I saved an article I read by Barry Ginsberg, in Counseling Today magazine (June 2012) because it really connected with my own counseling philosophy. On this blog, I try to be efficient in my use of space so that people can check in and read something that will give them momentum.  In addition to that, as a Licensed Professional Counselor, I try to constantly stay abreast of the most recent research and articles in this amazing field.  Part of what my clients appreciate about my work is that I incorporate this information in usable “bites”; I hope you enjoy this one!

I am drawn to working with relational systems, either the whole system or subsets. A system can be the relational framework that you are a part of, such as your family of origin, your partner, and/or your children.  If you are in a romantic relationship then you are part of that system, as well as being part of the system of your family of origin and so forth, these systems are operated by relationships.

Mr. Ginsberg’s article speaks about his experience as a therapist who works with systems to improve couples attachment, security, intimacy, stability and satisfaction. We ask a lot of our clients and so we need to ask a lot of ourselves as therapists in return. Honoring how challenging it can be for someone to work on challenges is essential.

He mentions that in couple and family work, ” … you can witness how quickly one person’s response is cued by the other. Before the couple knows it, they launch into defensiveness and negativity almost as if you weren’t there”.  What I notice in these interactions is that these are the “dance steps” that the relationship follows.  I thank clients for allowing me to see some of their most painful moments because then I can help them even more if I have seen how they interact with each other under stress. What I appreciate about Mrs. Ginsburg’s article is that he describes how in a relationship one can practice and coordinate the “dance” to begin to refine it, and in my opinion, a synergy can develop. What a great metaphor! He goes on to state, ” if the “music” changes-as it often does in life- they have to adjust their rhythm with each other to recover the smoothness and satisfaction”. Use of the metaphor “dance” reminds me of one of my professors in grad school, Dr. Michael Gilles, and I can almost hear his voice when he mentions, “the dance” or communication patterns or cycles that people use with each other.

The article also references Murray Bowen, a counseling theorist, who said, “A two person relationship is inherently unstable-too close or too distant, too intimate and vulnerable or too disengaged and threatening. We never get it right. We just learn to adjust it so it doesn’t become too emotionally extreme”.  This quote is so helpful for my clients who are involved in relationships that feel stuck because it puts into perspective how being stuck is inherent to all relationships. What would it be like if we thought of relationships more like a learning experience, one where perseverance is essential and feedback is encouraged? Too often, ego steps in and defensiveness ensues.

I ask my clients to devise goals that they want to achieve, these goals are both interdependent and independent. Goal setting can sometimes be a slow process at times, as you have to sit in a room with your partner and/or family and work collaboratively to incorporate that “happy medium” where everyone feels heard and included. These goals are so important, as they to help them envision a path through the roadblocks (being stuck) and toward the change barrier that they feel is impenetrable.

I work with couples and individual adults in my psychotherapy and coaching practice. My clients make progress! Find Your Strengths at http://www.kelleyhopkinsalvarez.com. If you are curious about whether therapy could be useful in managing better and/or lowering your pain, text 203-948-0938 or email me @ kelleytherapy@icloud.com to discuss your challenges.

Thank you so much for reading my blog!

Kelley Hopkins-Alvarez, Licensed Professional Counselor, NCC, BCC
Address: 100B Danbury Road, Suite 201D, Ridgefield, CT 06877 (behind Union Savings Bank)