We now offer a range of ways you can access our knowledge and skills about relationships:
• Weekly or fortnightly therapy for couples in 90 minute sessions online with an individual therapist – learn more here
• Individual therapy in 60 minute online sessions focused on sexual or relationship issues
• Week-long intensive therapy retreat Where you stay at a gorgeous location and focus solely on developing or repairing your relationship for a week (or two long weekends)
Like many experienced psychologists, we don’t work from just one model. Below are some of the main models we use.
The Bader-Pearson Developmental Model
This is the model that Nic and his colleague Paula Dennan have brought to Aotearoa and training other therapists in. It was created over 30 years ago and refined by two Psychologists, Dr Ellyn Bader and Dr Peter Pearson from The Couples Institute in San Francisco (www.couplestinstute.com). This model has stood the test of time, having helped many couples and individuals enrich, grow and repair their relationships.
This way of working with couples which recognises that, as we each continue to develop through our adult life, we can get stuck or stalled. This is usually the cause of challenges and problems in our intimate relationships. As a result, these difficulties signal an opportunity for further individual growth and development which can enrich our relationships.
This approach is very personally empowering. If I stop focusing on my partner’s perceived deficits and failings (an approach that often leaves me powerless as I wait or push for our partner to change) and instead focus on my own growth and development, then I am working on something that is under my own control AND from which I will always gain personal benefit, regardless of what my partner chooses to do.
Passionate Marriage (a.k.a. The Crucible Approach)
Our practice is also influenced by the work of Dr David Schnarch and his partner Dr Ruth Morehouse. Most people know of Dave’s work through the book “Passionate Marriage” (although the formal name for this model is “The Crucible Approach”).
As with the Developmental Model, like this approach because it sees the problems we are having in our relationships are normal and inevitable – seeing long-term relationships as “people-growing machines”. This approach helps people confront themselves, pushing them to grow a stronger sense of who they are and what is important to them. Out of that personal growth comes the resources and courage to bring about lasting and beneficial change in the relationship.
Instead of “happily ever after”, this means loving on life’s terms – looking into the face of our fears and disappointments and acknowledging that sometimes we will not get what we want and we will get hurt and it’s still better to take the risk and love fully anyway. The alternative is to live a half life of loneliness and self-deception.
The other reason we became practitioners of this approach was because of our interest in helping people with sexual problems. The Crucible Approach provides a full integration of the marital therapy and sex therapy fields (believe it or not they have tended to be separate disciplines). This means we deal with difficulties around sex totally in the context of the relationship and see our sexual relationships as an important “window” onto the relationship as a whole.
Other models we use
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)
In our work we find that most people are quite hard on themselves, using critical self-talk and harsh self-judgement as the primary tools to try and change or improve themselves. Sadly this approach doesn’t work. The brain reacts to an attack from within just the same way it does to an attack from without. If you want to stop being defensive and be able to be more open and connected with people, especially people who are important to you, then you need to learn how to be kinder to yourself. MSC, as developed by Kristin Neff & Christopher Germer, is a very useful technology for helping us learn how to do this in a skillful and effective manner.
As New-Zealand trained psychologists, both of us have training in cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT). These models strongly underpin modern psychology’s understanding about how people work. Behavioural principles are often very important in working with children and in understanding how we get trapped in unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Cognitive therapy has a lot to offer in helping us change unhelpful beliefs and negative styles of thinking.
Acceptance and Committment Therapy seems to be where the mainstream of psychology in Aotearoa is moving. It places a welcome emphasis on using your values as a guide for your behaviour and also has practical ways to integrate mindfulness into everyday life.
Family/Systems & Narrative
We have both trained and worked as family therapists, so we are always inclined to look at the wider systems involved – be they couple, family, workplace, cultural or societal. Formally this involves using models like structural and systemic family therapy, and the Developmental Model and Crucible Approaches are also systemic therapies. This understanding is important in both our therapy work and our supervision of other professionals. Both of us also have a background in Narrative Therapy, having trained at the Leslie Centre and with Johnella Bird and David Epston at the Family Therapy Centre.