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Couple Therapy Session

Healing Separation

Initial Call with Clients:

When partners are looking for assistance with their relationship; often one reaches out to me for help. During that initial call with one of the partners; sometimes they may relay to me that they are not sure what direction they need to take; essentially, they may be “leaning out” of their relationship. I then review with them the different models I offer partners: Couples Therapy, Healing Separation, Discernment Counseling and/or Non-Adversarial Divorce Support.

Even after I have reviewed the above models with that partner(s) on the phone, sometimes they still remain at a point in the relationship where they are unsure and they tell me that they don’t know how to get “unstuck”, and/or if they want to work on their relationship going forward. We then make a plan that I will speak with the other partner(s) and when I speak with them on the phone; I quite often encounter someone that is equally hurting and stuck, but in many instances, wants to work on the relationship and go to Couples Therapy. These “mixed-agenda” partners are at different places; as one may want to relaunch the relationship (aka the “leaning-in” partner) and the other is not sure.

**There are also occasions where all partners are “leaning out”, and so there is no one paradigm that fits all partners.

 

Healing Separation:

Step 1 -  

After initial calls, I schedule a meeting with partners to discuss where each of them is in regard   to the relationship. During this first session, clients share with each other how they got to this place of “stuckness” and whether they think they can move forward toward repairing the relationship.

When a relationship is in trouble, partners have several choices:

  • Continue the relationship as is (status quo).
  • End the relationship because it feels like it’s impossible to fix. Partners have run out of ways to try and fix the negative cycles, so most feel their only remaining option is to end the relationship.
  • Engage in a traditional separation which is a very challenging experience because it is not structured like a Healing Separation. The lessened structure in a traditional separation can result in increased stress and anxiety for partners and if there are children, this negativity can flow to them as well in the form of trauma.
  • Engage in Healing Separation which offers a process where each partner can work on themselves.  In addition, partners can explore whether they desire and/or are able to cultivate a new relationship with one another. This process emphasizes self-care and mindfulness.

Step 2 -

We then review the different models that I offer partners:  Couples Therapy, Discernment  Counseling, Healing Separation, and/or Non-Adversarial Divorce Support. We also discuss which    model might be right for them. In many instances, clients have already been on this website and come prepared with questions about these models. In other instances, clients have  determined from their initial calls with me that they want to proceed toward Healing Separation. Regardless of the model chosen by partners; I have also found that my background as an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist is also critical to assist clients where some underlying issues may be related to intimacy.

  •  Note:  Healing Separation is not Couples Therapy 
  •  Note: Healing Separation is not legally-binding.  The Healing Separation Information packet that I give clients is not a legally binding agreement, nor does it contain legal services and/or legal advice. It is recommended if clients have legal questions, that they follow-up with a legal professional.

Step 3 -

We then further discuss and decide where or not to start with any one of these models, and then, if they mutually agree, at any point, they can then transition to a different model such as Couples Therapy. Example: a couple may start coming in for Healing Separation sessions and then decide that they want to transition to Couples Therapy with me.

Step 4 -

Work begins for those clients that decide mutually to start with Healing Separation.

  • Partners often opt to enter a Healing Separation, when at least one partner is “leaning-out,” and  after deliberating, decides they are not able to enter Couples Therapy to repair the relationship  because they need space.
  • I work with the partners to slow things down; so that we can have meaningful conversations to put some structure around this very unsteady time in their lives.  Some “leaning out” partners are very disappointed at the thought of slowing things down, taking more time to discern, and/or plan if they are going to reside out of the house. 
  • Many of these clients are relieved to hear that some Healing Separations are comprised of partners that still reside in the same home but sleep in separate bedrooms, thus in those  instances the Healing Separation is mostly “camouflaged” from children who are told that someone is “snoring” or “someone’s back feels better on a different mattress”. In some instances, a “leaning-out” partner is seeking to move out immediately and/or to tell the kids what is going on.
  • It is essential that parents/guardians know what they are doing in terms of their relationship before telling their children; even their adult children. I strongly recommend to parents/guardians that we discuss in our sessions what to tell children, before any children are apprised as to the status of their relationship. If an affair is the reason for the Healing Separation, it is not advisable to inform children, even adult children, of issues that are between the parents, such as: which parent had the affair and/or who the affair was with (unless there are issues with safety for the children).

Step 5 -

Partners are encouraged to be mindful and compassionate with each other, toward themselves, and the kids, in terms of how they go through this Healing Separation process.

 

Step 6 -

Follow-Up Sessions: Structured for support.

  • It is recommended to meet for follow-up sessions to review the terms of the Healing Separation  document and to check-in with each other.
  • Healing Separation follow-up sessions also include review and discussion of the Healing Separation Agreement Explanation Document and the Healing Separation Agreement Form  to provide structure and guidelines to help make the separation a more constructive, non-adversarial and mindful experience that helps reduce trauma experienced by the partners and for any children involved.

 

Step 7 -

Partners are encouraged to engage in self-care during this time.

 

Step 8 -

Co-Parenting Counseling: Incorporated into Healing Separation Follow-Up Sessions (if applicable)

  • As part of the Healing Separation process, I work with co-parents to partner in the best interests of their child. We work on specific strategies and tools to improve co-parenting communication and agreements. Note: Co-parenting Counseling is not Couples Therapy!
  • It is important for partners in a Healing Separation to minimize any possible emotional trauma for any children involved, as well as themselves. Keep in mind that children can thrive during and after a Healing Separation and/or divorce, as long as they have at least one parent or guardian who provides a safe, nurturing and consistent home for them. Children will feel pain and grief, and it’s up to the co-parents to unify together to provide the emotional support that is needed to help the children transition. This emotional support at times can also include providing the proper therapeutic licensed professional to work with your family and/or child. Children and younger tweens can benefit from play therapy and the family can benefit from creative arts therapy.
  • My background as a certified teacher and school counselor, and licensed professional counselor, assists me in sharing with you ways to support the emotional, physical, and educational needs of your children. I also have two Masters' degrees; one in Counseling and the other in Education. Please also see Qualifications page and my Co-Parenting page for additional information.

- I work with adults only; if you need referrals for your children and/or for family therapy, please consult with me for referrals.

 

Step 9 -

Partners are strongly encouraged to be involved in individual therapy and/or some kind of personal growth or awareness process; as an additional support to our Healing Separation sessions.

 

Benefits of Healing Separation:

  • Healing Separation is an honest effort between the partners to take hold of their own separation and co-create it; so that it remains non-adversarial and protective of their emotional and physical health, and that of any children. 
  • To get the most out of a Healing Separation, it is necessary for each partner to increase their own self-care, personal growth, and self-reflection. Healing Separation is structured time apart (even if you reside in the same home) and/or may or may not also include some time together on a regular basis.
  • When partners agree to go through a Healing Separation, it is necessary for them to put aside time to contemplate what part each has played and to reflect on what each has done to try to bring positive change to the relationship.
  • For many, after going through this process, it results in transforming and relaunching their existing relationship. Thus, moving it from conflict, emotional distance, lack of trust, and/or lack of intimacy, to a more connected, and loving relationship. For some though, Healing Separation results in one or all partners moving forward to end the relationship.
  • Even if partners do not remain together, Healing Separation sessions can help improve awareness, reduce conflict, and if the partners are also co-parents, it can help them stabilize and prioritize communication in regard to any children that are part of the relationship.

 

Healing Separation Origins:

Healing Separation is adapted from the late Dr. Bruce Fisher’s work, and from the Noeticus Counseling Center and Training Institute: Innovative Approaches to Counseling and Change. Dr. Fisher was a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Director of the Family Relations Learning Center (Boulder, Colorado). He developed the “Rebuilding Model of Divorce Recovery” and co-authored the book, “Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends”, (4th Ed). Dr. Fisher also developed the “Fisher Divorce Adjustment Scale”, which is an internationally recognized measure, in the adjustment to the ending of a relationship: https://rebuilding.org/assessment/.

 

Moving Toward Divorce After Transitioning from a Healing Separation:

  • When clients have done the mindful-work that a Healing Separation entails, and then as a result decide to end their relationship, clients are usually in a substantially better place, even while they are mourning the loss of their relationship.
  • At any partners’ request, I can discuss Non-Adversarial Divorce aspects such as Mediation and Collaborative Divorce.
  • If clients are also co-parents, they have learned the tools from our sessions to partner on behalf of their child’s emotional and physical health and well-being.
  • Legal fees are usually lessened for those who have progressed through a Healing Separation.
  • Clients are better able to participate with their legal and/or tax advisor(s) with clarity because they have been part of a mindful-process, one that stresses self-discovery and lessening of their own reactivity.
  • See Divorce Support Page of this website for more information. 

 

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