Couples counseling expert Dr. Bryce Kaye as seen on WRAL-TV in Raleigh
Couples counseling is performed differently by different counselors. I’m Dr. Bryce Kaye and over 30 years I have seen thousands of couples in Raleigh and Cary for couples counseling. Most of them have taught me the value of the following expression:
Strategic Couples Counseling = Clear Goals + An Effective Plan
“Strategic counseling” is active and direct unlike the passive listening performed by some other couples counselors. Whether it’s individual psychotherapy or couples counseling, I work with a logical plan on how to help you to achieve your goals. I believe that you deserve more out of counseling than just being heard and supported. As a couples counselor, my active style is to teach you different strategies to gradually change your emotions and emotionally driven behaviors over time. That way, you can grow to become the person or the couple that you want to be.
Check out Dr. Kaye’s Marriage First Aid Kit for expert help even before coming for couples counseling.
Many therapists employ a communication model for couples counseling that assumes that most couples’ problems derive from dysfunctional communication. The assumption seems to be that teaching better communication should resolve their difficulties. Unfortunately, most well-designed studies show that only about one-third of the couples going through marital therapy are reporting significant post-treatment benefits after one year. After two years, the benefits shrink another 50 %. Those are not impressive statistics and they do not give much support for a simplistic communication therapy model. I find that a couple’s communication usually breaks down because of more complex emotional dynamics. Those dynamics can involve historical shame issues, personality deficits, knowledge deficits, and boundary interactions. These issues can be quite complex but are still understandable.
Couples Counseling That’s Active And Strategic
Much of my couples counseling involves clarifying the emotional dynamics and then working with the couple to design a strategic intervention. The necessary intervention will depend upon the needs of the couple. My philosophy of treatment is to try the simplest feasible intervention first. When we’re lucky, we can be successful on the most superficial level through mere education. I’ve had some couples who merely needed 2 to 4 sessions of couples counseling to correct their problems. This might involve educating the couple regarding the care and feeding of emotional needs within a relationship. Assigning intimacy exercises would be a part of this type of intervention. Teaching skills for managing mood states and conflict strategies would still operate on the educational level. However, more time is usually needed, especially for learning conflict management strategies. Three to 4 months is the norm for these types of cases. What people don’t like to admit is that communication and affection frequently break down due to issues of personal incapacity. By personal incapacity I mean the inability of either individual to engage in certain mood states within their relationship. These emotional states include the following:
a) The ability to become curious about and to draw pleasure in exploring the mind of their partner. This constitutes the highest form of loving because the mind of each partner constitutes their truest self. When both partners love and relish each others minds, then both of them will feel “close.”
b) The ability to express their desire within the relationship for various forms of fun and pleasure. Unless this is happening, then one or more of the partners will feel “trapped” in the role of constant responsibility. They may even begin to state that “they don’t know who they are” anymore.
c) The ability to energetically confront their partner to prevent their partner’s desires from completely ruling their life and eclipsing their own desires. Unless this confrontation takes place, the feeling of being dominated will usually result in losing sexual desire for their partner and even possibly displacing it outside of the relationship in the form of an affair.
d) The ability to sooth themselves with a sense of higher emotional priority when their partners feel angry or hurt. Unless a partner has this capacity for momentarily switching to a higher emotional priority, they cannot approach risking c) or possibly b) if it might lead to conflict. They won’t be able to risk intimate exposure.
The model that I use for relationships is that both parties must have the emotional resources for dynamic balancing between the states of nurturance/connection and autonomy/self-reliance. Decades of couples counseling have shown me that the best model for predicting the quality of relationship is the dynamic balancing between these two emotional states.
When either individual lacks the emotional capacity to engage in any of the 4 emotional states above, then couples counseling needs to shift to a deeper level. This usually involves individual or group therapy to establish the missing capacity. Group therapy is useful in training in a “theory of mind” so that the individual can become more empathetic and curious about what their partner is experiencing. If a person’s background involves emotional trauma, then their anxiety may need to be reduced via EMDR therapy. Anxiety reduction may be necessary before they can relax enough to become sufficiently curious about their partner. When shame issues block a partner from expressing (or knowing) their desire, then individual hedonic inhibition therapy will be necessary for the individual to avoid feeling eclipsed in the relationship. If a person is blocked from using healthy anger in the form of assertiveness, then EMDR may be used to reduce their sense of helplessness. If a person is too fearful of feeling guilty about their partner’s anger or disappointment in any potential conflict, then conflict inoculation training may be necessary. And if a person fears their own rage in potential confrontations, then conflict inoculation training again is the likely requirement. In other words, personal incapacity can take many forms. The necessary type of couples counseling can take many forms as well.
You can call 919 467 1180 to schedule an appointment for couples counseling.