy center, and multiple trainings by the Gottman Institute, aka the Relationship Research Institute-the leaders in studying real couples over the decades. The Gottman Institute elevated the world's standard of research and process for helping couples since before 2000. If your counselor doesn't know this-they are not keeping up with their own profession. My Gottman trainings include level 1 when it was a combined 1 and 2 over 15 years ago, and updating it more recently with the Level 2 now described as Assessment, Interventions and Co-Morbidities. I have two other topics of special Gottman training on couples-one surrounding Affairs and Trust (porn, sex-addiction, etc), the other a new training in 2015: Couples in Recovery (addiction).
EFT/Tapping and Donna Eden Energy Medicine approaches are additional tools in my belt that I acquired through self-study and practice.
Do you have a standard pricing system for your service? If so, please share the details here.
My pricing is by the quarter hour, $40 per 15 minutes (so 45 min =$120, 90 min couples session = $240). I am flexible with rates as needed. Couples come twice a month with in between session practice to do at home.
How did you get started doing this type of work?
My childhood experience of grief from death of my brother, parental alcoholism and neglect, violent stepparents, and narcissistic mothering gave me plenty of reason to get therapy when I got to college. The therapists I saw taught me some important things for my survival and at the same time made some pretty common mistakes when it came to relationship counseling. Once I realized I was getting clarity about what good counseling ought to look like and I got bored in Master's in Special Ed, I switched over to a new degree and devoted my life to study of counseling with the aim of giving couples real tools to make things better.
What types of customers have you worked with?
The kinds of folks that see me are all adult ages. Many retired couples on late divorce path of avoidance found me and came in to course correct! Prevention is 3x more effective than waiting till your habits erupt into later problems so those dating and engaged couples are some of my favorites-changing the course of their lives with new love habits.
Lesbian, gay and trans couples have been in getting a boost to their positivity and learning how to deal with incidents that went wrong, long avoided, eroding their good feelings, and repetitive argument patterns. Couples with physical and emotional affairs, porn addiction and alcohol and drug use messing up their lives have come in to get a grip.
Long term recovered couples have reinforced their families and recovery by coming in and learning all the good habits for long lasting marriage.
A few individuals have come in-lesbian, gay and straight-to get support for taking better care of themselves and learning to set limits when they knew their partners were too poisonous and/or narcissistic, or refused to join them in couples' counseling.
People in couples and individuals have met with me because of my Rethinking Psychiatry involvement-seeking non psychiatric medication approaches to distress, support for safe withdrawal from psych meds, or a holistic understanding of how these challenges occur and what to do about them.
I've worked with couple with a spouse coming out. I've also worked with parents of a transgender child as they were newly discovering how to navigate the new to them gender, and others who have transgender loved ones have also been to see me to learn healthy family relationships.
Iraq and Afghanistan combat vets have come in, and especially like the Walk and Talk option for counseling in Portland, Oregon.
I have seen people of many variety of professions: acting, activism/non profits, professional writing, law, IT, marketing, justice system, realty, healthcare (doctors, surgeons, naturopaths, nurses, herbalism, phlebotomists, ceos), graphic design, art, stay at home and work at home jobs, teaching, administrating...lots of professions-doesn't really matter which profession you are in, the skills and habits you need for long lasting love are the same.
The only kind of couple I do not like to work with are with women who cheat, or are narcissistic, or anyone who is abusive, or any gender too easily flooded by adrenalin and stuck there that they wont stick to new flood plans even with in the moment coaching. I have good referrals for anyone who needs to find a better match as a counselor. That last category of the super hot, easy to anger couples are the ones currently in a newer study by Gottman Institute to see if there is more we can do to help that previously unreachable group.
I make a point of keeping informed of gender and identity matters, and checking my heterosexism at the door. Gay, lesbian and transgender family members and friends make the rainbow a familiar reality to me which helps me be a better counselor to LGBTQi clients.
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
Couples counseling is tricky-most approaches led to divorce in the past and still do if your counselor is not thoroughly familiar with the research on marriage and divorce. This is crucial because if your counselor doesn't know the findings, s/he can do more harm than good. Always ask about what they know about couples' research. Listen for an understanding of the Gottman Institute research and how they apply it to couples. Ask what kind of assessing does the counselor do. If they say they just interview you- that is not enough for couples. When you take those quizzes, or inventories, and fill out forms do they seem pointless or are they highly relevant? Is it just something the counselor made up and is not scientifically valid? This is why some people hate to go to marriage counselors-it really has to offer more specialized input! Marriage counseling needs to be better and it can be!