10 Common Problems a Marriage Counselor Can Help You With


There are lots of reasons that couples may decide to seek help and get marriage or relationship counseling. There are some common themes that I encounter when couples seek help for their relationship. Some of the issues you might find yourself struggling with and might seek help for include:

1. Mental Health Problems

When one partner has a mental health issue, it certainly impacts them as a couple. Over time, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can take a toll. Other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder can also interfere with a couple’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship. Couples can benefit from attending counseling together (and individually) to learn how to work together to deal with mental illness.

2. Grief

Grief comes in many forms. Whether a couple is grieving a miscarriage, loss of a child, or loss of a parent, it can be devastating to marriage. Grief can present itself in a relationship when there is a death, but often, it is grieving the loss of other things such as the loss of independence, loss of a hope or dream, or simply a major change in life that leads to a loss of emotional security. A marriage counselor can assist a couple in working through grief issues together so that their grief doesn’t push them apart.

3. Infidelity

Dealing with infidelity is a big reason for couples to seek help. Recovering from an affair or even deciding whether or not to try and work through an affair is complicated. Partners that stay in a relationship after infidelity can often experience heightened shame based on the thought that ‘something must be wrong with me that I didn’t leave as soon as I found out.’ A marriage counselor can help the couple address the underlying reasons or motivations for infidelity and to work through trust issues along with the many feelings associated with an affair.

4. Lifestyle Changes

Major changes in lifestyle can have a serious impact on a couple. Moving to a new area, making a big career change, or the birth of a baby can disturb the balance that was previously there between partners. Marriage counselors can help couples identify their expectations and work through changes to make transitions more smooth.

5. Addictions

Addiction is a common reason that couples seek help. Addiction doesn’t necessarily have to be to drugs or alcohol, but it can also take the form of pornography or internet addictions and gambling addictions. Beyond the benefits of a couples counselor being able to assist the couple cope with the presence of addiction in their relationship, individual or group therapy is often important for the addicted partner to focus specifically on the disorder itself.

6. Remarriage and Blended Families

After people have already been married and divorced once, people are more likely to be hesitant about getting remarried. According to statistics, the divorce rate for second marriages are even higher than first marriages. And for couples who already have kids, blending two families can be complicated. Marriage counselors can assist couples in making a smoother transition and also in addressing any barriers to remarriage.

7. Physical Health Changes

Physical health, or loss of vitality, can have a large impact on marriage and relationships. As each partner ages, they may experience a gradual decline in health which can interfere with their activities and their physical intimacy with each other. Other couples could experience a significant illness or accident that may drastically impact the individual as well as their marriage. If one partner is unable to work, contribute to household responsibilities, or help with daily activities, it can lead to marital problems if it is not addressed.

8. Communication Problems

It seems somewhat of a cliche (for good reason) that communication is one of the biggest keys to a happy, healthy relationship. When couples struggle with communication, it can make almost everything much more difficult. When couples struggle with communication, solving problems, making decisions, and resolving conflict calmly, can become a major source of stress. Marriage counseling can help couples learn new skills and recognize the cycles in which they get caught, that lead them to communicate poorly.

9. Parenting Disagreements

Different parenting philosophies can be a big issue for couples, and it can lead to a great deal of conflict. Marriage counselors can assist parents in learning to work together instead of competing with one another to be ‘correct.’ A marriage counselor can also assist the couple in recognizing the impact of their upbringing on how they interact with their own children and how this can happen subconsciously and undermine healthy parenting.

10. Just Not Feeling in Love

People also tend to want counseling when they feel the relationship has grown stagnant. I often hear couples talk about not feeling “in love” anymore or that they feel like companions or roommates rather than being deeply connected. Counseling can be a great way for couples to learn strategies to help them feel more attached and bonded and rekindle some of the energy that they may have lost through the course of their relationship.

If you and your partner are struggling with any of the issues described above and you would like some help working through them, feel free to contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.

Trauma and Your Relationship: How to Heal

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When you’re in a relationship with a trauma survivor, it is likely that you have become aware of a few obstacles that can be difficult to overcome, including that it is simply difficult to see someone you care about struggling with the impact of trauma or abuse (whether the trauma occurred before or during your relationship). Still, it’s possible to have a loving, healthy, and connected relationship.

The ability to allow your partner to feel safe and letting them know they can trust you are the key components to healing your relationship when trauma is a factor.

How Can Trauma Impact Your Relationship?

The answer to that question often depends on the type of event (or events) your partner has experienced. It could be anything from child abuse, rape, or combat, to a car accident. Each different type of trauma leads to different types of environmental cues that lead the survivor to re-experience and go into survival mode. Regardless of the type of trauma, there are certain obstacles that usually affect relationships.

Some of the most common hurdles you’ll face with your partner include:

  • They may have difficulty accepting love

  • Emotional distancing

  • Persistent doubt in your faithfulness and commitment to them

  • Over or under-reaction to conflict


It’s important to understand that trauma survivors need different types of support. They need to take care of themselves, and they also need certain elements from your relationship.

Let’s take a look at these two areas

  1. Self-Care for You and Your Partner

    Trauma survivors devote a great deal of energy to taking care of their own emotional, mental, and physical health. Everyone has a different way of doing this, but one of the best things a survivor can do is to have an amazing support system which includes you, as their partner. For most, professional help may be needed. Don’t ever try to force your partner into seeking out help, but instead, you can encourage it in a positive manner. Also, remember that while you’re encouraging your partner’s self-care, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Trauma is exhausting for both people involved, so take time for yourself  to make sure you’re healthy and emotionally prepared to support your partner. Don’t be afraid to seek out your own professional help. It’s not uncommon for partners of trauma survivors to need extra help, too.

  2. Supporting Your Partner

    There are many different ways you can be supportive of your partner after they’ve dealt with a traumatic event. A way to start is to educate yourself about the impact of trauma. The more you understand what your partner is going through, the easier it will be to heal your relationship. Communication is the biggest key when it comes to improving your relationship with a trauma survivor. The right kind of communication helps to provide comfort and safety. This can be done with a simple pattern known as ‘Mirroring, Validation, and Empathy.’ It can help to restore a feeling of peace and stability which is especially important when your partner is having a flashback or going through a very difficult time. Gently bring your partner’s attention to the present when they’re struggling with something from the past. When you’re able to remind them that they’re currently safe and secure, and this has the potential to calm them quickly.

Loving a Survivor of Trauma

Relationships are challenging to begin with. When you’re in a relationship with someone who has been through a traumatic experience, it’s even harder, but it’s not impossible to practice deep healing techniques that can help to heal wounds from the past.

If you’re still struggling with how to help your partner, or if your relationship is suffering due to trauma, feel free to contact me please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today. Together, we can develop effective strategies for healing.

So, Where Should We Begin?

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Soooo….what are people supposed to talk about in therapy?  The past? My mother? The events of my week? My grocery list? My deepest, darkest fears?  Should I talk about my work stress or about my dreams or nightmares? Should I just talk about my feelings? How much information do I need to give for what I say to make sense? Is my therapist expecting something in particular?

Many clients, especially at the beginning of therapy, feel uncertain and anxious about which details of their life are worth sharing and what is not (mixed with fears that the therapist will judge as they expect others in their lives to do). Some clients may feel like they have to come up with interesting insights each session, or that they have to come prepared with discussion topics. Some may come to therapy with a more “wait and see” approach, but then start to doubt whether they’re accomplishing anything when there’s moments in which there is “nothing to talk about.”

Overall, there is no specific “one size fits all” approach, because each person is unique. The most important point is to be open with your therapist about your concerns and questions… even if it is “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing!”... you might just get some welcome feedback. I’ve put together some things to consider when coming to therapy that can help lessen some anxiety you might have:

1. Everything is relevant.

Everything you talk about sheds more light on what it’s like to be you, and how you make sense of your world. It’s very helpful for your therapist to know what it is like to be you as he or she works to get to know you, and to understand better what your strengths, values, goals, and those things that keep you stuck. Note: If you find yourself running through mundane details of your week or hitting awkward silences, it may be a cue that there's a deeper issue you're avoiding. Ask yourself what it is you're not talking about and contemplate the fear of saying it. Push yourself beyond “it is what it is” or “whatever” and tackle some deeper questions.

2. If it feels important, it is.

Sometimes you may just not understand why something feels important, but you’ve had a reaction to it. It’s okay to bring that up.  You don’t need to know everything about a topic in order to start talking about it. Your primary task in therapy is just to be you at your most natural and genuine; your therapist is there to help you make sense of the themes running through your life and story and to help you identify if it has led you off the path you’re hoping to go in your life.

3. Pay attention to your gut.

We’re taught in life to suppress, minimize, and avoid our feelings, but if you notice that you have a strong feeling connected to something, that’s a good sign that it is important to you on some level. Rather than avoid the experience, bring it up and out. Chances are that the areas of your life that lead to strong emotional reactions will be the areas where therapy can help the most.

4. Some questions to ask yourself during the week between sessions.

  • “What bothered me this week more than it usually does?” “When was I surprised by my reaction?”  The things that trigger us often give us an insight into old wounds in our life that have not been resolved. They also may give you insight into ways you’ve adapted your life to avoid those experiences.   

  • “What things did I say to myself when I was upset?” By letting your therapist in on your harsh self-critic mind, you can begin the work toward understanding your self-concept and the ways in which you may have learned to to beat yourself up in your mind.  

  • “How do I actually feel in session?” “ What do I experience when I talk about certain things?” When do I feel disappointed in session? A confident therapist will be open to discussing these things with you, and will help you explore the ways in which therapy does or doesn’t meet expectations for you (this goes back to your uniqueness and unique experience). This can be especially helpful if you’re feeling that something you need is not being addressed.

Therapy is an investment toward the life you want to live. You can get the most return on your investment by making an effort to be yourself (warts ‘n all)... this vulnerability brings you closer to your authentic self.

For help In the Lancaster, PA area moving toward the life you want to live, please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment.

Try This 4 Step Process When Feeling Stressed Out

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Roughly two-thirds of Americans say they need help for stress in their lives. Having said that, it’s important to remember that stress itself is not the problem (it’s ever-present). Instead, it’s how we relate to stress. The stress response (Fight/Flight/Freeze) is critical to our survival and it is instinctual. Of course, most of us don’t experience life-or-death threats all that often. We usually experience stress reactions in response to thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations. If we’re actively engaged in worry about whether we can put food on the table or pass the final exam, the stress reaction activates and all the bodily systems involved in the process turn on. If the bodily systems involved in stress don’t slow down and normalize, the effects can be severe on our mind and body (high blood pressure, muscle tension, anxiety, insomnia, chronic inflammation/pain, gastrointestinal issues, and a suppressed immune system).

Giving yourself space in your day to stop, coming down from the worried mind, and orienting yourself to the present moment has been shown to be enormously helpful in lessening the negative effects of our stress response. When we come back to the present, we’re more likely to gain perspective and see that we have the power to regulate our response to pressure.

So you might be wondering why the STOP sign? Here’s a short practice you can use at times throughout your day to step into that space between stimulus and response.

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Sometimes understanding and practicing mindfulness can seem difficult at first. If you would like some guidance and gain a deeper understanding of how it can help you, consider reaching out and scheduling an appointment. You can contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and we can work together to bring you back to the best place to be… the present!