Structure, Practice, Learning, Empowerment & Development of Team
Please read this page in its entirety if you are considering couples counseling with me.
Why pursue couples counseling with me? I know how to do couples counseling really well. Read this page and see if you notice how different it is compared to what other couples counselors are communicating on their websites. I have designed the process rather than letting an insurance company design (i.e. length of sessions). I have 90 minute sessions. I would advise against meeting with anyone who does a 50 minute meeting. I already know how I am going to work with you. I just need to understand where you are at (individually) in your ability to be the partner you want to be. I only accept couples whom I know I can help. When there is a willingness by both people in the relationship to improve or repair the relationship then I know I can be of help. I will meet each of you where you are at ability wise. In other words each of you will receive tailored direction based upon your skill level. I work with my observations in the room as each of you practices representing, advocating and asserting your hopes and listening, receiving and supporting the other. Therefore I spend zero time having you review and provide me with unnecessary details about past arguments. What has occurred has come to pass. What do you want to have happen going forward? What do you want to cultivate? I am always wondering what is it you are trying to accomplish. I am efficient at teaching people how to accomplish the accomplishable and how to notice they are spinning their wheels.
Couples counseling is a place for you to have constructive dialogues about topics that may be difficult for you to discuss on your own. My role is to improve the quality of dialogue between you and your partner regarding what matters to each of you. Couples counseling helps you establish a track record of overcoming challenges so the two of you can dialogue on your own, without a therapist's help.
Here is my thesis. Communication is difficult. On one end of the spectrum you have a team approach to communication and on the other end you have a competitive approach to communication. On another spectrum you have poor language for being influential on one end and you have skillful language for being influential on the other end. While all couples come to me with their own unique profile the majority of the work at the beginning is about working with couples to improve their position on the first spectrum I mentioned. Once the first position is in a good place addressing your position in the second spectrum is much easier. Whatever the topic or issue is it's yours to own and shape. When you work with me it is my role to teach you how to represent your topic in a way that optimizes your influence. This is how you become more likely to get the outcome you want. The less influential you are the less likely you are to get the outcome you want. My focus is on getting you the outcome you desire. In order for this to happen it has to be of primary concern to you. It is such desire that I use for leverage to help you develop as a teammate and increase you influence.
For some couples we never get to the position we hope for on the first spectrum. This is sad for everyone involved. While I advocate and teach each person in a long term relationship how to do the work of developing yourself as a better teammate (through using the roles of Sculptor and Supporter) I can not make the choice for you to persevere at such a goal.
The choice, the commitment, and the discipline to persevere is something that can only occur and be enforced by you the individual. When both people do this the outcome is a success even if it leads to discontinuing the relationship. When one or both people do not do this there is not a successful relationship as an outcome. How could there be? You are less team mates and more competitors against each other and probably for good reason perceive the other as being a poor support. It’s deeply unsatisfying to assess and/or believe that you are tied up in a relationship with someone who is a poor support.
I take a holistic approach to your personal concerns and goals. It is unlikely for me to spend our time together trying to mediate solutions to your decisions. Instead I teach people how to make better decision for themselves.
I focus on cultivating your development by expanding your openness with your partner and yourself. Instead of buying into the sense of urgency and gridlock that can easily confound a relationship, we will develop a focus on the way each of you wants to be with your problems. I relentlessly teach you to funnel everything you choose to communicate through the two roles of the Sculptor and the Supporter. Trying to eliminate your problems is a fool’s errand and giving you the impression that such a thing can occur is misleading. Research has demonstrated that two thirds of a couple’s issues are perpetual. Choosing someone is choosing a set of problems. Therefore, we focus on how each of you are with the problems.
There is an infinite amount of ways to respond to our problems. How we do so speaks to our development and maturity with life and relationships. When people learn to conceptualize their problems as opportunities to practice being the way they want to be rather than wishing their partner would be different, maturity occurs. This path is what’s meant by a holistic approach.
Couples counseling can provide a platform for couples to come together in a neutral, non-judgmental environment to explore those aspects of their respective lives and relationship that are interfering with intimacy, trust, and connection together. Often the initial phase of our work is about stopping the ineffective and harmful cycles that exist. From there we work together to identify factors that are hurting your relationship and those that may help you find solid footing together.
Common Reasons for Couples Counseling
Partners come into couples counseling with a variety of issues to address including communication, conflict resolution, sexual and intimacy issues, dullness or stagnancy, fighting and anger problems, identity and role conflict, dependence vs. independence, ethics and values, jealousy, parenting, infidelity, money and finances, addiction, in-law issues, step family issues, issues with friends, gender roles, infertility, adoption, and many more. I work with couples in open and closed relationships. I am steadfast in my impartialness to your relationship status with regards to supporting the outcome you would like from meeting with me.
I gather an understanding of what brings each of you to counseling and your agenda or hopes for counseling. Then I reflect back to you my understanding of your situation and goals. Then we begin practice (often within the first half hour). You will be put into the roles of Sculptor and Supporter and began to dialogue around whatever it is that you want to discuss. I will begin teaching you the roles.
Foster a culture of empathy, support, and self-growth To the degree that its lacking, I encourage a culture of respect and listening with the intention to understand the other.
Address the negative and ineffective behaviors as they surface In the event that ineffective or harmful expressions are surfacing I stop it and supply effective ways to address the subject matter at hand. With a non-blaming intention I begin to help you identify your own ineffective behaviors and speech. We need to stop the negative before we can skillfully build the positive, binding, and strengthening agents of connection. This means learning and becoming aware of the losing strategies and language you unwittingly use.
Implement structure and formats for communicating Emphasis will be on teaching you the roles. The working definition I use for a fight is "two people who feel too unheard to listen to the other." Much of the will to fight can be marginalized once you learn to take turns with the roles. By learning shared rules about roles the couple has a mutual format for addressing difficult topics. Themes that were once avoided for the sake of peace can start to be explored for the sake of vitality. Please read each of the roles below. You can not escape the roles while doing the work with me. They provide structure which reduces ineffective relating. This reduces the inflammation that occurs, not because of what you are talking about, but because of how you are talking about it. You can graduate from us having to use them formally because you have showed mastery at integrating them casually. If you do not want to be beholden to the standards of communication described in the roles then I am not a good fit for you as a couples counselor. This doesn't mean you have to be good at communicating already, it means you have to want to improve how you communicate. I meet every individual where they are at skill wise. My role is to improve your ability. I don't have control over your willingness to focus on your development as a partner/teammate. That has to come from you. I only accept couples were both individuals have such willingness.
Autonomous Goals People are more likely to let their guard down and engage in an honest examination of their behaviors when they know they will not be attacked. We want to establish a culture of self-responsibility for eliminating our own ineffective and hurtful behaviors as well as setting autonomous goals for integrating effective and skillful behaviors and speech. Autonomous goals are goals that you adhere to regardless of how your partner behaves. If, for example, you have set the goal to handle your anger by calmly sharing without blame and your partner is treating you poorly, you still adhere to your goal rather than digress to mishandling your anger and justifying it as acceptable.
Hopefully by the end of the first session both of you have begun separate lists of autonomous goals comprised of behaviors you intend to reduce and behaviors you intend to develop or fine tune.
Frequency and Length of Counseling
Meetings are 90 minutes. In general I find an hour to be an insufficient amount of time for a couples session. When insurance coverage extends to couples counseling it only reimburses for one hour. I ask that each couple cover the cost out of pocket for the additional half hour. We need to meet more at the beginning, but can spread out appointments once we have established a good working relationship. Across the board I recommend meeting once a week for the first four appointments. Then adjusting to fit your schedules and your pace of progress. Please expect to meet a minimum of 7 times. This is an arbitrary number, but my intention is to flush out individuals who have low standards for their own involvement and unrealistic standards for results independent of the process. Results come because you learn and practice what you learn. That takes some time. If a person expects results with out learning and practicing what they have learned they are being unreasonable. Unreasonable people will not achieve reasonable results simple because they are not likely to commit with a skillful attitude the time and energy necessary for sincere growth. The pace is very much determined by what you two as a team put into the process and how well you both take advantage of the opportunity to practice being a great teammate with me in the room.
Couples do not need to have the same agenda in order to pursue counseling, however both of you need to be invested in your relationship for us to be doing couples counseling. In the event one of you is ambivalent about wanting to invest in repairing and/or improving your relationship couples counseling is not the appropriate medium for you as a couple. Couples counseling is a place to practice being a great partner. Expressing your ambivalence is not practicing. Individual counseling is a better medium for addressing your ambivalence. You are welcome to set an individual appointment to discuss how to proceed with ambivalence about wanting to be in your relationship.
Please read the checklist document directly below. These are my requirements I have of both parties involved in order for me to be willing to work with you. You are welcome to call me to discuss requirements and concerns you may have for meeting with me.
Goodness of Fit for Couples Counseling with Morgan Checklist
If after reading this page and having viewed the checklist you would like to work with me please call me at 207-747-8076. I want to talk with each person to answer any questions you have about couples counseling and also make sure you understand the expectations I have of you that need to exist in order for our meetings to be a success. Please click here Forms, Policies, and Fees to go to the forms I would like you to print out and bring to the first meeting. Scroll down to the bottom of that page to find the forms.
Headway in Couples Counseling is a short promotional piece I wrote for The Center for Creative Healing. It is redundant of much written up above, however I still think it is helpful to read for any individual or couple interested in working with me.