For those of you not aware, family therapy (systems therapy) is an approach to counseling that has really taken off since the 20th century. Most of the theorists around this approach to therapy were around during the 1950's to present. In 2017 we lost one of the original members of this approach to family therapy. Salvador Minuchin. He is considered the father of Structural Family Therapy and he was 96 years old.
i had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Dr. Minuchin over the past several years. What originally started as a secretarial relationship 8 years ago evolved into something so much more and for that I will always be grateful.
I once met a couple who experienced arguments in very different ways. When an argument started, the woman preferred to address it head on, deal with the challenge, forgive and move on. Her husband, however, would shut down and walk away which infuriated her and would send her into a rage. In discussing these habits with the couple we realized that when angry discussions started, the husband preferred to walk away since he feared that if he became too angry he would say - or do - something he would later regret. As a result he would walk away. She, however, wanted to immediately address disagreements since she strongly believed you should never walk away angry with the one you love.
Although neither approach is wrong, when two people have opposite approaches to conflict it could cause unnecessary resentment, conflict, and leave the concern unresolved. Once the couple understood how they handled conflict they were able to come up with skills that would work for them: she would do her best to hold her thoughts until he was ready they could calmly discuss the point of concern. They further agreed that if it was intense enough that she needed to address it immediately she would express this and he would not run away but, instead, work to stay engaged. This was work for the couple to handle - neither was comfortable with the new approach - but in time they found a compromise that worked for them.
Communication is the key to any healthy relationship. How well do you and your partner communicate? There are some who believe that their partner is their best friend. Although different people define a "best friend" in different ways, the idea that your partner is someone you are comfortable enough to be completely open with remains true.
When you have an understanding of your needs you are better able to communicate those with your partner and when they know what they need it makes expressing needs and desires an easier path. But what if one, or both, of you struggle with communication? How do you keep yourself open if you are unsure how to share what you are thinking/feeling?
If you and your partner are committed and determined to succeed for the long term, take the time to learn how each of you communicate. Practice with smaller topics so you can tackle the larger items together. How do you share your preferences in food? Can you explain to each other what your ideal weather is, and why? What about your favorite place to visit? Sharing this information and learning how you each process these choices can build a foundation on how to share with each other. Let your communication grow from there…. What makes you happy (and why)? How do you share the household responsibilities? How do you prefer to handle anger?
Taking the time to learn about your own needs and then the needs of your partner makes it possible to see how communication leads to negotiation and healthy conversations for the long term. With communication comes the desire to support and nurture each other. And communication leads to an honest relationship.
I read a great quote today.... What comes easy won't always last. And what will last won't always come easy. Can't the same be said for therapy?
I hate to be the one to tell you this but therapy is HARD! It takes hard work and it takes commitment! It takes a willingness to change how you see things and who you may believe you are. Now, I am not saying that its painful but you have to come in to therapy knowing that just like anything else worth having, it's going to take work.
All too often clients will come in and we get through the first 1 or 2 sessions and it's somewhat easy because we are getting to know each other. But once a challenge arrives or a homework assignment that takes the family out of their comfort zone, some start to believe that therapy may not be for them. If you come to therapy with one finger on the eject button be ready to get frustrated and be ready to feel like therapy just doesn't work.
I will be the first to say... being open to hearing critiques or commentary on how you have lived life can be a tough pill to swallow. But I always encourage my clients to remember that something dramatic has brought them to therapy and if that dramatic event is something you truly want to address, give your therapist a chance! Just like if your doctor told you you need to cut out red meat to lower your cholesterol don't you think taking the observations of your therapist to heart could be good for you in the long run?
No one can ever tell you what to do but if you are looking for true change, what can it hurt to approach therapy with an open mind?
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