Every therapist out there has some school of thought, some collection of beliefs, ideals, theories and experience that helps to define them as a therapist. I am no different. We are all drawn to theories and practices that somehow intrigue us or reflect our most inner belief system. It is important to understand the beliefs that your therapist holds so that you are aware of their underlying motives. As a smart consumer, it is your responsibility to locate a therapist that meets your needs and expectations. Sometimes, the best therapist is one that has similar beliefs to you, other times, it is the exact opposite. Below is an outline of my beliefs and approach to couples counseling. You may read over this description and fall in love with my approach. You may quickly move on to the next therapist. I will not be offended either way because I am not here to sell you on a "miracle cure" or "the one" approach. I understand whole heartedly that for you to get anything from our time together, we must be a good fit.
Many therapist claim to be couples therapists. The fact is that even being licensed as a Marriage and Family therapist doesn't mean someone has experience with couples. The truth is that there are a multitude of 'do it all therapists' that advertise experience in a broad range of topics. Not me. I have spent my entire education and the majority of my career honing my expertise in couples. That is all I do now. While I stay up-to-date and informed in a variety of issues and concerns, I sprecialize in working with couples.
In fact, within my intensives, I only work with one couple at a time. What this means is that I am not distracted by a case load of 8 other clients today. The only file (mental file or case file) that I have open is yours. I am able to devote my entire thought process on you and your relationship. When you are with me, rest assured that I am not concerned about my 5pm appt that is difficult to relate to, or the teenager that won't open up. I am not concerned on how to facilitate another couple's separation and not distracted by my client overcoming addictions. My only concern is you.
I have always been optimistic and typically seek to find the good in any situation. I believe that there is good, in everything, and it is my job to help you to see it when you cannot. This does not mean that I am oblivious or ignore negative things; I do not sugar coat simply to make you feel better. I do, however, see many different paths and seek to find one that gets you through the muck and to a better place.
I truly believe that if you have been in a relationship for any length of time, then that means that something works. Perhaps it has been years since it felt like it worked, but the truth is that your relationship has worked, and it could again. My goal in part is to go through time and identify when you were both at your best and find ways to get back to it. I am not here to mold you into the "perfect couple" - the misguided belief that all relationships have to look the same. Rather, I seek to empower you to be the best relationship that you can be.
You are an amzing person. So is your partner. Your relationship has likely been amazing at times, too. This is because you each are very unique. You were attracted to certain qualities in each other, likely these qualities were personal strengths. I strive to identify your strengths: what comes naturally to you, what you are good at, what makes you you. I want to then enhance those strengths and empower you to become the best version of you that is possible. I am not here to reinvent the wheel or make you be a "Stepford." I simply want to support you in your transcendence.
My mind works in two ways: the dreamer, and the scientist. The scientist in me thrives on research and evidence based work. It grounds me in the black and white (literature, results, proof). Because of that, I was quickly drawn to the Gottman Method. Based on over 40 years of research with multiple studies and over 3000 couples, John Gottman strived to identify what makes master couples - those that survive together. He was among the first to research what worked in happy couples, versus what failed. Based on his years of research, Dr. Gottman has been able to predict how a relationship will fair with a 94% accuracy. His research and publications are numerous, respect of his peers is paramount. Now pair Dr. John Gottman with his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman, and you create a powerhouse of science and practice: they have created a scientifically based approach to couples therapy that works.
Dr. Smithey is Indiana's first Certified Gottman Therapist! To find a Gottman Therapist in your area, search here.
How the World Works
The very foundation of how I see the world can be labeled as a Constructivist. What this means, is that I believe each one of us builds (or constructs - think construction worker) our reality. This is based in part from our childhood and our parents - but also largely in part to our experiences, past relationships, etc. There is a definite balance of nature vs. nurture. What this means is that no two people can see the same thing happen and experience it the same way.
Take for instance being colorblind. If I am colorblind, I will experience the sky and the sun differently than you. We will have similar experiences - the sun feels warm - but how we see the world is different. You can never see the world through my eyes, but if you can understand, appreciate, and be curious about how I see things, then we can have a shared experience.
This is what I want for your relationship - to experience something great, although different. Respect and admire the way your partner sees things while not losing the way you view the world. Balance. Curiosity (more on this in a moment). Respect.
In addition to being a constructivist, I am also systemic. In short, this means that I believe that everything is connected. The steak dinner you both share will taste different to you both - had a bad day at work, maybe the steak tastes bitter (because you are still affected by work) or maybe it tastes amazing (because you are finally done with that big project). Everything is connected in some way.
If I could sum up what I see in happy and strong couples into one word, it would be curiosity. When you first met your partner, you talked about random (sometimes absolutely pointless) things. But you were on the edge of your seat because you were curious about the person sitting next to you, and how they saw the world. Fast forward a few years, now you feel like you know your partner well. You can predict their response to certain things, and it starts to become mundane. You stop asking questions, at least you stop asking with the undivided attention as when you first got together. It doesn't have to be that way. Put the phone down. Take a true 10 minute break from work or chores. Let the dirty dishes pile up after dinner. Talk with curiosity again. Getting you back to that point is where I come in.
My Ideal Client
The couple that I prefer to work with is one that realizes that neither one of you is my client. Rather, the third 'person' on the proverbial couch is my ultimate client: the couple. While I will respect you both individualy and seek to empower you both, my ultimate goal is to make the couple the best possible couple it can be. This means that you are both aware of not only yourself, but the other person. Before you complain about something, I wonder if you can see your partner's perspective. Do you do what makes you feel better, or do you do what makes the couple better? Believe it or not, there is a difference. That difference falls in empathy - simply put - "the ability to understand and identify the thoughts and feelings of your partner." It is more than that though, it is also the appreciation you have for what your partner sees and the ability to put your their needs equal to yours.
In the end, choosing a therapist can be a daunting task. I try to be as transparent as possible to help you find the right fit. This is also why I offer free consultations to give you a chance to get to know me more before you spend a dime. Couples counseling, especially intensives, can be expensive, make no mistake. If you look at it as an investment into your future, then that cost might start to be more valid. You put away into your retirement plan, your life insurance, but have you invested into your relationship?