Relationships counseling is a broad topic. In my work as a domestic violence psychoeducator I have come to see relationships counseling as a function of several things.
No matter what the story line, and we humans can cause ourselves a lot of pain in a lot of ways, if I am offering choice to my partner, and listening carefully, not agreeing or disagreeing, just listening, I can build emotional money in the bank, as John Gottman,Ph.D. calls it in his workshop for couples called The Art and Science of Love.
Gottman offers us a blue print in his workshop, which I like for my clients.
There is a path, and an opportunity for practice and review, and as Robert Epstein, Ph.D. says, couple can practice skills leading to a feeling of intimacy.
When I feel connected to my mate, and feel is truly the operative word, it is easy for me to make room for differences with my mate, so relationships counseling for me is going to involve teaching listening skills, and the Gottman model, and the Epstein model.
I like to throw in the work of Helen Fisher,Ph.D. also, because of what she has discovered with functional magnetic imaging for in love brains.
I want my clients to know that there is a rhyme and reason to relationships counseling process.
The Gottman's spend a significant amount of time teaching about what to do when we are "flooded" with adrenalin and cortisol, and teaching couples how to take one of those 69% of problems which cannot be resolved in any relationship and put them out on the table for today's negotiated settlement.
The Heart Beat of Relationships Counseling
I have used the Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback tool, as a model for relationships counseling for quite some time.
It is time limited, very powerful, gives clients a big success to hang their hats on, and allows a couple to make significant progress, all before we have to do any diagnosing.
Heartmath allows me to give clients a model that says the relationship exists on a heart beat by heart beat basis, and that if folks get used to paying attention to their own heart beat, and the thinking that causes that heart beat, then they can make adjustments in either much sooner and much easier than they can even a few seconds later when the physiology of flooding may be in full swing.
But here is the process. I teach each of the partners the basics about Heartmath, that the technology grew out of research in a newer field called neurocardiology, which is the study of the hearts own nervous system.
It turns out that the heart has lots of neurons, or intelligence in it, enough neurons that the heart can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have, and with a computerized biofeedback program, I can train my heart to beat coherently, which has tremendous advantages for my health, stress management, even test taking, and golf.
But I ask each client to learn how to do it, which you can do on your own PC if you want.
I was a stranger to this process and it took me 3 and 1/2 hours to be confident that I could generate the physiology away from the computer.
Then I ask them to come together and I hook them up to tandem computers, ask them to get their heart rate coherent, and then hold hands, and watch the heart beat of the relationship appear, which moves into and out of coherence just like we do individually.
The great take away for couples is that the heart beat of the relationship changes fast, and can be adjusted quickly with just a change in thoughts, they are each responsible for the heart beat, and that the relationship actually only exists heart beat by heart beat.
If one heart beat stops, then all the relationships counseling in the world will not help, will it.
One last benefit to this kind of relationships counseling. It feels good.
Now we can go back to a more talk orientation, and when communication begins to indicate an adrenaline/cortisol heart rate variability incoherence, each or both partners can get coherent again, and begin to communicate from a heart based affiliative and cooperative physiology.
If fact, we may even begin and end sessions with Heartmath, and from a Heartmath physiology we can practice some of the exercises suggested by Robert Epstein,Ph.D. like soul gazing, which means looking into your partner's eyes for a couple of minutes in an attempt to see her soul.
Helen Fisher, Ph.D., has been studying the phenomenon of love from a number of angles for about 30 years. I think she is best known currently for suggesting that we can have romantic love chemistry if we find a compatible personality type to have that chemistry with. Her research suggests that we humans fall into four broad types, each governed by a different neurotransmitter or hormone, and that some types match better.
However, some of Fisher's work has been studying couples who have been together and still report that they have the "chemistry" of romantic love. Fisher reports that they indeed do still have chemistry minus the anxiety component.
Now that to me sounds like those couples have naturally learned the something like a Heartmath physiology.
So if you are curious about either Helen Fisher's chemistry model, or the HeartMath tool, please find the links below, and may you always have a happy heart.
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