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A group of independent counselors serving Kingwood and Houston
Specializing in Gottman MethodTM Couples and Marriage Counseling

Archive for 2018

How to Sail Through Certification in Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Reposting a blog I wrote that appeared on The Gottman Relationship Blog

In October 2012, my business partner Alysha Roll and I travelled to Seattle for Level 3 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. We were so excited to learn from the Gottmans in person and the experience did not disappoint. We left feeling energized and inspired, so much so that we spent the four-hour plane ride back to Texas planning our future as Certified Gottman Therapists.

We got off the plane in Houston and hit the ground running. Fast forward six months, and certification was the sweet reward for our “nose to the grindstone” approach. If you’re considering your own journey toward becoming a Certified Gottman Therapist (CGT), here are some tips to sail through the process.

Buddy Up

Since Alysha and I worked closely together, we opted for group consultation. This proved to be a very advantageous strategy as we provided each other with a great deal of support throughout the process. Being each other’s cheerleader, technical consultant, video screener, and honest opinion giver was enormously beneficial.

Choose the Right Consultant

Before leaving Seattle, we made it a point to meet and interact with many of the consultants. While Alysha and I viewed them all as experts, we sought out a consultant that was a good match for our personalities and business style. In addition to receiving clinical consultation, we tacked on some extra sessions to discuss the business side of being a Gottman therapist so we could see a maximum return on our investment. Selecting the right consultant is paramount. We scheduled weekly appointments with our consultant, which created good momentum and put some pressure on ourselves to obtain and produce tapes.

Market Yourself

Our initial to-do list was full of ideas to recruit more couples to our practice, not only to get a wide selection for the certification process but also to establish ourselves as experts in our community. We updated our website, changed our business name, and restructured our work schedules to accommodate more couples. We changed our advertising, sent postcards, informed other therapists of our new specialty, and hosted an Open House. We utilized the power of social media by blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, and Pinning. If you build it, they will come. We had (and still have) an abundance of couples.

Have a “Can Do” Attitude

As a firm believer in “I will believe it when I see it,” I knew that I had to shed any doubts about my ability to become certified. The importance of a “can do” attitude can’t be stressed enough because anxiety and fear of failure will surely slow the process or make it come to a screeching halt. Our consultant was masterful in using softened startup when he had to give a negative tape review and I worked very hard on not becoming defensive. Trusting his opinions and expertise, while at the same time affirming my ability as a therapist, helped me keep my eye on the prize. I looked at negative feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than a failure on my part.

Immerse Yourself in the Gottman Method

After Level 3 Training, I realized that my knowledge of the Gottman Method was inadequate and I had a great deal to learn to become proficient. Reading most of the books on the required reading list helped me gain confidence and drilled the concepts into my head. Alysha and I began applying Gottman strategies in our own marriages but quickly realized that our husbands were not up to speed. We returned to Seattle with our spouses to attend The Art and Science of Love. Seeing John and Julie Gottman do a live demonstration of Aftermath of a Fight was incredibly poignant and helped our partners embrace the process as much as we did. Being workshop participants showed us how the interventions build on one another, melding the entire process for us. We left the workshop with an additional surge of energy to focus on the certification process.

Channel Your Inner Techie

Making and editing videotapes was not as daunting as I expected. Using a very basic video camera and extra rechargeable batteries allowed me to record and download several sessions per day. At the time I used Microsoft Movie Maker and have since switched to iMovie, but both are easy to use. Gaining consent to videotape was also less challenging than anticipated. My pitch was very brief and included three reasons to tape: video playback, self-critique, and consultant feedback. As I spoke I handed them the consent form on a clipboard, indicating that I expected them to sign. Not one couple refused to sign and they quickly got used to the camera. The most difficult thing about taping was taking the time to watch and edit tapes after coming home from work.

Certification Isn’t the End of the Road

We breathed a sigh of relief once we were certified, but Newton’s second law of motion was in play and we quickly moved forward, planning our own Art and Science of Love workshop in Texas. We have since conducted 16 couples workshops and it is one our favorite things to do as CGTs.

Many doors opened for us after we became certified. We continued our training with The Gottman Institute so we could teach Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Trainings, as well as work with consultees. Clients began to seek us out specifically for Gottman therapy as well as Marathon Intensive Therapy sessions. Local groups asked us to speak about relationships from a Gottman perspective and we have both been interviewed by the national media.

One of the things I value most about being a CGT is the Gottman community. We ”rove” at The Art and Science of Love workshops in Seattle a few times per year and get to interact with the staff of the The Gottman Institute as well other CGTs. I never get tired of hearing John and Julie present at the workshop and learn something new each time. We also participate in the CGT Facebook group to share information and get support. Having a tribe that speaks the same language has been a tremendous source of encouragement.

Our goal was never just to “get it done,” but instead to embrace the journey of lifelong learning. We can’t wait for what’s next.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, Certified Gottman Therapist

Master Trainer for The Gottman Institute

Intimate Partner Violence and the #MeToo Movement

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Reposting a blog I wrote that appeared on The Gottman Relationship Blog 

Trigger warning: This article discusses sexual assault and violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the years, the term domestic violence has been broadened to the more accurate term, intimate partner violence, acknowledging that abuse can occur regardless of marital status, gender, or sexual orientation.

When you hear the term domestic or intimate partner violence, you probably imagine a woman with a black eye, fleeing in the middle of the night to escape her batterer. While that image is accurate, it does not capture the depth and breadth of what many women experience. It also does not bring into focus the batterer.

I should mention that while the majority of domestic violence victims are women, abuse of men happens far more often than you might expect. Data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicates that one in six men in the United States have experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime, and 11% of men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

Intimate partner violence is about power and control and it can take many forms. John Gottman and Neil Jacobson studied violent relationships and wrote the compelling book When Men Batter Women. From their work, we can better recognize the characteristics of the most dangerous batterers, the “Pit Bulls” and “Cobras.”

Pit Bulls have stereotypical traits of a vicious dog latching on and not letting go. These men are emotionally dependent on their partners. They fear abandonment and are controlling, jealous, and react violently to perceived betrayal. Cobras, like the venomous snake, attack their partner without warning. They have sociopathic, antisocial traits and a pathological need for power and control. Their behavior is calculating and sadistic. The book also discusses physical aggression in couples that is not rooted in control and intimidation, but rather is situational in nature, and potentially treatable in couples therapy.

In intimate relationships, partner rape is one of the many ways men can exert power and control over women. It is the most underreported form of rape, and in many states marital rape is still considered a lesser crime than rape by a stranger. In fact, until 1975, every state had a “marital exemption” that allowed a husband to rape his wife without fear of legal consequences. It was only in 1993, 25 years ago, that every state and the District of Columbia passed laws against marital rape. However, it’s still more difficult for a spouse-victim to prove that she didn’t consent to her husband than it would be to prove non-consent with a stranger.

The asymmetrical power dynamics of sexual assault are staggering. In the US alone, nearly 23 million women and 1.7 million men have been victims of completed or attempted rape. According to the CDC, for female rape victims, an estimated 99% had male only perpetrators and for male rape victims, 79.3% had male only perpetrators.

Women worldwide have trudged through vulnerability and shame to share their painful #MeToo stories. Many have finally found the courage to speak out about the unspeakable on social media, in therapy, with their friends and families, and on television. These brave women have endured harassment, ridicule, blame, and death threats. Their courage is inspiring other victims to speak out. Without them, we would never see change.

#MeToo empowered women to tell their stories, but they were often stories about anonymous perpetrators (an ex, a former classmate, a neighbor). With intimate partner violence, it feels riskier because the perpetrator can easily be identified, and it may lead to further violence. Another difference is that in the #MeToo movement, several women may be identifying the same perpetrator, adding to the credibility of the claims.

When women report sexual assault by a stranger, they often gain more sympathy than women in violent intimate relationships. Rape by a stranger is clearly assault, but many fail to view intimate partner violence in the same way. They see women willingly staying in these relationships and this leads to victim blaming.

In When Men Batter Women, Gottman and Jacobson discuss the confusing nature of violent relationships. Battered women can feel emotionally connected to their partner and have great fear of leaving them. Trying to leave a violent relationship can escalate the danger of further battering. For women to leave violent relationships they must be prepared and have carefully planned their escape to safety.

It is often uncomfortable for men to discuss intimate partner violence or sexual assault. It may feel like criticism of their entire gender. At the heart of these discussions are issues relating to power and control, a topic that that must be examined with a broader lens.

The reality is that for millennia, men have wielded far reaching power. When power is challenged, there is always backlash. In 2020 we will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women got the right to vote. The movement didn’t start in 1920. Women had been organizing and protesting for decades. Since that time, women have engaged in battles for reproductive rights to manage their own bodies, for equal pay, and the shattering of the glass ceiling in business and politics. Men did not have to fight for these things.

Change is slow and the road is bumpy. We don’t always recognize the nuances in how power and control are turned over to men, but even the language we use is problematic. In his viral TED talk, Jackson Katz reminds us that the words we use put the responsibility of ending sexual assault on women, not on their male perpetrators. We cite statistics of how many women are raped each year, but not how many men rape them. We talk about how many girls get pregnant, but not how many boys impregnate them.

Katz goes on to say:

The use of the passive voice has political effects. It shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term “violence against women” is problematic. It’s a passive construction. There is no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term “violence against women,” nobody is doing it to them. Men aren’t even a part of it.

This is the language that lends itself to victim blaming and makes domestic violence and sexual assault women’s issues. It leaves men out of the equation completely.

Women cannot and should not bear the responsibility alone for creating change where intimate partner violence or sexual assault are concerned. Many emotionally intelligent men are speaking out as allies. These are the men, the admirable men, who accept influence from women, respect them, honor them, and share power and control. They are demonstrating great courage and vulnerability by standing up against the message to “man up.”

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end, let’s not forget the brave survivors of intimate partner violence. Their #MeToo stories matter, too.


Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the “Day of Unity” held in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The “Day of Unity” soon evolved into a week, and in October of 1987, the first National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. In 1989 Congress passed Public Law 101-112, officially designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

To get help, call 800-799-SAFE. You can also get help through email or live chat on the National Domestic Violence Hotline contact page.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, Certified Gottman Therapist

Master Trainer for The Gottman Institute

 

Love on the Rocks? How to Handle Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

There’s no avoiding it . . . heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, a sea of red and pink greeting cards, ads for diamond jewelry and tents of roses are assaulting us at every turn.

To those newly in love, Valentine’s Day is a day full of sweetness and romance.  For long-term, stable couples it’s usually a pleasant but perfunctory gesture.  But for those in struggling relationships, it is a painful reminder of what is no longer.

For couples not exactly “feeling it” but not ready to throw in the towel, searching for the right Valentine card is overwhelming.  Mushy cards are out.  Humorous cards mock your struggles.   Blank cards to write your own loving sentiment make your stomach tie up in knots.  ”Forgetting” to get a card will feel like a slap in the face.

I read an article by a so-called marriage expert on how to handle the Valentine’s day-struggling-couples issue.  The author suggested finding the right card that doesn’t gush but says I love you and giving a token of that love, such as chocolate truffles.  He said you know your partner well, so get exactly the right thing that will remind them of the love you once shared.  Oh and one more thing, put aside your feelings about how your partner handles cards and gifts . . . after all this is the day to express YOUR love.

The problem with advice like this is that is suggesting that avoidance is the route to coping with loss of romance and passion.  It implies that a token can transmit your deeper thoughts and feelings, that you don’t need to communicate your wants and needs because you and your partner are so connected that you will select the right gift  to tug at their heartstrings.

Okay, maybe if you are from a Vulcan blood line you can do the whole mind meld thing and words are not necessary.  But most of us are just regular humans, so if friendship, passion and romance are fading, the token gesture will fall flat and the kids or co-workers will get the truffles and your partner will not be moved.

Let’s be honest, what struggling couples really want is their friendship back, because it is through friendship that the flames of passion and romance are re-ignited.   They want to be heard, understood, appreciated and emotionally connected to their partner.  They want the fights and negativity to end.  They crave physical affection.

So if you are struggling, try reaching out to your partner and saying “Valentine’s Day is hard for me. It reminds me of how we used to be.  All I really want is to feel connected to you again.  Would you be willing to work on that?”

Sure, it feels risky to make yourself vulnerable and ask your partner to work on things.  But doing nothing means that the relationship will continue to erode . . . and that’s not what you really want.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist

 

 


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529

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