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Marriage Counseling

Marriage Counseling and Relationship Therapy near Plantation, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise, Weston, Cooper City, Broward County Florida.

Marriage Counseling: Popular Methods of Relationship Therapy

Dr. Chantal is passionate about saving and transforming marriages!  Great marriages help married couples and their children become the best individuals they can be.  On the other hand, unsatisfying or conflicted marriages hurt everyone involved. The goal of marital therapy is to learn how to create relationships that are kind, caring, respectful, and exciting!


Image of newly married couple having marriage problemsHow Do Marriages Get Off Track?

Where did it all go wrong? We usually get married with the intention of “Happily Ever After”.  However, most of us do not know how to create that happy ending.  Also, we usually have the wrong idea about about what marriage is supposed to be like.  In television shows and in movies, we often see examples of couples falling in love, realizing that they are “soul mates”, and living happily ever after because they are simply “perfect” for each other.  This is not reality.

This fantasy view of relationships has perpetuated the myth that something is wrong when marriage is difficult. When we find ourselves unhappy or unfulfilled in our relationship, we conclude that we may have married the wrong person.  In most marriage, this is simply not true! Instead, most of us do not understand our spouses very well and we mis-interpret their words and behaviors. And the hardest reality to accept, is that many of us also do not know how to be good spouses. Often, we are doing our best, but without a good understanding of the skills needed to create a loving relationship, we are missing the mark.

5 Popular Types Of Relationship Therapy: Dr. Chantal Uses the Best Ideas from Each Couples Counseling Approaches

The Gottman Method

Drs. John and Julie Gottman are marriage counselors as well as marriage researchers. In their research lab they are able to predict divorce with up to 90% accuracy!  How do they do that?  The answer: The research team observes how couples fight. Couples who approach their disagreements in a particular way are more likely to get divorced, whereas couples who learn how to discuss disagreement in a respectful way strengthen their relationship. The Gottman Method of relationship counseling is primarily aimed at teaching couples to have healthy, respectful and caring disagreement discussions that lead to resolution of the problem at hand without damaging the closeness or trust. In fact, when done properly, this “repair” portion of the fight strengthens the couple’s bond.

Imago Couples Therapy

Founded by pastoral counselor Harville Hendrix, the Imago approach to marriage counseling focuses on helping couples understand their relationship dynamics and become active participants in the healing process.  This approach is based on the idea that unconscious patterns of relating to others that we developed in childhood are being played out in our adult romantic relationships. Imago therapy helps individuals become aware of, and change these ineffective patters of relationship. Some of the core tasks of Imago therapy include: reducing or eliminating anger, learning to change complaints into loving requests, and creating a relationship that is a source of satisfaction, joy, and safety,

Emotion-Focused Relationship Counseling

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is often used with couples in conflict or high-distress. This method assumes that negative or intense emotions do not simply disappear on their own. Instead, when these emotions are suppressed or ignored, they come back to the surface in a variety of ways to sabotage our relationships. In EFT counseling, emotions are seen as a valuable source of information, and the therapist assists the client in understanding and resolving those emotions.

Faith-Based or Christian Marriage Counseling

Traditional Christian Marriage Counseling is based on using biblical principles to teach couples how to be successful in their marriage relationship. In theory, this is a useful idea because accurate interpretation of Christian principles focuses on kindness, love, forgiveness, and compassion toward others. We could probably all use a little bit more of that in our marriages!  The challenge though, is that in practice anyone can call themselves a “Christian Marriage Counselor” without having any recognized training in counseling, family therapy or even theology! In fact, most christian marriage counselors are unregulated and unlicensed by the state.

Also, different churches and different pastors have widely varying interpretations of biblical teachings that relate to marriage. Although I am not a Christian Counselor, in my own marital therapy practice, just like I do with all the methods described above, I utilize the most useful ideas from christian counseling to help improve marriages. These include: 1) I believe that in most circumstances marriages are worth saving 2) Happy marriages are relationships in which both partners feel loved, valued and respected, 3) You get more flies with honey than vinegar!  In other words, when each partner learns to approach the other with kindness and love, the mutual trust and marital bond improves.

The “You Deserve to Be Happy” Method of Counseling

Image of elderly couple happily in love

“The key to a happy marriage is a short memory and a good sense of humor”. -My Maid of Honor, on my wedding day

Ok, I invented that name!  But it does seem like many so-called “couples therapists” subscribe to this philosophy.  This idea came from a focus on individual happiness and fulfillment in the 80’s and 90’s.  Many of us know this time as the “me” generation.  And while the problem of people feeling trapped in unhappy or unhealthy marriages was certainly a problem worth addressing, somehow our society lost its way in the other direction.  We began to pursue happiness at all costs, and as a result, relationships (and people) became disposable. We bought into the idea that if a relationship or person doesn’t make us happy, then we should get rid of them and find a new one.  The problem is that research shows this approach does not increase personal happiness!

Internet dating has made finding new relationships even easier by giving us access to lots of potential partners people from our laptops and phones. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t work!  Most people are not happier when they find a new spouse and get remarried.  We know this in part because second and third marriages end up in divorce more often than first marriages!

Marital Therapy that is Customized to Your Relationship and Personality

Each couple, each family and each person is unique. Just like any other type of therapy, a one-size-fits-all approach to marriage counseling usually does not work.  Instead, what works best in marital therapy is a customized approach that combines the approaches discussed above to meet your individual needs.  As with all of the counseling and coaching I do, I take the time to get to know and understand you and your relationship, so that together we can work in a way that will more likely to give you the best result possible.

How to Succeed in Marriage Counseling

I wrote an article for titled “3 Keys to Marital Counseling Success“.  You can read the entire article here.  But in a nutshell, to succeed in marital therapy, it is important for you to:

1) Be patient. Understand that the process takes time. So, don’t give up too soon! It took years to create your relationship dynamic, so it will take at least a few months to begin changing it in a way that will last.

2) Work on it and keep an open mind. Participate actively in the therapy sessions and be open to trying new approaches in your relationship in between sessions.

3) Focus on you. While it’s important to inform your therapist of issues and behaviors you find problematic or challenging with your spouse, try to spend the majority of your time in counseling learning what you can do differently to improve your communication.

Marriage Counseling in Plantation Florida and Broward County

I offer face-to-face marriage counseling and couples therapy in my Plantation office, which is located near Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Davie, Sunrise, Cooper City and Tamarac Florida.  Some of the zip codes I serve are 33324, 33317, 33322, 33325, 33323, 33351, 33328, 33330, 33331, 33326, 33301, and 33304.  If you live or work in central Broward County, chances are my office is less that 15 minutes away.

Marriage Coaching Nationwide via Telephone, Skype, and Google Hangouts

Not local?  No problem!  While I can not offer therapy or counseling outside of Florida (and the province of Quebec), I can provide relationship coaching services nationwide.  Please contact me to learn about this service, and to learn how relationship coaching is different than marriage counseling.

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