Many couples seek therapy only when they’ve hit rock bottom. Going to see a marriage counselor is often treated as a last resort. But according to local experts, happy couples have a lot to gain from therapy resources.
“What we know now from neuroscience is what many of us have intuitively known—that our brains learn the very best when we are in a safe, secure environment. So couples that already feel safe together have an advantage when learning any topic,” said Kathy Kinghorn, owner and clinical director of the Center for Hope and Healing in Lehi.
Kinghorn and her colleagues focus on therapy as a means of education, not just a means of damage control.
“Counseling can reduce the stress around life events by educating us on how our brains deal with the unknown,” she said. “Counseling can help identify what a couple’s strengths are and how to make those strengths more consistent.”
As a wife and mother in a blended family with nine children, Kinghorn has special insight into the lives of stepparents. She often works with couples who are blending two families together.
“The majority of these couples are deeply in love with each other, but want more education on navigating the minefield of stepparenting,” Kinghorn said.
Dr. Lance Dome, owner and clinical director of Redwood Family Therapy in Saratoga Springs, said happy couples can experience deeper connections by developing better communication skills. Often the best way to do that is to tackle unresolved issues, something everyone has to some extent.
“Learning how to communicate better can help some issues, but if there is anger, hurt, fear or other strong emotions involved, then we get defensive,” he said. “When we are defensive, good communication usually goes out the window. This happens on a neurological level. When we are feeling defensive, our midbrain takes over and works on fight-or-flight mode. Rational-loving-conversation mode literally starts to shut down in our brains.”
Like Kinghorn, Dome urges couples to seek counseling sooner rather than later. “The sooner issues are addressed, the easier they are to change,” he said. “Too many people call when most of the damage is done, like calling the fire department when the house has burned down instead of at the first sign of smoke.”
The social stigma associated with counseling is often a barrier to entry. But marriage therapist Tyler Patrick of Cedar Point Counseling in Logan sees hopeful signs of change.
“Often it’s more so the men who don’t want to come to see me, because they feel like it’s a sign of weakness,” Patrick said. “But I see it as a sign of courage. It takes courage to take a deeper look at your spouse and try to make things better.”
Recommended Resources for Couples:
- “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman
- “What Makes Love Last?” by John Gottman
- “The Spirituality of Imperfection” by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham
- “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson