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Empathy – The Key to Successful Couples' Counseling

Thursday, October 30, 2014


empathy is the key to successful couples counselingWhat exactly is empathy? Perhaps you’ve heard it described as being able to stand in someone else’s shoes and see things from his or her point of view, which is a lot easier said than done in our overly-demanding world.

Science is proving that empathy is the result of some very complex and intricate connections in the brain. The National Institutes of Health probed the neuroscience of empathy and its capacity to help us evaluate other’s actions and feelings earlier this year. They discuss how “empathy is not only the capacity to share and understand others’ feeling and emotions, but it is becoming evident that it is a multilayered phenomenon in which emotions and cognitive processes are simultaneously at work.” They’re attempting to understand the core elements and basic neural connections and cognitive processes involved.

I’ve discussed these empathy connections in a previous blog about understanding the science behind Asperger’s behavior because those with Asperger’s struggle with empathy. Perhaps you haven’t thought about how this also applies to the way a psychologist can help couples in resolving their conflicts.

Maybe you’ve even put off seeking help from a marriage counselor because you wonder: How can you help us when you’ve never been in this particular situation before? How can you possibly understand how I feel?

The answer is empathy. In addition to the multitude of connections I’ve mentioned before, our brain is also designed with mirror neurons that help us empathize through perspective taking and mentally putting oneself in others’ shoes. My job as a psychologist is to create a safe place for couples to process your issues and engage your innate power of empathy to resolve conflicts.

I don’t have a manual that scripts the solution for each situation, which is a good thing because every person is different. So how can we KNOW what’s the right thing to do in any given case? Drawing on my education and experience, plus paying close attention to this other level of inspiration that comes from the wonderful way we’re designed, helps me intuitively know what to say and do. Sometimes the solutions is to say the right words or point out the thing that’s most needed, and other times it’s simply a kind look or just sharing a safe place that allows you to open up to mending the rift in your relationship.

Often, couples need an objective third party to help them integrate the best solutions for protecting their relationship. Over-thinking a situation and excessive worry can sometimes tax your ability to effectively engage your own gift of showing empathy. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Why suffer in silence a moment longer? I work with all kinds of couples including couples who run a business together, dual-career couples, couples where one is on the autism spectrum, and couples that find money worries, depression or stress are simply overtaxing the relationship. If you live in the Portland, OR/ Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

Read more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life.



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