I titled this page Couples Growth because I think that terms like Couples Therapy and Couples Counseling don’t capture what good couples work can be. Good couples work goes beyond fixing problems in a relationship. We tend to assume that because we have relationships we should know how to go about them, but there is so much more to learn about good, expansive, growth-centered relationship than we can possibly know just by repeating what we’ve learned from parents and from occasional observations of others’ relationships. Good couples work includes shifting a relationship to a growth orientation and creates growth for both the relationship and the individuals involved.
I see relationships as one of the principal opportunities for growth we have available to us. Romantic relationships are especially rich opportunities, as they can engage us with particular emotional depth. Because they have so much potential for emotional engagement, relationships can be both some of the most vibrant, supportive, dynamic and the most painful and frustrating aspects of our lives. While relationship difficulties are by nature uncomfortable experiences, I see them as useful indicators of what needs to change in a relationship and even opportunities for both partners to grow in themselves and together. Change usually involves some discomfort and while the discomfort of relationship difficulties may seem particularly counterproductive, in the right context it can lead to growth that would not have been possible without it. Good couples work transforms the conflict and discomfort into connection and is inspiring and even deeply fun. My couples clients love the exploration and growth we do together and I love it too!
The place I typically start in creating this context is through improving communication. People take classes and read books on so many subjects, but we rarely make efforts to learn one of the most basic and important aspects of being human, which is communication. Most of us assume that because communication is a natural part of being human, that we don’t need to make specific efforts to learn it. Romantic relationships make the importance of communication and our frequent lack of attention to it painfully obvious. The good news is that communication is both the most common and the most solvable problem in relationships. And yet communication between two people rarely changes without attention to those forms that aren’t working and efforts to replace those forms with more functional, caring, vibrant forms. This is one of the ways in which couples therapy can excel. I work with a variety of methodologies that focus on practical, concrete ways of improving communication including John and Julie Gottmans’ research, Murray Bowen’s Systems Theory and Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication.
In addition to improving communication, I work toward helping two people to give up their opposing positions and come together to work with issues from the same side. More than most experiences, relationships can trigger our fears and therefore our anger, our defensiveness, our disappointment, our judgments. I encourage couples to consider the issues of each individual as issues of the relationship in order to reduce blame and bring the resources of both individuals and the relationship to bear toward healing and change. I work with practical techniques for couples to learn to step back from entrenched positions and step toward each other emotionally, as research supports the importance of learning to deescalate conflicts. I help couples work more directly with the underlying dynamics and interactions that motivate even their everyday conflicts so that they can reduce their negative interactions to produce a more positive, vibrant and exciting relationship.
Choosing a Couples Therapist
Research has indicated that an unskilled couples therapist can not only be ineffective in helping a couple, but can actually damage relationships. I’ve heard surprising stories from clients of couples therapists who have done exactly that. Psychology literature has recently been discussing being a good couples therapist is actually quite difficult and requires specific training, as it is quite different from individual therapy, yet it turns out that only 12% of therapists who do couples therapy have had formal if any training in it. I have specific and extensive training in couples therapy and wouldn’t practice couples therapy without it. I’ve trained in couples therapy at the NYU Medical Center Child Study Center, the most respected family and couples therapy center in New York City, as well as in Relational Life Therapy (Terry Real), The Gottman Istitute and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (Dr. Sue Johnson), the three trainings that are currently the most respected in the field.
I fully support and have done extensive work with couples in non-traditional relationships including all genders, gender preferences, open and polyamorous relationships.
Testimonial from a couple:
“It was very important to me to find a Psychologist who would give specific and applicable advice in our sessions. From the very first visit I found myself thinking of and analyzing my issues from a more productive standpoint. I find Dr Bresnick to be poignant, and efficient in his assessments without being clinical or cold. In the same breath I also find our sessions to be calming and enlightening both for myself and my partner. With our busy schedules, he is quick to accommodate changes, and always on time for his sessions. What I appreciate most is how he makes you feel he is truly invested in finding solutions to the issues you present versus just talking about them. More importantly, the solutions work!“
Email from a couple:
My wife and I came to you a number of times when we were going through some tough times at home with religion and what not. I am happy to say things could not be better and you are the one that I need to thank for that. We were out the other night and I had mentioned to her how I need to email you to thank you for everything. We both agreed that we wouldn’t be where we are now without your assistance. Thank you for everything.
PS: We celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary last week.