Tag Archives: relationship

The Use of Home Work in Couples Counseling

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

Homework for couples

As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I assign homework between sessions to the couples I counsel. Homework will not solve conflict, communication or resentment issues. Those issues need to be addressed in session. Home work will, however, help and typically addresses the following:

Civility and Respect
This one is a must. Civility and respect is the foundation of your relationship. When a couple loses civility and respect, their relationship is in serious trouble. They feel distant and as a result intimacy suffers. There is never a good reason to scream, swear, name call, or act out. If you have gotten into these habits you may need professional help to get it under control. It will take some time; it is a process – but if you work at it and strive for consistency you can regain civility and respect. As in any process, owning your errors is important. Don’t hesitate to acknowledge it if you say something that is not civil or respectful. Say, “I am sorry I should not have said that.” and mean it. All couples need rules of engagement for conflict. You can never allow yourself to lose control. It is the foundation of your relationship. You can’t build a house without a good foundation. Couples can’t permit yelling, screaming, swearing and name calling to undermine their relationship.

Call Time Out
When conflict becomes too intense and one or both of you are in danger of losing civility and respect, call a time out. The words time out will become a signal for both of you to settle down. Never follow your spouse when they are trying to retreat from the conflict. Standing outside the bathroom door and continuing the discussion is out of bounds. If you decide to go for a walk or to a movie, say so your spouse knows when you are coming back. It is cruel to just walk out without regard for the others feelings. The rule of time out is you must get back to the discussion within 24 hours. Far too often couples will just let the issue go unresolved, swept under the rug. This creates resentment and distance. Hopefully, after a day to reflect, you will be able to discuss the issue calmly. If not, hold the issue for the next therapy session.

Reduce Alcohol/Drug Use
Many fights occur when too much alcohol has been consumed. Alcohol reduces inhibitions making it easier to allow yourself to lose control. If you are drinking daily, you may have a problem. Denial is a huge part of alcoholism. I typically say, Can you stop drinking for a week or two month (for binge alcoholics). If you make excuses and refuse the challenge, you have an alcohol problem. There is no good reason one should be drinking on a daily basis

Date Night
A night out alone is a common suggestion among both therapists and self-help books. As I have said, couples lose their way because of all that life throws at them. Don’t forget to nurture the relationship by spending time together alone. This does not have to be a big money issue. Many people with financial stress will simply go out for coffee or ice cream. I find it a statement of the current economic times and somewhat sad that couples will go out after therapy because they can’t afford a babysitter twice in one week.

Meet and Greet
Meet and Greet is another way to address the lack of affection that many spouses feel. Touch is very important. This is not sexual touching. This is simply affection. Offer a hug and kiss when you leave and when you return. The responsibility is on both of you to find one another and do this when one of you walks in the door or leaves for work. Reaching out and holding hands when walking or just watching TV is also a way to address lack of affection.

Parent as a Team
Children learn quickly who to go to get what they want. Sometimes tension between parents is picked up on by the children and they will take sides. As I say, “the walls have ears.” Even when you don’t think they hear your arguments more than likely they do. I have had children tell me, “I listen to their arguments through the heating vent in my room.” A daughter will often side with mom. The result is when dad tells the daughter to get ready for bed, she ignores him. He gets upset and mom steps in often creating even more conflict between mom and dad. Mom needs to back dad and of course vice versa. “Do what your father says”. When mom is angry at dad anyway due to unresolved marital issues, mom unconsciously gets satisfaction from the child’s disrespect toward dad. This will continue for a while until marital issues are addressed and parents recognize how they undermine the others authority and the child sees that they are consistently parenting as a team . Parents need to support one another in family meetings to address disrespect to the other parent. This is a common issue addressed under family meetings below.

“I feel” Statements
Inability to express feeling is a major issue in many relationships. One of the hardest things for many men to do is to get in touch with feelings. I find that many men have difficulty expressing their feelings at all let alone civilly and respectfully. Yet, lack of expression of feelings is a major cause of marital discontent. Opening up is critical for a good relationship. In addition, expressing feelings out loud appropriately helps dissipate negative feelings. Women, especially it seems, need to know what their man is feeling in order to feel connected and consequently warm and fuzzy in the bedroom. Men are more R rated; they don’t like to talk. Women say about 6,000 words per day; men only 2,000. I believe that good communication is romance and that communication is needed for marital success. For most women and many men, it is that expression which makes a couple feel connected. I encourage “I feel” statements….”because.” It may at times still be a confrontational statement but much less so than when you begin statements with “you always“. First of all, never say never and always. When you have something difficult to say be nose to nose with your arms around the person. Say, “I feel” and it will more likely be perceived less defensively then things are said from across the room or behind a closed door.

No History Lessons and no skidding off current issues
Stay on the present issue. Many couples allow their conflicts to skid into the past. When this happens there is rarely a resolution to the current issue. This can create hostility and resentment. When you find yourself fighting about where you squeeze the toothpaste tube (he squeezes in the middle you squeeze on the end) obviously you are not addressing the real issues.

Not in the Chicago Area! Now I can work via face time with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance.  Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com  Effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, test preparation, via face time or skype and much more!

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

Don’t let a lack of civility and respect destroy your relationship!

James E. DelGenio LCPC           

No relationship will last if there is a lack of civility and respect. 

All couples need rules of engagement for conflict. When a couple loses civility and respect their relationship is in serious trouble. They feel distant, disconnected and as a result, bickering occurs.

Case Scenario – Tony and Julie
Tony and Julie have been married almost two years. Tony is thirty-two; Julie is thirty. They have one child who is one and a half years old. Tony’s parents divorced when he was 6 and Julie’s parents are still married but have never had a good relationship. Tony and Julie dated for almost three years before marriage but they never learned how to resolve conflict. Both are determined to win the argument. When this happens, no one wins. The baby has not helped the situation because he has colic. The resentment is building because of unresolved issues which are now affecting their level of intimacy. Arguments turn into history lessons in which the conflict is never resolved and never focuses on the issues at hand. They recognize their marriage is in trouble. Tony and Julie want to find their joy again and address issues before they end up divorced.

After getting the necessary preliminary information, I acknowledge the stress that they are experiencing and try to reestablish civility and respect when in conflict. No couple can withstand loss of respect. I point out that it will take some time to change their communication habits. When one or the other fails at respect, I encourage them to immediately say “I’m sorry; I should not have said that” as a step in the right direction of not having lost respect in the first place. Time out is the signal that this conflict is going nowhere but the rule of time out is that you have to get back to the issue within twenty-four hours. Hopefully, with a day to reflect on the discussion, it will be more productive. If that fails then they are instructed to save the discussion for our next appointment. I also look at how long it has been since the baby was born that they have had a night out together. In most instances, they have had no time out together because they have no baby sitter that they trust. I encourage taking the time to find a babysitter; bring in the sitter and let them get to know one another under the parents supervision. Their goals also include a date night at least twice a month if possible. It may take three or four sessions to begin to see some changes but more often than not they will start to see better communication and less conflict.

Poor Communication
Many marital problems are rooted in poor communication. As seen above, effective communication between partners can be learned and developed.

When communication is poor and feelings go unsaid or unaddressed, the couple feels disconnected. Over time, this leaves them feeling distant, even resentful. Resentment creates a further distance which in turn creates a lack of civility and respect and a lack of intimacy.

Good communication is often oversimplified as just being romantic. It is not. Good communication involves the sharing of ideas and feelings. Good communication is made possible by means of trust, confidence, and mutual understanding.

Try to convey to your spouse the importance of expressing their feelings, even though they may think it’s silly. Explain how important it is to you and how it makes you feel. Explain to them how never knowing how they feel about this or that, confuses you and makes it more difficult for you to feel connected.

I encourage both men and women to use “I feel” statements. This allows the couple to say things that have in the past created conflict when sentences are started with: “You always” or “You never”. Never say never or always. This is known as skidding into other issues or a history lesson into the past and therefore a minor conflict is never resolved and may even be magnified.

Not in the Chicago Area!
Now I can work via secure zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in near Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://jamesdelgenio/com
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com    Effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype and much more.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

How to address common relationship issues?

James E. DelGenio LCPC

Common relationship issues
For a vast majority of the individuals, families and couples there are common conflict themes. These include: mood disorders, lack of civility and respect, resentment, poor communication, lack of intimacy, infidelity, alcohol and substance abuse, financial and parenting issues to name a few. One thing is certain, there is no guarantee of “happily ever after” especially in this day and age when so many things can get in the way of your relationship. Relationships take work and attention to ensure a good marriage. Life has a way of interfering in our relationships. Couples can get lost in the day to day grind of life. We have to make time for one another to keep our connection strong; planning is key. Many of the common issues listed here are addressed in the following case studies.

Case Scenario- Depression – Dan and Wendy
Dan and Wendy have been married for 14 years. They dated for three years prior to marriage. They have three children ages 6, 9 and 12. Dan’s mother has a history of mood disorder though it was never formally diagnosed. She lives in the past having never gotten over the infidelity of her husband, their subsequent divorce and his marriage to the other women. His Dad is a recovering alcoholic. Dad has been sober for ten years but he is difficult to get along with as his second marriage is also an unhappy one.
Dan is currently unemployed because he can’t get along with co-workers. He has no friends; all have abandoned him because of his temper. Dan tends to hold grudges and he writes people off if he perceives that they have wronged him. He has few interests and spends his time surfing the internet or playing video games. Dan lacks motivation and drive and his concentration is poor. He stays up until four or five in the morning. Wendy is scared because he is unmotivated to look for work and they are now in financial trouble. They bicker over his alcohol use and his inability to share his feelings.

My assessment indicates that Dan has many of the classic signs for clinical depression, his symptoms include lack of motivation and no friends. He isolates himself and his sleep wake cycle is reversed. He is up most of the night and sleeps most of the day which is a way of avoiding people and responsibility. He has been drinking more than usual. Wendy made the appointment and Dan was reluctant to join her but he did. I asked that Wendy come in even if Dan says that he won’t come. Invariably the husband will ask about the appointment. I suggest when asked, “If you want to know you’ll come with me next time.”

I gave Dan the list of depressive symptoms and asked him to put a check next to those that applied to him. He checked 8 of the symptoms listed. I encouraged him to have a psychiatric evaluation for medication to address his depression and use of alcohol to self-medicate. The doctor put him on the appropriate medication. I worked closely with the doctor to ensure a unified treatment approach. Goals were set for him and for them as a couple.

First part of his education was learning about his depression. I pointed out that it was not his fault. More than likely he inherited this from either one of his parents. To start him on his path to recovery, I encouraged him to have more structure in his day. That meant getting up at 8pm and going to bed no later than eleven thirty. He was also to take a walk at least 4 times per week for forty minutes since they could not afford a gym membership at this time. Part of creating his plan was to pick the days that he was to walk each week. He was also encouraged to reconnect with his friends and to avoid the use of alcohol. After a few weeks on the medication he began to feel better. In the meantime, I continued to educate both he and Wendy about his depression. Once Dan was feeling better, we began to address the marital issues created by his depression. He was encouraged to make “I feel statements”. These type of statements help address emotional withdrawal by allowing the partner to understand what their loved one is thinking and feeling, ultimately helping them feel more connected. Saying “I feel,” is also a signal to alert Wendy that Dan is trying to communicate effectively. Hopefully this signal will help both Dan and Wendy to be less defensive in their communication.

I also encouraged a date night at least twice per month and advised that these dates do not have to cost a lot of money. Just getting out together, walking or going for coffee or ice cream was fine. The idea is to spend some quality one-on-one time.

Mood disorders are a chemical imbalance in the brain but also include environmental issues and personality traits. About one in seven individuals will at some point in a marriage experience it. Situational depression is created by marital conflict, job loss, grief and ongoing health issues. These will surely affect your relationship.

Many disconnects in a relationship begin when with mood disorder, alcohol or substance abuse and situational depression. If these issues are not addressed, it is unlikely that progress will be made in couples counseling.
Many studies show that there is usually a history of mood disorder or alcoholism on one or both sides of the family. It is imperative that the therapist be direct with their clients about the assessment, and encourage a psychiatric evaluation to determine if medication is appropriate. Once this is addressed, it is very possible to resolve many of the couple issues.

Zoom!
Now I can work via zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com    Effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype and much more.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

How to nurture your relationship?

James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC

Nurture your relationship if you want to make it last.

It is a hectic world we live in. Everything seems to take precedence over our relationships. Health issues, kids’ activities, work issues all take precedence. The next thing you know when you look back is that you haven’t had time for just the two of you in months!

All-in-all life just gets in the way so it’s easy to lose your connection to your significant other. The way to deal with this is to plan your quality time. Trade who gets to pick what you will do.

Gentlemen, don’t let her do all the planning; it takes the joy away for her. When you do get out that is not the time to talk about the kids or your issues with one another. It’s time to be a couple and have fun together.  I recommend that you each pick 3 date night activities and you should rotate so you have at least two date nights per month.  You each get one veto in terms of your spouses selection.  In other words, if my wife chooses the Lyric opera, I would definitely veto that one.  When you are done with all 6, just start over. Date night twice per month will keep your relationship strong.

Some couples even plan for intimacy which I have also seen work. The goal here is to reconnect but if it’s going to happen planning will be necessary. Put it on the calendar and have fun. It’s good to have fun. Have fun together! I’ll bet your level intimacy will improve also.

Zoom! Now I can work via Zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com   Highly effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.