In this document:
*** What’s involved behind the scenes, outside of sessions
(approx. 3 Word document pages)
*** What is unique about my services (approx. 3 pages)
*** What I don’t do (that many professionals do) (1/4 page)
*** How I’m unique from some well-known models for communication
and personal growth, as well as models for couples’ work,
(approx. 3 pages)
*** How core defense mechanisms operate in relationships (1 page)
My intention for this entire communication is for you to realize what you’re actually paying for in the sessions you have with me, and possibly to help you make a decision about hiring me or recommending my service to others.
The time I spend in session with clients is the tip of the iceberg of what it takes to actually provide the superior service you receive. Below is a description of what is involved.
What’s involved behind the scenes, outside of sessions
A. I am not a run-of-the-mill professional.
I have spent a quarter of a century exploring and creating new avenues for healthy relationships. The inspiration for creating this work has first been to aide me in my personal relationships—particularly with my family of origin. The by-product is that what I’ve created also works for clients. I only teach what has worked for me.
My work with couples produces consistently quick and high quality results. Clients actually learn clear methods for eliminating arguments and fighting. They learn how to dissolve anger, and they learn specific alternatives to unkind and disrespectful relating.
Sometimes the results produced are incredibly fast. I know of no other professional who produces the kind of results I produce with couples. (If I discover any professionals who produce the kind of results I produce, I will refer clients to them). One could go to an average professional for three times the money and time, and still not get the results one is looking for. Of course there other very good professionals that get good results. However, they may be hard to locate and it’s quite unlikely they do the same type of work I do. You might want to see my guidelines for “Choosing a Professional” on my website at: http://www.thehealthycouple.com/choosing_a_professional.html
B. The initial work of uncovering and untangling core
childhood defense mechanisms is very complex.
The initial work is also often very complex and taxing for me. (Some examples of core defense mechanisms are anger, being evasive, not trusting the process, being argumentative, blaming, revenge, overt or covert attacks, threatening to leave, and desperate attempts to avoid being soft and vulnerable).
Partly because I have an unusually high level of intuitive sensitivity to the hidden attitudes and emotions of my clients, and partly because of the emotional charge of my clients that must get diffused, I require quite a bit of down time to recover my energy after sessions are completed. Sometimes I spend more time in down time than in session. (If you want an example of how a core defense mechanism operates in a relationship, see the example at end of this document.)*
C. Extra time spent after initial sessions to document
core childhood defenses
In beginning sessions, I spend up to an hour after the session organizing and documenting how each person’s childhood core strategies and defense mechanisms are put together, and how these themes are interwoven into the present relationship. This is in addition to taking notes on the session and planning strategies for our next sessions.
D. Time invested in developing and fine-tuning this work
I spend a large amount of time ‘back at the drawing board’ fine-tuning this model of relationship communication and emotional healing. The work of resolving conflict and emotional upset can be very challenging for clients. The behind-the-scenes fine-tuning work I do simplifies the process and makes the sessions easier for those who come to see me.
E. Investment in my own education, personal growth
My fees reflect my skills and the work behind the scenes, not the time in session
As alluded to earlier, I am an inventor of new ideas, and not simply a person who duplicates what’s already out there. In the past, my desire for my work to be accessible to everyone who wants it, regardless of one’s ability to pay, has created a hardship for me. That business strategy contributed to the large debt I’ve accrued, and at times has has put me at risk of going out of business. Thus only in unusual cirmstances do I reduce my fees Plus,the fees for couple’s and family sessions have been adjusted to reflect the quality of service provided and the complex nature of the work I do.
Payment plans can be set up if I have access to a credit card. This often works well since my work with people is time-intensive iIn the beginning, and then drops off dramatically when the intial work has been completed.
My fees in the past have not reflected my skills or the work behind the scenes
Some questions to ask: How important is it to you to be able to resolve conflict and emotional upset? How important is it to you to be highly skilled at communicating and deepening your heart connection? How important is it to feel comfortable with the person you are in partnership with? How important is it for you to feel confident that your relationship will last your lifetime and that it will be happy and healthy over the years? How important is it to heal and resolve the childhood pain that has been following you into your life?
Becoming skilled in relationship takes time, resources, and effort. It can’t be something you have a vague interest in. It must become a priority. If a wedding, an expensive vacation, a new car or boat, or a second house takes priority over your learning how to get along and deepen your love with one another, the end results for you and your partner may not be pretty. That old mindset may have been functional in the 18th century, but it hasn’t been cutting it in this day and age.
In the event you’ve hired professionals in the past and didn’t get the results you wanted, I understand the reluctance to put your resources towards the process. I can’t speak for other professionals, but I can tell you that there is at least one path that produces the results in relationship that you are seeking. I have developed that path. It works in my personal life and with those who use me as a guide.
If you are presently working with a professional and aren’t getting the results you are looking for, you can continue working with the one you’re with now and come see me to fill in some gaps.
See link on my blog for recent testimonials
WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT MY WORK
For those of you who would like to know more specifically what is unique about the work I have created, this section will provide some details. Part of what makes my work unique is that I have taken a number of models for healthy living and relating and have put them into one package. Many of the models I developed on my own, and only later learned that some of these ideas were already fundamental to some existing and well-known models.
In addition to where I am similar to other models, I have developed unique approaches that one may not find anywhere else. Many of my ideas have come from my personal experience, as well as what I presume are Spirit communications to me.
I bring together models and themes similar to:
Zen Buddhism (i.e., themes similar to mindfulness, presence, allowing what is, Eckhart Tolle, Landmark Education, Hakomi therapy, and Ceanne Roan’s Right Use of Will book series)
Inner child work (i.e., themes similar to John Bradshaw, Charles Whitfield, Pia Melody, Alice Miller, and the Hoffman Quadrinity Process.)
Communication and conflict resolution models (i.e., themes similar to Harville Hendrix’s Imago Couple’s Therapy, Jordan and Margaret Paul, The Harvard Negotiation Project, mediation approaches from The Win-Win Institute, Taylor and McGee’s The New Couple, Byron Katie, Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, Aaron Beck, David Schnarch, Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, Susan Campbell, Brad Blanton, Barry Neil Kaufman of the Option Institute, Lew Epstein’s Trusting You Are Loved, and Greg Baer)
Spirituality (i.e., my own spiritual awakening in 1982, as well as themes similar to Neale Donald Walsh’s Conversations With God, The Course in Miracles, books on Near-Death spiritual experiences, Gary Zukov, and Debbie Ford)
Trauma healing (i.e., themes similar to Peter Levine)
More specifically, what sets my work apart from most others includes the following. (Although some professionals use some aspects of this model, they probably aren’t putting all these pieces together):
** I make it clear that relationships are complex and require healing and growth work as a way of life. Relationships are not something one can do half-heartedly. The work of relationships is about making the health of your relationship a priority and being courageous in your relating.
** As central measures of the health of a relationship, I assess clients’ commitment to treat one another with kindness and respect at all times, commitment and ability to consistently resolve conflict and emotional upset, and the experience of affinity with one another. When any of these key measures are not in place, there is no other work to do but to get them in place.
** I have a requirement that most professionals probably don’t have in place: Those who work with me must have a commitment to eliminating unkind and disrespectful interactions. Without that commitment, there’s no point in beginning the work.
** My experience has been that many professionals allow unkind and disrespectful relating to play itself out in their sessions. I think they just don’t know what to do to turn it around. Unkind and disrespectful relating produces no useful results and serves no purpose. It produces deeper wounding and triggers deep emotional wounds from childhood. I nip unkind and disrespectful relating in the bud, and teach clients how to get to the source of the inclination to relate in an unkind way.
** I use ‘the resolution of conflict and emotional upsets’ as a path for consciously addressing the influence of childhood pain on one’s life and on the present relationship.
As mentioned at the top, I teach people how to dissolve anger, how to eliminate arguments and fighting, as well as how to put in corrections for unkind and disrespectful relating.
** I deal with anger in a unique way. Although venting anger is initially useful when it’s not vented towards another, venting one’s anger with another is almost always counterproductive until the relationship has become stable. I guide clients in discovering the hidden feelings that initiated the anger response. The true feelings are always some form of fear and grief. Fear and grief have us feel vulnerable, and thus we avoid acknowledging them.
** I have come to see that human beings have both a spiritual self and an animal self (survival-oriented). The animal self is connected to the flight and flight region of the brain. I give people compassion for their highly reactivated responses of fight or flight (anger, leaving, attacking, withdrawing, avoiding, defensiveness, resenting, revenge) and lead them back to their spiritual self (kind and soft). I lead clients back to their spiritual self by providing clear alternatives to the fight or flight reactions. The alternatives result in the resolution of emotional upset and a return of love, play, and friendship.
** I teach clients a powerful and unique method that helps them recognize their initial reactions (that aren’t working), and teaches them to put in simple corrections. These corrections, although requiring courage, often provide an immediate transformation of difficult situations.
** Unlike many professionals, I don’t limit my sessions to an hour or less, which often results in having client having to break off when they’re in the middle of an important process. Most of my beginning sessions with couples are 3 hours. That time is needed to get to the bottom of key issues and core personality patterns. Later sessions may only require a 20-minute phone call.
** As mentioned at the top, clients get very quick results in our sessions. Sometimes 3 hours of session time turns around long-standing relationship problems. (Note: It’s not that the relationship work is completely over after 3 hours, but the central challenges have been identified and the key solutions are being put in place.)
** I don’t take sides or assess any one person as being the sole contributor of the challenges. I operate from the perspective that each person is playing a crucial role in what’s not working, and that each person holds the key to turn the relationship around.
** I highly recommend that couples resolve all the past and present emotional upsets in the relationship before they make any decision about whether to stay together or not. Except for certain abuse and addiction situations, you can’t assess your level of compatibility when the relationship is clouded by unresolved emotional upsets. Frequently, when you’ve resolved the emotional upsets, your friendship and affinity is restored. If you resolve your upsets and conflicts—and then discover you’re not compatible—the work you’ve done is valuable. You will have understood what you did that specifically contributed to the challenges in the relationship. You can then part as friends, and you will have learned valuable lesions for your next relationship. A further note: Anything you don’t resolve in your present relationship will likely surface in future relationships. I recommend one addresses the patterns now, rather than to wait until they surface again.
COMMON AND UNFORTUNATE PRACTICES OF OTHER PROFESSIONALS WHO WORK WITH COUPLES
Below is a list of what I’ve personally experienced, or have heard others report:
Doing almost all the talking, not listening well, and not first getting clear on what’s happening with the client. Focusing on giving advice and sharing their wisdom before they let the client language their concerns and before the professional has the picture of the client’s situation. Just listening (not guiding the process when the client is on an unproductive path). Allowing couples to fight and argue. Not having a clear idea of where he or she is going with the sessions. Suggesting you’re not in a good relationship because you argue and fight, but not giving alternatives to remedy the arguing and fighting. Not validating your emotional pain. Going from one person to the other, and addressing one event after another–without bringing a sense of resolution to any issue or emotion. Telling clients what they should do, instead of outlining the various options and giving the client free will to choose the path they want to take. Taking sides.
How I’m unique from some well-known models for
communication, personal growth, and couples’ work
For those who are familiar with some well-known models for healthy relationships and communication, I will explain briefly how, in my best assessment, how my work is distinct from theirs. And note, I have studied and experienced the following alternative approaches, but I have not been officially trained to teach them.
Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication
I have only become familiar with Rosenberg’s work in 2008, but I think it’s some of the best work available for healthy relating. Where we’re similar: 1) We both have specific steps for addressing the challenging communications and emotions. 2) We both have people focus within as a first step and/or be empathetic when another is distressed about an interaction. 3) We both recognize that there is an automatic reactionary self and a compassionate, vulnerable self. 4) We both recognize that a fundamental drive all humans have is to make a contribution to others.
One way my model is distinct is in my approach to anger. Rosenberg has people look for unmet needs when one is angry, and then find the emotion underneath the anger. We are similar there, except I use a different approach than the ‘unmet needs’ approach to get to the fundamental emotions. [How I’m different is too complex for this document.] I also simplify the realm of emotions by boiling emotions down to a very small list of core emotions (essentially anger, fear, and grief). Rosenberg provides a nice large list of emotions from which to find the emotion you’re experiencing. It’s a good tool, but I think that when one is upset, attempting to identify the specific variation of an emotion can add a level of complication that may not be necessary.
Another way my model is unique is that I look to childhood traumas to make sense of the intense emotional reactions. I find that Rosenberg’s often-magical approach of ‘identifying unmet needs’ is at times ineffective in the face of two people who are triggered with unconscious childhood emotional reactions. I’m not highly skilled with Rosenberg’s approach, so a skilled NVC person may have better results.
Other differences: I also find less of a need to be rigorous about whether an expression is a thought or a feeling. Although that distinction is valuable, when there is intense emotional upset present, I have found other points to be more useful to focus on.
Harville Hendrix’s Imago Couple’s Therapy
I’ve been exposed to Imago for many years. I am similar to Imago in that I recognize the powerful influence of childhood wounding on our relationships, and the need to address the wounding to have healthy relationships. I also find his tools for communication (listening and speaking with empathy and respectfulness) to be quite good.
Where I diverge from Imago is that I never found Hendrix’s steps for communication to be palatable enough to apply them consistently. They just seemed a bit contrived when one is deeply triggered into emotional upset. With extreme upset, I have found it to be more useful to first guide each person to apply an internal-looking process that dissolves the emotional upset–before attempting to resolve the emotions with a partner. Once a person is clear of most or all of one’s emotional upset, the communication with their partner flows much easier—sometimes by using specific communication tools, such as Imago, and sometimes not.
I’ve been taking Landmark courses since 1982. My work has many similarities, such as bringing the possibility of a complete and instant transformation of a challenging experience, being specific in one’s languaging of their experience instead of being conceptual, being complete in communications, ‘allowing what is’ instead of resisting, operating from the idea that we’re the source of our experiences and our life situations, and tapping into our natural desire to make a difference—on a personal and a global level.
Where I am unique is that I have a different approach for resolving emotional upsets and difficult communications. I think my guidelines are easier to use. And, although Landmark does very good work with childhood issues, I have a bit more focus on the interrelationship between ‘the challenges presently occurring in your relationship’ and ‘what occurred in childhood’. Landmark does some of this very well. I think my approaches, in some ways, are much more effective and are easier to grasp.
I’ve studied some of Byron Katie’s work and have benefited from it. Some of my approaches of “examining and questioning the beliefs and viewpoints behind distressing experiences” are similar to Katie’s. Without going into details, I agree with one client’s assessment. The couple said they find my work more user-friendly than Katie’s.
The Hoffman Quadrinity Process
My work is similar to Hoffman’s work in that 1) I see the value in physically and verbally venting the feelings that were never expressed in childhood (maybe by using a plastic bat on a pillow, or the like), 2) I see the need to become aware that we have acquired all the traits of our main childhood caregivers by modeling those caregivers, 3) I see the need to forgive our parents because they had no choice but to take on the traits of their caregivers, as we had no choice but to do the same, 4) I see the value in noticing how hard we are on ourselves and to begin to love ourselves, 5) I see the need to learn to communicate and resolve differences–usually by first looking within, and 6) I see the value in recognizing and connecting with our spirit self.
Where my model is unique, and where it is unique from all other approaches I’ve experienced, is in how I approach anger and emotional upsets:
— I have made the distinction that all interactions that don’t promote connection in relationships are based in fight or flight reactions (protection modes),
— Protection modes are almost certain to not work, even though using them feels natural and right.
— When one finds him/herself in a protection mode, the one and only solution is to find a way to be vulnerable (an approach that feels counterintuitive). Greg Baer in his book, Real Love, appears to have grasped these concepts well, although I’ve only spent a few minutes skimming one chapter of his book.
My approaches dovetail with Tolle’s quite well. Some people think Tolle’s message of ‘being present to what is’ means that one should simply ‘be present’ and not take action. I don’t think he is suggesting that. He says that ‘being present to the moment’ often inspires action. I am very active in my work with people.
NOTE: I have been asked why I focus so much on the past and on past patterns. I get questions such as, “Doesn’t focusing on the past just strengthen the false identity/the story?”
“Doesn’t focusing on what you don’t want simply expand what you don’t want? Shouldn’t you be focusing on what you want?”
“The past is not real. It’s over. Why do you focus on the past?”
My answers are:
Diamond and jewel operations sift through tons of dirt to get a handful of jewels. It may appear that I’m focused on the ‘dirt’ (i.e., what’s not working and where it comes from) because I’m digging in it, but I’m really focused on the diamonds in the mounds of dirt. I’m not looking for dirt. I’m looking for the diamonds that are in each person, and that are obscured by the dirt. If I have to wade through a ton of dirt to find the diamonds, that’s what I’ll do.
When one sees and accepts the ‘dirt’ that one has brought into one’s life, the person can cease resisting the dirt. When the person stops resisting the dirt, the jewels of their being–their spirit self–can be seen and experienced.
Until we’re clear about what we’re doing that doesn’t work, simply ‘inserting positive-sounding ideas and approaches in the middle of what isn’t working’ will often have little impact on our lives. I’m not big on positive thinking. I’m big on acknowledging the good, bad and ugly that is present in the moment, and then letting the ‘power of presence’ transform what isn’t working.
My focus on the past is usually to have people notice where they have unawaredly brought their experience of the past into the present. So, actually, I’m not focusing on the past. When one is being in the present, one uncovers the fact that one has inserted one’s past experiences into the present. This is almost always the case when emotional upsets are involved.
*An example of how core defense mechanisms operate inside a relationship [To expand on the references made at the beginning of this document]
As a young child, Bobby was taunted and tricked by so-called friends. The trauma of those repeated events had Bobby become hypervigilant so that he wouldn’t be taken advantage of anymore. As a result of these difficult experiences, Bobby created beliefs about life and others to avoid future difficult experiences: “I can’t trust people. They set me up to make fun of me and take advantage of me. Anyone who does that is not my friend and I don’t want to have anything to do with them.” One result of these beliefs was that, in session, Bobby didn’t trust me enough to guide him to a vulnerable place that would have him resolve the relationship challenges. Instead, he persisted in venting his resentment-laden perspectives about how he was wronged by his wife.
The catch-22 is that the solution for resolving his pattern of ‘being distrustful’ is to be vulnerable and trusting. However, his core defense mechanisms from childhood demand that he not be vulnerable and trusting. Therefore, the biggest challenge in early sessions is to compassionately guide a client down a healing path that appears to the client to be leading to more pain.
What is required from me in these situations is something akin to walking a tight rope: Bobby is in a highly distressed emotional state and has a powerful pull to stay protected. My mission is to have compassion for his emotional state while attempting to introduce the solution to his distress (being vulnerable) without Bobby feeling threatened and then going deeper into emotional upset—and maybe walking out.
This is a complex task. The complexity is compounded because Bobby is sure the solution is to find out what his partner needs to change (instead of looking at what he is happening with him on an emotional level). The complexity is then multiplied because, as is typical in beginning sessions, Bobby’s partner is also in the throes of her own emotional upset (and her core unconscious defense mechanisms). She needs to be heard, is feeling a driving need to defend her position based on what Bobby is saying, is sure that Bobby is the problem, and would likely be offended at the thought that her childhood experiences are at the source of her distress.
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