marriage counseling

FIT Happens!

20150902-001  So let’s say you’re talking with someone important to you. Have you ever wanted to give immediate, direct, face-to-face feedback on what you thought or felt during that time AND have them listen and acknowledge you? It would certainly feel different or even feel a little weird at first, but could ultimately strengthen your relationship and help foster a sense of compassion and understanding for each other.

Then why don’t we do this more in relationships? Because it’s scary and uncomfortable, that’s why! What do I say? How will they respond? Can I handle the feedback if it’s negative? We often fill out surveys in questionnaire format, but the person we’re critiquing isn’t sitting right there ready to see what we think. “I liked the way you made eye contact, but you blew your nose through the whole conversation.” Or, in my case, my propensity for swearing usually puts people at ease or makes them uncomfortable. Since I am not in the business of making people uncomfortable unnecessarily, this is useful information for me to know before I continue throwing around the “f” bomb.

In my work as a therapist, I teach couples how to give and receive a complaint from each other in a way that fosters a sense of acceptance and understanding between them. Essentially, how to give your partner feedback on the s*%# they do that hurts you. How do you convey “Hey, I still love you, but this doesn’t feel good to me?” I’ve got worksheets, activities, research, role plays, homework, and more that I use to help couples with this, but the most effective and difficult-to-use tool I have to teach this skill is using it with them for myself. It is my own ability to give AND receive feedback from each and every couple I see—no matter how hard it will be to hear—that shows them how important that skill is in relationships. And, because I’m not a perfect person, it can be hard to hear sometimes. (Note to current clients: Please don’t let this stop you. Keep it coming!)

There are days when getting feedback from my clients is hard, but I know it’s necessary because our relationship is important. It allows them to learn how it feels to deliver negative feedback, essentially set limit for themselves, (“Hey I like you, but when you said this, or did that, it didn’t feel good”), and have someone thoughtfully ask more questions, respect what they say, and try to make adjustments if possible.

Most therapists at the Relationship Therapy Center use this same tool. It’s called Feedback Informed Treatment (FIT for short.) The questionnaire is given on an iPad each session and discussed immediately. For us, client feedback determines how well therapy goes overall. It is our job as therapists to make sure you get out of the process what you’re looking for, and we grow based on your feedback as well. For that, we say thank you! Compassion and understanding abound!

What do they know that we don’t?

Therapy is hard.  From the realization that our relationship is in trouble to talking with a perfect stranger about our hardest issues, the process bodes well for avoidance and unease.  Once settled in and a connection is made with your therapist, however, the experience can be transformative.

For couples who have navigated the process through to the other side, it always interests me to know what their biggest challenges were, what was their most critical ah-ha moment, and what does this all mean for their long-term relationship satisfaction?

What would these couples tell other couples just starting out?  What would they want you to know in order for you to find peace in your relationship?  Well…I recently asked a couple (and got permission to share it with you) to write down just that.  Here is what they said!

  1. It’s not bull*%#@. It actually works.
  2. You don’t see results immediately.
  3. Some things will seem a little hippy-dippy. Just go with it.
  4. You might get really sad or angry during the process and be tempted to blame the process.
  5. Your ego is your worst enemy. You might be at a spot where you are feeling like a better person than your partner.  You will need to get past this.
  6. Everything is a skill. You can get better at how you and your partner work together with practice.


The most important thing is both partners’ willingness to spend time and emotional energy on the relationship.  Sometimes you have to go against your instinct -admit you contributed to a problem first before blaming.  Don’t be afraid to “pull out the sheet” (This is a cheat sheet of skills I gave them to hang on the fridge.  Incidentally, they had one in the bathroom, in her purse, and in the car, too!)  If you both put in work from a place of effort and love, you really should see progress.  My partner is much more accommodating of my feelings, thoughtful, open, and trusting than he was.  I have learned ways to limit stress and communicate better that have helped in my relationship and all aspects of my life.  We are very happy and going through a second honeymoon phase.  This could be you if you keep working at your relationship and trust the therapy process.  Hang in there!

It is possible!

Thank you for letting us share this!  You know who you are!man-802062_640

Taking Your Fights from ‘Sensational’ to ‘Relational’

hands-437968_640This month’s blog was written by Theresa Benoit, Co-Owner and therapist at The Relationship Therapy Center.

My husband and I are both Marriage and Family Therapists, and people often ask me what our fights look like. The answer is… uh, interesting.

The other day Jeb and I were setting up an office, and as is typical in this situation for us, I was GLARING at him with my most judgmental of looks because he had just insisted that we measure the distance from the mirror to the wall instead of just eyeballing it. I’m thinking, “Who the hell measures that stuff? I mean REALLY!!!” He feels my eyes burning through his back and says sarcastically, “Thanks for the contempt” (which is relationship-therapy language for the cardinal sin in relationships), to which I reply defensively, “YOU are not being open to my influence!” (In heterosexual relationships, a man’s openness to his wife’s influence is a good predictor of satisfaction in a relationship). As you see, our fights are impressive because we have all the lingo to launch the perfect insult!

Just in this moment our admin walks in, and can feel the dance we’re engaged in. She is too nice to say anything, but has to be thinking, “Oh, God, this is so awkward!” And, I’m sure she also noted what incredible relationship role models we are.

But the truth is that I adore Jeb and know that he is the best partner in the world for me, and he tells me that he feels the same. We have fantastic relational esteem, which is good because being divorced would be bad for our business! We have blunders and flare-ups like any other couple. But our reactive engagements don’t last long because sooner or later one of us remembers that we have tools to navigate.  And we’ve gotten good at doing a lot of proactive complaining and appreciating, and therefore we are always recalibrating.

Our relationship skills are in no way natural– we have done tons of our own personal therapy, couples therapy when we were even just dating, and we continue to learn new methods that we apply to our relationship. Our own personal growth in learning to be relational makes us confident that if we can learn these skills, it is absolutely possible for others to learn and use them as well.

So, if you really want to know how two marriage and family therapists fight, just come on over to The Relationship Therapy Center— you’ll probably get to see for yourself!  And, please also notice how well the pictures are hung.