Frequently

asked

questions

What qualifications should I look for in a couples therapist?


There are many types of behavioral health providers practicing and many different qualifications among them. In addition to the basic qualifications of graduating with a masters or doctoral degree from an accredited institution and being licensed to practice independently, a qualified couples therapist MUST have specific training in couples therapy after the completion of their graduate degree. A degree in a counseling profession (even if that degree has family therapist in the title) is not sufficient alone. Consider someone who called themselves a cardiologist but never had any training in cardiology after medical school. You wouldn’t trust your most vital organ to someone without advanced training in the anatomy and repair of the physical heart, why trust your emotional heart to someone without advanced education and training in the anatomy and repair of relationships? There are several well-grounded models of relationship therapy. Gottman Method Couples Therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy, and Emotionally Focused Therapy, are three that are internationally recognized for their ability to transform relationships.




Why do people come to couples therapy?


All relationships go through difficult times. Although couples therapy is becoming more and more commonplace, some couples may not be at a point of recognizing that they need professional help. Most couples seek the help of a professional when they have the realization that they are not able to change their relational dynamics on their own, and they are willing to accept help. The reasons couples begin therapy range from pre-marital counseling to desiring to maintain healthy communication during a divorce process. Many couples start relationship therapy when they are experiencing conflict or stressors in their relationship, whether they have been together a few months or a few decades. Some common reasons include a cycle of conflicts that they can’t seem to break, a growing feeling of distance, or a major stressor to their relationship – such as infidelity or facing a pivotal decision. Some couples come to therapy knowing that they want to stay together, even though they may struggling quite a bit, and in other situations one or both partners are trying to decide if they want the relationship to continue. There is value in receiving professional guidance in all these stages.




How long does couples therapy take?


A lot of people want to know this when they decide whether or not it’s a good time to start couples therapy. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer. The length of treatment will vary on several factors including how entrenched the problems are and how flexible the partners are in learning new ways to manage them. As a general rule the longer the relationship has been hurt or broken, the longer it may take to repair (think of an infection that goes untreated and develops further complications). If you know that you are only able to commit to a certain number or sessions, feel free to let me know. Together we can prioritize goals for treatment. If clients have limited resources, then I suggest committing to 10 focused sessions as that can be a good window to experience learning and growth. Other clients may find it necessary to attend treatment for several months or even a couple of years. Sessions don’t have to occur weekly, they can be scheduled at a frequency that you’re comfortable with. Overall, it is better to have a few sessions and get some new relationship tools than none at all. Although attending counseling sessions is pivotal, you will see your therapist for only a few hours per month whereas you will spend every day with your partner. Thus, the majority of the work on your relationship will happen in between counseling sessions. Towards this end, I may proviide you with "homework" that will help you and your partner communicate with each other and address concerns in between sessions.




What can I expect in couples therapy?


First and foremost, you can expect a non-judgmental environment where you can be understood, challenged, and learn more about yourself and your partner. In the initial phase of therapy, I will help you assess your current relationship struggles and strengths. In addition to interviewing you about this, a great tool is the Gottman Relationship Check-Up, an online assessment that I can interpret and review with you. After, a treatment plan will be devised with your input. You can expect subsequent sessions to focus on core skills that are known to build healthy relationships, such as how to diffuse conflict or how to rebuild connection. Additionally, your specific concerns that were outlined at the start of treatment (or new ones) can be addressed. While the session format may have continuity, the content of the discussion will depend on what’s most relevant each session, whether it be resolving an argument that just occurred or reaching a new understanding on a long-lasting concern.




Should I engage in individual therapy along with couples therapy?


It may not be advised to have individual and couples therapy simultaneously due to competing goals or interventions. Many people are surprised to discover that relationship therapy will enhance their personal functioning and can address their individual symptoms or concerns. This occurs through the context of a growing, committed relationship in which space is created for their individual needs and greater support is given and received. Thus, they may discover they are not in need of individual therapy while doing couples therapy. Of course, every circumstance is different and there are exceptions in which individual therapy may be warranted or recommended. If this is something that you partake in, let both therapists know so that they can work with you to have interconnected goals that will honor your relationship growth. I am happy to discuss your goals and how couples therapy can align with them.




Do you work with couples who are unsure if they want to stay together?


Yes. It’s not uncommon for couples to be unsure if their relationship can be saved or even if they want it to be saved when they come to therapy. Figuring that out can be a very appropriate use of sessions. If a couple has already decided to separate or divorce, attending therapy together can also be very effective for a couple of reasons. First, if there are children involved, they will need to learn to co-parent well for the benefit of all. Second, it is helpful for the growth of each person to understand their contribution to the end of the relationship so that they won’t repeat dysfunctional patterns in future relationships and can move forward in a healthy way. Finally, if they are able to develop a shared narrative about their relationship that they can present to others they may avoid losing friends and splitting family members. Remember, a relationship that doesn’t survive effects not only the couple, but their families and communities as well.




What if I’ve tried couples therapy before without luck, why should I try it again?


It’s not uncommon that people have an unsuccessful experience with couples therapy before having a transformative experience. There are 2 common reasons for this. The first is that they worked with a therapist that wasn’t appropriately trained in couples therapy, and, thus, did not have adequate expertise to be helpful. The second is that they were not fully engaged in the process. Couples therapy requires a level of focused attention during and outside of therapy sessions and sometimes it is not the right time for one or both partners to commit fully, such as if they have competing demands for their time or emotional attention. Oftentimes when couples report an unhelpful couples therapy experience they may have attended sessions sporadically or been unprepared to change. When both partners are committed to acquiring new skills, growth is achievable.




What kind of couples do you work with?  Any you don't work with?


I collaborate with couples of all ages, sexual orientations, faiths, and stages of relationship. I work with both heterosexual and same-sex couples. I also work with couples with a Christian perspective and other couples who may have different religius affiliations or none at all. My nonjudgemental approach allows me to assist couples wherever they are at rather than expecting them to be anything different. I don't work with couples where the following is actively occurring: domestic violence, severe substance addiction, and suicidal behavior. These concerns and other unsafe behaviors require treatment before couples therapy can be successful.




What if it's hard to find a quiet place at home for online therapy?


If children are an issue then it may be helpful to take advantage of evening appointments, either after young children go to bed or while older children are safely occupied. Some couples attend therapy from one partner's work office after hours, or from a home office or other location that can become a sacred space. If you are concerned about being heard by family members, a simple white noise machine can block out conversation. I will be happy to brainstorm other ideas with you for optimizing your online therapy space so that you can communicate openly during appointments.




How do I get started?  What if I have additional questions?


The process is simple. It is not necessary that I know your background or current struggles prior to your first appointmen as relevant issues will be revealed in your initial session. If you are ready to schedule an appointment BOOK NOW. Once your initial appointment is established, you will receive a link to complete new client forms electronically. Then you simply attend your initial appointment with an open mind to see what couples therapy can do for you. There will be absolutely no pressure to schedule a second appointment, although the vast majority of couples decide to continue with treatment after their first session. If you would like more information prior to scheduling, please CONTACT ME for a free 15 minute consultation, which can be conducted via phone or email. Keep in mind that I cannot give marital advice or provide clinical intervention during a brief consultation. Also know that the purpose of a pre-service consultation is for you to ask questions of me to see if I might be a good fit for you, rather than to discuss your side of relationshp events.




Do you take insurance?  What payment methods do you accept?


I do not accept insurance for multiple reasons. Many insurances do not cover couples therapy and none cover 90 minute appointments for couples therapy. Since I am not credentialed with insurances, I encourage you to check your out-of-network benefits to see if they would be helpful to you. I am happy to provide a "superbill," which you can give to your insurance company for reimbursement of out-of-network benefits. I accept flexible medical savings cards and credit cards for payment.




Do you work with clients all over the U.S.?


Unfortunately, no. Due to licensing regulations for clinical psychologists I am able to work with clients whom are residents of Oregon, Idaho, Virginia, and Florida in an unlimited capacity and residents of Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia as long as the COVID-19 crisis is still impacting those states (these states have relaxed telehealth regulations during this time). I am also able to work with residents of Arizona for 20 days a year every year, per state regulations, regardless of the COVID-19 situation, and with persons in Arizona an unlimited capacity as long as some COVID-19 restrictions are in place.




Do you provide couples therapy intensives over a whole day or multiple days?


Yes I do. Intensive couples therapy, often referred to as "marathon" therapy, can be a good option for some couples. It can complete weeks or months of standard therapy over the span of a weekend or a week. Couples often choose this course in order to jump start their therapy program, when their time is limited, or when their need for relationship insight or results is acute. Marathon therapy sessions are typically booked in half day to two day session increments; however, I am happy to discuss a longer intensive therapy plan to fit your needs.





"

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

 

Alex Ikonn

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Based in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

​Tel: 541.995.0456

​dr.renee@couplesdoc.com

Calls & Emails welcome. I am not able to send or receive text due to HIPAA regulations. 

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