My work with couples is grounded in an Individuation in Connection™ perspective. I work with an inner self system perspective, understanding that each of us houses an “inner cast of characters.” Relationships also go through developmental stages and couples often get stuck in power struggles after the infatuation and enchantment stage has worn off. This is actually when the real relationship begins, full of possibilities for a growth process into a deep and meaningful love collaboration. When two people begin to understand each other’s inner cast, release projections and see each other as they really are, they can co-create a relationship that will meet a wide spectrum of needs and longings.
Relationships should be based on mutuality and couples must learn to move beyond and resolve differences and disappointments in a way that does not lead to resignation or resentment. Increasingly, couples are coming in for pre-commitment counseling or in the early stages of their relationship, to get off to a good start. Successful relationships are one’s in which the partners know each other well, support each other’s growth, and have each other’s back. Interpersonal effectiveness involves skills and capacities that no-one teaches us when we are growing up. These can be learned in couples therapy.
WHY COME FOR COUPLES THERAPY?
People come to couples therapy for a variety of reasons. Some come because they can’t seem to communicate without arguing. Other couples come because the relationship feels empty or there is a lack of sexual connection. Stage of life changes can be challenging – raising small children, handling teenagers, children leaving home, caring for aging parents, and retirement all require adjustments in the relationship. Changes in the relationship caused by a chronic illness or cancer can be particularly difficult to navigate.
RECOVERING FROM A BETRAYAL
Many couples come to couples therapy because of a betrayal in which one or both of them have engaged in rogue behaviors that have has destroyed the foundation of trust.
There are many kinds of betrayals, but affairs are the most common one. Recovering from an affair involves looking at what led up to the abandonment of an original commitment to fidelity, examining patterns in the relationship that led to an inability to communicate or remain invested, establishing new agreements, or resolving long standing issues. Betrayals are often driven by the belief that one’s partner cannot understand something or is unwilling or unable to meet important emotional needs. Power struggles, issues around control, and feelings of entitlement need to be dealt with. Sometimes mental health issues contribute to ongoing stressors in the relationship. Evaluating the viability of the relationship, addressing the factors that led up to the betrayal, discussing future concerns about repeat offenses, making real reparations, redefining the relationship, and establishing accountability are all necessary before the couple can determine a path forward. Many couples recover from betrayals and go forward having grown as people, with more consciousness and commitment.
Successful relationships are ones in which the partners know each other well, support each other’s growth, and have each other’s back. Interpersonal effectiveness involves skills and capacities that no-one teaches us when we are growing up. These can be learned in couples therapy.
In these highly personalized sessions, a couple takes a deep dive into the heart of their relationship, setting aside 2-4 days for intensive work. The structure varies, but typically, you would meet with Dr. Wakefield in extended morning and afternoon sessions with a long lunch break and the evenings open. Billing is by the hour at $200 an hour. Intensives allow for a depth of work with a tremendous amount of resolution, healing, and clarity. Momentum is also created as each session builds on the previous. Dr. Wakefield’s capacity to create an environment of acceptance, compassion, and hope, along with her many years of clinical experience, and unique approach to relationship growth has led to many couples who felt stuck in perpetual conflict or long-term alienation exit toxic dynamics and untangle issues that kept them apart. Couples who were filled with despair experience a renewed sense of confidence and hope as they employ new relationship skills and bond in a new intimate love story.
Couples come in for a variety of purposes. Some want to break thru a long-standing impasse or end a cycle of chronic conflict. Some are discerning an important decision. Others come to revitalize their relationship or deepen their intimate connection. Some are in the midst of a crisis, having just discovered a major breach of trust. Couples drive or fly in from all parts of the country. The intensive begins with a phone interview to determine if this kind of format is suitable for the couple’s needs and to define the focus of the work.
ATTACHMENT PATTERNS AND EARLY TRAUMA
It is surprising how often past trauma is impacting a relationship. One or both of the partners may have a difficult history that creates a level of reactivity that prevents them from forming a meaningful or enduring bond. Extreme needs for connection and reassurance or distance and personal space are created by adverse childhood experiences with primary caregivers and cause difficulties in a couple’s life. Trauma work is a sub-set of couples work. As people begin to understand each other’s histories and resolve the lingering reactivity, compassion replaces judgment and there is a growing sense of trust, cooperation, and the capacity for sexual intimacy. Dr. Wakefield’s work incorporates recent findings in interpersonal neurobiology and attachment theory to help couples who have difficulty interacting without triggering each other, to find new ways of working together. Co-regulation is the necessary foundation for good communication.