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Intensive Couples Counseling – Everything You Should Know

“We’ve been to therapy but nothing has changed. Things will never be different for us.”
“I can’t believe my partner would hurt me like that. What am I supposed to do now?”
“Can this relationship be saved? Is it even worth saving?”


When a relationship is threatened by a sudden crisis or by issues that have been left unaddressed for too long, traditional weekly couples counseling may not provide enough support for couples to make the progress they need to keep their relationship going. That’s why we developed our
Intensive Couples Counseling® Program: we know that some couples just need something more. Read on to learn more about how ICC can benefit your relationship.

What is Intensive Couples Counseling?

Intensive Couples Counseling is a short-term couples therapy format that is designed to give couples the dedicated time and space needed to address their challenges. Unlike traditional counseling, where you might only see your therapist for one hour per week over the course of multiple months, ICC programs entail a set number of hours spent with a trained couples therapist, administered in longer sessions over a shorter period of time. This allows couples to gain and sustain momentum, as well as fully immerse themselves in the therapeutic process. 

How Does Intensive Couples Counseling Work?

In your ICC program, you and your partner will work closely with one of our most experienced ICC-certified couples therapists to explore the root causes of your relationship challenges, heal from past hurts, and develop better communication habits and more emotional connection. You will see your therapist for a set number of hours in three- to four-hour blocks, generally within two or three weeks. The length of sessions allows you to focus solely on your relationship without distractions, enabling you to make significant progress and accelerate the healing process. We also offer four different “curriculums”, but almost all of our ICC couples fall into two or more of these categories, and your program will be custom-tailored specifically to your needs. 

How Much Does Intensive Couples Counseling Cost?

ICC programs start at $2,495 per couple. While the program has a higher upfront monetary cost compared to traditional weekly sessions, many couples find the benefits well worth the investment. With this style of therapy, you can avoid paying the time, energy, and emotional price of staying in a deteriorating relationship with no immediate hope for your future together. 

When to Seek Intensive Couples Counseling

How will you know if this program is right for you? Our ICC participants often share these things in common before beginning with us:

  1. When You Begin to Feel No Longer Happy in Your Relationship

If you’ve reached a point where you’ve begun to suspect that there is no happy future for you if you stay in your relationship, ICC may be right for you. This format of therapy is extremely useful for discernment counseling, a style of therapy geared towards exploring whether you even want to work on your relationship, or whether you’d be better off separating.

  1. When You Want to Improve Your Relationship with Your Partner

A crisis like an affair or an addiction can devastate a relationship, and these challenges can be daunting to bounce back from. A skilled ICC therapist can guide you through the steps of rebuilding your relationship into something better than it was before.

  1. When You’ve Done Traditional Couples Counseling and Want More Support

We’ve heard the same story from so many couples: they’ve been in therapy for years and haven’t made any progress, or they saw a therapist for a short time but didn’t find it helpful. That is exactly the kind of scenario that inspired us to create ICC in the first place. Our ICC therapists are committed to helping you make progress in this format by exposing the core of your struggles and providing the necessary structure and resources to help you thrive.

How to Prepare for Intensive Couples Counseling

To get the most out of your ICC investment, it’s important to approach the process with an open mind, a willingness to be vulnerable, and a commitment to putting in the work necessary to see if your relationship can improve. Each partner engaging to the best of their ability is the number-one factor in success outcomes. We also encourage you to allow yourself to be challenged; sometimes, you have to be open to seeing things in a new way in order to get things to change. 

Is Intensive Couples Counseling Worth It?

Over 95% of our ICC participants report that, regardless of the outcome of their program, they felt as though they gained something valuable from the experience, and left their program with the tools they needed to move forward in a positive and productive way. We’d say that’s worth the investment any day!  

Intensive Couples Counseling in St. Louis Park, MN

If you’re ready to take a deep dive into your relationship and work towards lasting, positive change, the compassionate ICC-certified therapists at the Relationship Therapy Center in St. Louis Park, MN are here to support you. Contact our ICC Program Coordinators today to take the first step towards learning to love better, and being better loved.

15 Expert-Back Tips for Selecting a New Home With Your Partner

Our co-founder Theresa Benoit is featured in this story from Redfin.com! It shares a bunch of useful tips from relationship experts around the country regarding moving in with your partner:
15 Expert-Backed Tips for Selecting a New Home With Your Partner

Theresa is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Co-Founder of the Relationship Therapy Center, a place dedicated to helping people grow in health and happiness in their important relationships. Through the integration of empirically informed couples therapy, VIP customer service, and a willingness to go beyond the normal bounds of couples therapy – the therapists at The Relationship Therapy Center tailor their services to the needs of each individual client and relationship. Theresa is also the Co-Creator of the trademarked Intensive Couples Counseling program, the Relationship Therapy Center’s highest level of service, provided by their most experienced therapists for couples who need change now.

25 Relationship Experts Share Helpful Tips For Couples Moving In Together

Our co-founder Theresa M. Benoit is featured in this story from ApartmentGuide.com!
25 Relationship Experts Share Helpful Tips For Couples Moving In Together

Theresa is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Co-Founder of the Relationship Therapy Center, a place dedicated to helping people grow in health and happiness in their important relationships. Through the integration of empirically informed couples therapy, VIP customer service, and a willingness to go beyond the normal bounds of couples therapy – the therapists at The Relationship Therapy Center tailor their services to the needs of each individual client and relationship. Theresa is also the Co-Creator of the trademarked Intensive Couples Counseling program, the Relationship Therapy Center’s highest level of service, provided by their most experienced therapists for couples who need change now.

Winter is Coming and I’m Still Single – Leif Pettersen Makes A Podcast, featuring RTC therapist Callie McMillan

“This was an unexpectedly enlightening conversation about dating during COVID (and winter). Callie had a bunch of suggestions for apps, friend set-ups, making Zoom dates less awkward and much more that had never occurred to me. I hope you learn as much as I did.”

Callie McMillan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at the Relationship Therapy Center, a place dedicated to helping people grow in health and happiness in their important relationships. Through the integration of empirically informed couples therapy and a willingness to go beyond the normal bounds of couples therapy, Callie and her colleagues tailor their services to the needs of each individual client and relationship. Callie got her master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where she studied sex therapy in addition to systemic family and relationship therapy.

Middle Aged and Single during COVID – Leif Pettersen’s Makes a Podcast a podcast featuring RTC Co Owner Theresa Benoit

https://anchor.fm/leif-pettersen/episodes/Middle-aged-and-single-during-COVID-with-Theresa-Benoit-ep6ag1/a-a4d289n

In Leif Pettersen’s Makes a Podcast a Podcast, he talks with Theresa about dating while middle-aged, dating during COVID and dating while middle-aged during COVID. Theresa had some great insight and suggestions that hadn’t ever occurred to me, despite my many years in the dating pool. Best of all, you get a keyhole view of the nonstop thrill ride of dating me. (Spoiler Alert: It’s less those things and more of a slow, low-pitch escalator that needs frequent repairs.)

Theresa M. Benoit –Theresa is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Co-Founder of the Relationship Therapy Center, a place dedicated to helping people grow in health and happiness in their important relationships. Through the integration of empirically informed couples therapy, VIP customer service, and a willingness to go beyond the normal bounds of couples therapy – the therapists at The Relationship Therapy Center tailor their services to the needs of each individual client and relationship. Theresa is also the Co-Creator of the trademarked Intensive Couples Counseling program, the Relationship Therapy Center’s highest level of service, provided by their most experienced therapists for couples who need change now.

Can your marriage survive the coronavirus? By Matt Villano, CNN

(CNN)Even for those of us with the happiest and most stable marriages, social distancing to combat the spread of Covid-19 provides some serious challenges to our respective unions.

We’re confined to small spaces with our spouses, with little to no reprieve. We’ve got to balance work life and personal life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Throw young kids (or even teens) into the mix and it can be a recipe for disaster—or, even worse, porce.

CNN spoke with several Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, clinical psychologists and married people about how to make sure your union isn’t a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The secret to any healthy relationship is communication.

It’s true under normal circumstances, and in the time of coronavirus. For some, this might mean periodic huddles to deliver updates on what’s coming next. For others, it could be a daily check-in that rates how each partner feels physically and internally.

Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist in Boulder, Colorado, said it doesn’t matter as much how couples communicate during a coronavirus shelter-in-place, but simply that they try to do so.

“The biggest challenges I’ve faced so far are the cases in which both spouses are looking at what’s going on with different lenses—one person thinks the sky is falling and the other thinks people are making a big deal about it,” said Weiner-Davis, who also has a busy teletherapy practice.

“When people have different perspectives, they have different ideas of what needs to be done, and the only way to work around that is to communicate.”

Embrace space

Most spouses spend the bulk of every day apart — at least one partner leaves the house to go to work. Now, however, due to companies ordering employees to work from home and government-mandated lockdowns, both partners are required to spend almost all their time under the same roof.

Particularly for couples who live in smaller homes, this scenario can make it feel like neither partner has much (or any) personal space.

For this reason, many experts suggest acknowledging the importance of alone time. Alev Ates-Barlas, an LMFT in upstate New York, said she tries to teach members of a couple to identify whether they are inpiduals who need a partner to engage them in order to regulate their own emotions, or inpiduals who find comfort in regulating on their own.

Here's everything you need to know about social distancing

Here’s everything you need to know about social distancing

“It is important that couples know where you fall in these two categories so that you don’t end up assuming your need for regulation is actually your partner’s need,” she said.

“If you know your partner is an auto-regulator, then you shouldn’t pursue them or engage them,” Ates-Barlas said. “Once you regulate yourself, engaging in reflective listening can be a good way to eliminate causes for friction and use that as an opportunity for greater understanding and learning about one another.”

Put differently, Ates-Barlas said the best way to get through a tense situation with your partner during the next few weeks might be to put on headphones and meditate, or sit quietly in a corner.

Sometimes, she said, “all you need is a quiet [spot] of your house for five minutes.”

Keep it light

In the days following government pleas to engage in social distancing, you might have seen a Tweet from writer and editor Molly Tolsky suggesting that partners suddenly forced to work from home together should create an imaginary co-worker on which to blame disagreements.

“Pro-tip for couples suddenly working from home together,” tweeted Tolsky. “Get yourselves an imaginary coworker to blame things on. In our apartment, Cheryl keeps leaving her dirty water cups all over the place and we really don’t know what to do about her.”

Alexandra Fondren, a public relations professional in Northern California, took the advice to heart.

Immediately, she and her husband started scapegoating “Cheryl” for all the things one of them did to annoy the other.

“I never realized Cheryl was such a chocoholic,” Fondren wrote in a recent email, her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. “I’ve heard it’s an easy affliction to hide, but the empty wrappers that are littered throughout the ‘office’ are illuminating, mainly because none of their contents were once offered to her co-workers.”

Other partners have found solace in sharing stories of work-related video conferencing gone wrong. Some have even embraced #CovidConfessions, a Friday night social media phenomenon through which people share truths about their lives they’d kept secret until the pandemic.

Establish routines

Nobody is quite familiar with the “new normal” of social distancing yet, and with news about the pandemic changing rapidly, every day brings with it a new reality.

Amid this constant tumult, Lee Miller, a marriage and family therapist in West Los Angeles, said it’s wise to create new routines to give life meaning and purpose beyond the mundane. Specifically, Miller said to assign roles for each day: who cooks, who cleans, who answers the phone, and so on.

“This is not even close to a typical situation, which means there are a number of different roles both partners are going to have to play while they’re working through the current reality,” she said. “It’s critically important to schedule time to sit down and talk about what your expectations are of each other during this time.”

Creating an effective family routine when you're homebound

Creating an effective family routine when you’re homebound

In New York City, Carrie Ingoglia and her husband Ron Richards have devised a winning strategy to balance working at home in a 576-square-foot apartment and parenting 15-month-old twins.

Richards tries to schedule work calls when the babies are likely to be napping. Ingoglia takes them for walks when Richards needs to focus. Both partners stop working completely during baby mealtimes. The grownups also regularly go out of their way to give each other positive encouragement.

“This isn’t to say we don’t bicker, because we do,” said Ingoglia, a creative director. “But we know each other well enough to know a bickering moment is not a reflection of our commitment.”

Get therapy

You can have a virtual session with a trained therapist.

You can have a virtual session with a trained therapist.

All this advice is a good start. For more comprehensive assistance in dealing with difficult and potentially sensitive situations, it’s always a good idea to seek a new relationship with a trained therapist.

Holly Daniels, managing director of clinical affairs for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said regular therapy can help people work through even the most intense anxiety.

“Just having someone to talk to, someone who can help you work through some of these difficult issues, is invaluable,” said Daniels, a therapist with a private practice in Los Angeles. “Now more than ever, therapists are becoming indispensable for giving people the tools they need to get through any situation.”

Thankfully, today it’s easier than ever to connect with a therapist.

As of March 17, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, which enforces the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), said it would not impose penalties against covered providers for noncompliance with the HIPAA rules that relate to provision of telehealth services during this time.

That means that a provider who needs to provide telehealth services to their patients during this time may use platforms that would otherwise not be HIPAA-compliant, such as Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. Many state governments made similar decrees.

Don’t push for sex

No, having sex with your partner isn’t going to increase your odds of getting coronavirus.

Still, according to Britney Blair, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Northern California, you may find that sexual desire in the time of coronavirus falls short of what it usually is, since stress hampers libido for about 85 percent of us.

“It’s normal to be less interested [in sex] during times of crisis,” she said. “If you’re one of the 15 percent of people who aren’t affected by stress, understand that your partner might be on the other side.”

Are you in love or just high on chemicals in your brain? Answer: Yes

Are you in love or just high on chemicals in your brain? Answer: Yes

Blair, who recently co-founded sex tips app Lover, referred to this phenomenon as a “desire discrepancy,” and said it occurs naturally in every couple but can be pronounced at times like this. She added that the only way around this obstacle is to create a safe and comforting environment with no strings attached.

Specifically, Blair noted that nagging or shaming your partner into sex will leave both parties feeling low.

“Play it the wrong way and the partner with more desire ends up feeling rejected while the partner with less desire feels blamed,” she said. “The last thing any of us needs right now is added stress.”

Focus on the little things

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with existential dread in the face of this pandemic, which changes daily.

This panicked state only further complicates your relationship with your partner. Instead of allowing yourself to be triggered, take a deep breath and focus on the little things — especially those you can appreciate with your spouse.

Rob Bhatt, a writer in Seattle, says he and his wife, a mental health counselor, have done just this, embracing the extra time they get to spend together by living in a region that issued shelter-in-place orders earlier this month.

Looking for movies with the kids at home? What to watch beyond the usual suspects

Looking for movies with the kids at home? What to watch beyond the usual suspects

“We used to dine out more frequently; once this thing started, I have been making pizza from scratch,” Bhatt said. “We used to watch the news over dinner, but now we turn off the TV and just talk.”

Bhatt continued: “Most of the time we just have these moments of gratitude for some very basic things we get to do together, and we hope that we’ll all be able to get through this horrible thing sooner rather than later.”

Daniels, the therapist, added that sometimes even the simplest gestures can set the tone.

“Simply taking the time to stop, look at your partner and tell them, ‘Thank you,’ can make a huge difference,” she said.

If you feel unsafe

Of course, there’s another aspect to being stuck in the house with a spouse — one that can be gravely serious depending on the situation.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, no lockdown or quarantine is more important than your health.

Police and other emergency response services are operating as normal, and if you are worried about personal safety be sure to call authorities immediately. The domestic violence hotline is 800/799-7233, or go to The Hotline.

How Not To Tank Your Relationship in Quarantine by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister

“This time of isolation could be a period of great growth or great struggle in our relationship.”

 

Humans have evolved with a drive to share life with a partner—just not all day long. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors on the savanna formed pair-bonds, but they parted in the morning to go about their separate tasks. So did our ancestors on the farm. For hundreds of thousands of years, even the most devoted couples have been uttering some version of that basic romantic principle: “I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch.” 

So what happens now that spouses are staying home all day, and many unmarried couples suddenly find themselves quarantined together? The peril facing relationships quickly became obvious to the pioneers of this new intimacy on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where couples were cooped up for two weeks in their cabin during the ship’s quarantine. Ellis Vincent, a retired airline executive from Australia, told a reporter that he and his wife, Kimberly, were passing the time by having long conversations during which she displayed a remarkable memory.

“She is able to bring up every transgression I’ve ever had,” he said. “I believe she is not finished.”

That is not the way for a relationship to survive the COVID-19 quarantine. The Vincents were succumbing to the negativity effect, which even in ordinary circumstances is the chief threat to couples—and can be an absolute relationship killer in these troubled times. The negativity effect is the brain’s tendency to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones. In short: Bad is stronger than good.

 

 

Finding good things to focus on takes some creativity in quarantine, but there’s an obvious opportunity at home: that trove of photos and videos of vacations, outings, and celebrations that you’d never had time to go through. Now you do. These can be a source of positivity at any time, and couples stuck at home together can use them to happily “nostalgize”—a verb coined by social psychologists who have discovered remarkable benefits in reliving the past.

Nostalgia was long considered a sign of unhappiness with the present (and was once even seen as a disorder). But in recent years, Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues at the University of Southampton in England have shown that nostalgia isn’t just an exercise in relishing the past. If indulged in the right way, it makes us more satisfied with the present and more optimistic about the future.

Nostalgia has the potential to lift people’s spirits, make them feel more connected to others, and heighten the sense that life has continuity and meaning. It can counteract boredom and anxiety, can motivate people to work toward goals, and is linked to increased generosity and tolerance. Experiments have shown that people who nostalgize in a cool room actually feel physically warmer.

Other studies have shown that couples look happier and feel closer when they share memories—at least when they’re not recalling each other’s transgressions or lamenting what has been lost. The healthiest way to nostalgize is not to pine for the past—“Those were better days”—but rather to savor those memories as a treasure that can’t be taken away. So when you look at a photo of yourself with friends at a favorite restaurant, focus on your enduring friendship instead of the fact that the restaurant has shut down during the pandemic.

In most relationships, fortunately, the multitude of small good moments make up for the more powerful bad ones. And you can always create more good moments. You can try to regularly make a list of your partner’s traits for which you’re grateful, and also make a point of telling your partner what you admire about them.

However, accentuating the positive will only do so much. Because of the greater power of bad—that 4-to-1 ratio we mentioned—you can have a bigger impact by eliminating the negative, both negative actions and negative thoughts about your partner.

Instead of striving to be a perfect partner, concentrate on avoiding elementary mistakes. Studies have shown that people get relatively little credit for delivering more than they had promised, but they pay a stiff price for doing less. Before you make a commitment, beware what psychologists call the “planning fallacy,” our tendency to underestimate how long a project will take. Better to promise less and make sure you deliver on it than promise too much and fall short. 

Another way to keep the peace is by fighting your own negative reactions to conflict. If your partner gets upset at what seems, to you, to be a trivial offense, remember that bad is in the eye of the beholder. You have to deal with their reaction no matter how irrational it seems—and the power of bad can bring out the irrationality in all of us. One critical word or careless affront looms much larger than any goodwill, and it will linger for longer, especially if you’re together 24/7.

When your partner does something that bothers you, don’t go with your gut reaction. Think before you blame, and be especially wary of what psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error.” When we do something wrong ourselves, we often blame it on temporary external circumstances: Yes, I lost my temper a couple of times today, but that’s just because of all the stress from the quarantine. But when our partner does something wrong, we’re inclined to wrongly attribute it to permanent internal flaws: He lost his temper because he has lousy self-control and doesn’t care about how I feel.

In 2000, researchers tracked couples’ “attributional styles” and found that attributing partners’ wrongdoings to internal flaws led to greater marital dissatisfaction and a higher likelihood of divorce. Before blaming your partner’s behavior on an inherent character trait, force yourself to consider a charitable excuse for what they did. And then give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

A friend of ours keeps his wife’s faults in perspective by taping a message to his bathroom mirror: You’re no bargain either. Being able to overlook your partner’s sins—to maintain what psychologists call “positive illusions”—is one of the surest ways to sustain a relationship. Some people seem to do it automatically, as demonstrated in couples’ brain scans. When shown a picture of their beloved, some people displayed less activity in the brain region associated with making negative judgments—and their relationships proved more likely to endure. But even if you can’t help spotting your partner’s offenses, you can at least pretend not to notice. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother-in-law once advised her, “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”

If the affront is one you can’t endure, then say something, but do it calmly without retaliating, because the negativity effect can quickly turn a small disagreement into a raging battle. This dynamic was observed in experiments at the University of Chicago in which people took turns playing a game that gave them the option of either cooperating with their partner or acting selfishly. When a player acted benevolently, the partner typically reciprocated in kind. But when a player acted selfishly, the partner didn’t merely reciprocate—they tended to escalate the conflict by acting even more selfishly themselves. The Chicago psychologists summarized the participants’ reactions: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, but if you take my eye, I’ll take both of yours.”

That’s not the spirit that will get your relationship through the pandemic. There’s enough angst in the world right now without adding to it at home. You can suppress your visceral negativity bias by consciously looking for the upsides of your relationship—and even the upsides to being quarantined. After all, it’s giving you an unprecedented opportunity to get to know your partner. 

“This is going to be a period of great growth for relationships,” says the anthropologist Helen Fisher, who has studied romance around the world. “Couples are either going to grow together or grow apart.” Therapists love to advise couples to create quality time for themselves, and now we have more of it than ever. Use it wisely—and positively.

JOHN TIERNEY is a contributing editor to City Journal and the co-author of The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It.
ROY F. BAUMEISTER is a social psychologist at the University of Queensland and the co-author of The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/how-maintain-your-relationship-quarantine/608830/

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