Tag Archives: couples

Schrodinger’s Cat in Couples Therapy

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on March 2, 2016 4:29 pm

Today I was working with a young couple who like most at a point in the early family and career-making stages of life, struggle to come to terms with the stress, pain and loss associated with transitions. It was the second session and the young, European couple, of mixed national backgrounds, began to reveal how their thinking was past and future orientated in so many ways.

My hunch about the couples therapy at that moment emerged – they were going to the past of who they were when they originally met to soothe themselves about the frustrations about where they were now (feeling stuck as individuals) and as result as a couple, feeling increasingly unhappy together. My hunch emerged further – their persons and personalities, to each other, had undergone extensive “flattening”, as the blame thrown to the other for what was going wrong for them and in their couple mounted.

I found myself in the session trying to reach out to feel the frustration of who they were as individuals and at the time, I felt this to be the ‘work’ of the moment. (note: it may be something of model reminder for work with individuals with a contemporary, western cultural background and experience, that the order to consider is individual frustration first, couple frustration second). As I started thinking of my couple as individuals needing to hear, feel and see each other again, it came to me – Shrodinger’s cat, the thought experiment in theoretical physics!

No expert on the matter, the idea that we never know the state (i.e. dead or alive) of cat in the box until we open it, and that we effectively have to imagine and consider the cat inside, as being anywhere in a continuum of alive to dead in the box, to really live the quantum reality, became an interesting metaphor. I didn’t explain it to them in the 54th minute of what was to be 1.5hr session, but, I suddenly knew what I felt could be useful – a little reminder that the other is wife/husband, woman/man, each a career professional, each a social being, each with a worldview, each with individual needs and a personal path (that is spiritual even if you let it be).   At the time we didn’t’ exactly do what I am proposing as a potentially fresh new couple’s therapy intervention. That is, each in the couple take turns viewing the other as the cat in Shrodinger’s box, observing the other in a continuum of themselves and all that they are or might want to be. The forgetting of this is problematic to the individual, man or woman, same sex etc. and the intervention designed to promote the summoning of the individual in more full view, may be restorative to a couple’s communication, fruitful to a compassionate understanding and accepting of the other’s needs, while it promotes a critical self-evaluation of how the man/woman has ‘othered’, ‘gendered’, ‘boxed-in’ the other as part of their couple narrative.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

When we Stumble, it is Simply Part of the Dance

Posted by: Bonney Elliott on November 3, 2015 12:55 pm

tangodanceAs we struggle to wrap minds and bodies around a new sequence, our wise dance teacher asserts that Argentine tango is not complicated, but complex. His words give me pause, and hope. Tango looks complicated, and takes years of practice to master. Yet, even the most dazzling choreography is essentially a pattern of basic steps.

As a psychotherapist, this distinction seems quite relevant beyond the dance floor. Helping clients who are suffering to make sense out their lives can feel complicated, but perhaps the intricate dance of psychotherapy is, like tango, a layering of steps and patterns.

A few concepts that simplify therapeutic relationship for me are connection, presence, self-awareness, humility and perspective. When a dance goes well, the partners are in sync. They have a strong, tangible connection that transcends the alchemy of physical chemistry or attraction. Dancers communicate with each other, often nonverbally. Therapists deliberately cultivate and maintain empathetic attunement with our clients. Connection is the fulcrum for therapy. When Ego steps into the space between us, connection wavers. Miscommunications happen. Insecurity and perfectionism complicate relationships.

As dance partners need to be fully present to each other to coordinate their steps and negotiate the space of the dance floor, the therapeutic process flows when we manage to stay together in the moment with our clients. Mindful presence helps us to keep in step and rhythm, to focus on what is actually happening. Staying centered in any complex relationship takes self-awareness. Partner dancing is not about one controlling the lead or the other blindly following. They work together, each learning to maintain individual frame and axis of balance. Similarly, therapy evolves when both partners are able to keep their feet under them, therapist self-awareness nurturing client self-awareness.

To grow and learn is to be vulnerable. Good dancers expect to make mistakes, to fall in and out of sync and rhythm. As the saying goes, when you stumble, make it part of the dance. Err graciously. They improve over time at stepping back to figure out how a small step gone awry threw off the entire pattern. Similarly, therapy is rarely a linear process. One step forward, two steps back. Creating new patterns of being requires patience and practice. It takes humility to own our fears and foibles while gently calling our clients on theirs.

Keeping perspective is important. The essence of any dance is simply expressive movement to music. Good dancers attend to the technical details while keeping in mind the bigger picture they are co-creating. Whatever theoretical methodologies we subscribe to and creative counselling techniques we weave in to help our clients wade through the intricacies of human feeling, thought and circumstance, the essence of our work is the co-creation of meaningful, compassionate dialogue. Simply put, psychotherapy is a therapeutic conversation. Inherently complex, but not necessarily complicated.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Conscious Couples

Posted by: Lisa Shouldice on September 30, 2015 7:00 am



The idea of “Conscious Couples” has been getting thrown around a lot lately. I even use the idea/concept in my work with couples now, including a quick article if I feel the couple I am working with may be receptive to it.

A Conscious Couple in a nutshell, is the idea that personal growth and healing are a part of coupling and even a goal that is important to the couple and their relationship. These are couples that recognize they came to the relationship with a history, including personal triggers and experiences. They recognize that they need to own these triggers and experiences to be in healthy relationship, and most importantly they are committed to both themselves and their partner thriving and contributing in the world beyond themselves. Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Marriage Is . . .

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on April 28, 2014 3:27 pm

“No sooner met but they looked; no sooner looked but they loved; no sooner loved but they sighed; no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage.”     ~ William Shakespeare

As a husband of 17 years, I can inform you that marriage is a lifelong education.  Marriage is the essence of life and it has an intrinsic way of wholly consuming every aspect of life.  While the consumption is likely, the type of consumption can be a profitable experience rather than a drudgery.

Furthermore, marriage is a lifelong commitment.  The commitment cannot solely be an individual endeavor, rather marriage is a joint effort.  As a clinician, I am always amazed that the assumption of marriage is viewed from a myopic perspective, rather than a hyperopic one.  Marriage is not a singular ideological framework, rather it devised of two perspectives uniting together to become one.  While you can rest assured that your ideological views surely will cross, it is always essential to come to a place to agree-to-disagree.  Moreover, while there are no perfect marriages, the highlight of every marriage is to strive for an unified best!


“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”  ~ Mignon McLaughlin

Marriage is an ultimate sacrifice of thyself and thy personhood.   It is through the sacrifice that we learn to serve and to be served.  Marriage is the best reminder of why it is important to love thyself.  While many utter words of love, few completely understand the roots of love.  Love is an intense feeling of deep affection, admiration, respect and warm approval.  Without love, there is likely no attachment or affection.  Nevertheless, you can be the best of friends and not be “in love.”  Moreover, love must begin within you before it can be expressed outwardly.

What does it mean to be in love?  Being in love is not a mystical experience, having hidden or esoteric meanings.  Rather, being “in love’ is within anyone’s reach and is a response to reactions in our brain, but connecting to the “right” person is often the challenge.  You cannot force a person to “be in love.”  If you partner is not “in love” with you, then the likelihood of making that connection is null.

Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Psychological Effects of Divorce

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on March 17, 2014 7:00 am

“When mom and dad went to war the only prisoners they took were the children.”
~ Pat Conroy

As a child of divorce, I can confer that the legal separation and dissolution of a marriage can have a profound effect. Even if, your parents are splitting amicably, having the greatest spirit of friendliness and acceptance; the separation of a set of parents has an effect. The level of the effect will and may differ, dependent upon the rationale behind the divorce, and the outcome of the divorce proceedings. While on the judicial side, divorce is the legal dissolving of a relationship; divorce from the perspective is the removal of one parent from another.

Divorce not only effects the children, the parents (the couple), but has an ability of effecting those beyond the confines of the immediate relationship. While divorce has an effect, it’s effect will vary dependent upon the family and the ultimate dynamics of the relationship .


Divorce can have a dire effect on all members of the family. The repercussions of a divorce can have an impact on the families financial stability, social environment, academic and employee performance, and the psychological and physical well-being of the family. Please understand, I am not criticizing divorce, rather it is important to recognize the possible and often frequent ramifications of divorce. While the ramifications and outcome of divorce are often egregious in nature; the ramifications and outcome of remaining in a negative, abusive, unaffectionate or undesirable relationship, can have a significantly greater effect.

“First, children who grow up in an intact, two-parent family with both biological parents present do better on a wide range of outcomes than children who grow up in a single-parent family. Single parenthood is not the only, nor even the most important, cause of the higher rates of school dropout, teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, or other negative outcomes we see; but it does contribute independently to these problems. Neither does single parenthood guarantee that children will not succeed; many, if not most, children who grow up in a single-parent
household do succeed.” (Berlin, 2004, Online)

The Typical Concerns Associated with Divorce

1) What is the probability that my child will develop feelings of abandonment?
2) Does my child blame me for the divorce?
3) Will my child blame himself/herself for my divorce?
4) What is the probability that my child may develop psychological concerns because of the divorce?
5) As a parent, will I have the ability to have equal time and custody of my child?
6) How do I reassure my child that I will not abandon him/her?
7) How do I reduce the level of stress involved with the divorce?
8) How do I show respect for someone that I detest?
9) What is the probability that the disruption of the family routines will effect my child?
10) What if, my child show’s no signs or symptoms pertaining to the divorce?

Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Creating Life

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on August 30, 2013 3:05 pm

“Having kids – the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings – is the biggest job anyone can embark on. As with any risk, you have to take a leap of faith and ask lots of wonderful people for their help and guidance. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to parent.”             ~ Maria Shriver

As a couple, there are many challenges that you will face simply being within a relationship.  Your relationship may tinker between the off-and-on again paradigm.  You may dislike your spouse’s personal habits, hygiene, mindsets, and/or belief systems. 

There are many variables that can cause a couple to have relationship strife.  If an individual within the relationship has an addiction or addictive personality; the nonaddictive partner may feel neglected or barricade from getting to “really” know their spouse. 

Unfortunately, we live in an era of global financial hardships and economic woes.  The lack of employment opportunities and corporation layoffs has become the norm within of our society.  Infuse the societal troubles with a lack of time and you will create the perfect storm for a newly formed or broken relationship. 

Not all are facing the hardships of financial woes or employment layoffs.  In some cases, the challenges for a relationship may center around a lack of intimacy or unrealistic expectations about sex.   Sexual expectations and intimacy are all too often intertwined.  While sexual expectations are often developed early on within a relationship, we seldom speak of our sexual desires early on.  Unfortunately, sexual conversations most commonly occur when the relationship is in an unhealthy state.  The couples discussions are often filled with anger, frustration, bitterness, rage, and confusion about the relationship and the sexuality within. When the sexuality of a relationship is discussed between a couple; there are commonly feelings of despair, resentment, and hopelessness until the matter is resolved in a healthy manner.  It is vitally important to avoid creating life if your sexual and/or your personal relationship is unhealthy.

If a couple is doing well, then-and-only-then, should they consider the possibility of having children.  Having a child can prove the greatest stressor of a relationship.  Even the very discussion of having a child, can spur heated debates and personal battles. 


“I’m sorry, it’s true.  Having children really changes your view on these things.  We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die.  It’s been happening for a long time.  Technology is not changing it much – if at all.”   
       ~ Steve Jobs

As a therapist, I have counselled a number of individual’s on the decision to have or not to have children.  “If you’re a couple, the decision to have a child or remain childless is a joint decision.” (Wade & Kovacs, 2005, p. 28) Having children will have a significant impact upon your relationship.  It is paramount that if-and-only-if, you, as a nucleus couple, decide to create life; then-and-only-then should you even consider undertaking the obligation of forming such life.   Regrettably, not every couple has been equal players in the creation of life, nor has every person within a relationship known about the lives that are being created.   Of course, if we wanted, we could open Pandora’s box to all the possible discussions about sex and sexuality, but the intent of this article is and has been solely designed to discuss creating life and the meaning therein. 

The challenges are unlimited when considering the creation of life.   If I decide to have a child, then I must consider whether or not I want to be eternally connected to my partner.  Even the legendary Dr. Albert Ellis was once quoted as saying, “I would have liked having children to some degree, but frankly I haven’t got the time to take the kids to the (swear word) ballgame.”

Sadly, the possibility of a relationship ceasing does exist.  Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that to consider whether or not we would like to be forever connected or linked to our partner.   We seldom consider the implications of a relationship ceasing, but if so, the ramifications of creating life can have a dire effect upon the life of the child.   For some the creation of life is a good idea at the time; for others, there are religious implications behind the creation of children; while for others, there remains little explanation or consideration.  


Children are not the answer to a bad relationship.  Unfortunately, I have encountered more than one couple or partner who has decided to have a baby to mend or repair their unhealthy relationship.  Having a child should never be the remedy for a broken relationship, no more than having sex should be about forgiveness.

It is not uncommon for someone to think that a baby will rekindle the flame.  For many, it is thought that a baby will reunite or repair a broken relationship.   First of all, if a baby is born healthy, then it might serve as a positive measure within the relationship.  However, if the baby is born unhealthy, then the couple’s level of stress and anxiety will reach peak heights.  A child’s life should never be considered as a healing aide within a relationship.  “If a baby is brought into a relationship in which one partner is opposed to having a baby, the relationship will usually suffer, and as a result so does the child.” (Wade & Kovacs, 2005, p. 28)

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for those in bad relationships to manipulate their partner by the discussing the possibility of having a child.   I have encountered both men and women who have used “a baby” as a source of manipulation within their relationship.  Baby manipulation is one of the most common themes of bad relationships.  

  • “I will have a baby with you, if you…”
  • “I should have a baby with my partner, because this will heal our relationship.”
  • “I really can’t stand the guilt of denying him or her the right to a child.”
  • “While I really do not care for children, I will have a child so that we remain a couple.”
  • “My faith insists that we have children, so I think I will have a child to appease my faith.”

As a potential parent, your priorities should shift.  You are no longer alone in this world.  You are now forever bonded to another person on this planet.  As a potential parent, you are creating a life that will forever need your unwavering guidance. 


“Restaurants are like having children:  it’s fun to make them, maybe, but then you have them for good and bad.  You are going to have to raise them and if something goes wrong when they are 30 years old, they will still be your little boy.”                   ~ Wolfgang Puck

Children are the greatest teachers you will ever encounter.  I have personally attended more than 13 1/2 years of university, but you can rest assured; that my greatest teachers have yet to set a foot in a university classroom.  Children can serve as your most profound teacher, guide, and inspiration.  It is amazing how a child who has been egregiously harmed in this life, can serve as an awe-inspiring motivator of life.  The life of a child is typically filled with an abundance of resiliency.

Children should never be considered as a remedy for a bad relationship.  If you are struggling within your relationship, it is prudent that you consider seeking the counsell of a therapist.   Furthermore, be certain that you and your partner can be intricate players within the counselling environment.   If not, your problems may continue to exist.  

A child is a mirage, often appearing to be less complex than they really are.  No child has ever been born with an owner’s manual.   No child has ever sat down at their birth and discussed the meaning of life or the purpose of their own life.   Yet, many who have a fantasy of sharing their life with another, rarely give great debate or heated discussion before bringing forth life. 

Children are magical creatures who seem to bring forth our maternal and paternal instincts. “Yes, a baby is so powerfully appealing that people are even entertained watching it sleep.  Just notice how grown people tiptoe to a crib and look down at a baby.” (Cosby, 1987, p. 22)   Baby’s are undoubtedly alluring.  It is often this mystical side to babyhood that we mistake their incredible powers as being capable of healing or bringing aide to our relationship.  Be more than certain that if you decide to have a child, that it is a decision made with a clear consciousness and a sound mind.   

Children are forever.   

Authors:  Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.



Brown, A. D. (2010) Waiting to live, Bloomington, IN:  IUniverse

Cosby, B. (1987) Fatherhood. New York, NY:  Berkley Books

Forward, S. (2001) Emotional blackmail, When the people in your life use fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate you.  New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers

McCoy, D. (2006) The manipulative man, Identify his behavior, counter the abuse, regain control. Avon, MA:  Adams Media

Wade, D. & Kovacs, L. (2005) I want a baby, He doesn’t, How both partners can make the right decision at the right time. Avon, MA:  Adams Media

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Staying True Unto Oneself

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on August 14, 2013 3:10 pm

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
~ Steve Jobs

What does it mean to “stay true unto oneself?”  Shakespeare spoke of this immortal question, others have reformatted and repackaged the idea, but still many remain uncertain of the essential meaning of being true unto oneself. 

What is the importance of staying true unto oneself? However you want to package the basic premise is:  be authentic in all that you do.  Do not waver from the nature of your true person.  Whoever you are, allow that person to shine through. 


Authentic people are undisputedly genuine.  Genuine people do not rely on the approval or acceptance of others, rather they diligently seek to be themselves.  They deny the ownership of critical words or deeds that others lay at their feet.  Genuine people are not perfect, but strive for improvement on a daily and frequent basis.  They are also capable of accepting positively constructive criticism, while denying the negative intentions, deeds, actions, or criticisms that others may choose to offer.   An authentic person is a sincere person relying upon their inner being for acceptance and approval.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

What is Your Source of Inspiration?

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on June 11, 2013 4:42 pm

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”
 ~ Stephen Hawking

What is your source inspiration? What or who inspires you to live and prove productive?  Is your source of inspiration a person, a place or thing?  If so, what is that source of inspiration?  Are you inspired by a spiritual being or religious ideological viewpoint?  Is your inspiration your soulmate or an important friend?

Why is it important to be inspired? Whether you are inspired by another individual or something within your own person; inspiration is the motivator within life. Inspiration is the catalyst for prodding you forward.  What is the importance of inspiration?  If we are inspired, we will inspire those around us.  Inspiration beseeches inspiration.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Personal Responsibility

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on May 23, 2013 4:28 pm

“Personal responsibility is the willingness to completely accept choices that we have made throughout our lives.”
                                                                                    ~ Asa Don Brown, Waiting to Live

Personal responsibility is the ability and willingness to accept our past, whether good or bad as a marker within our history.  It is also recognizing that our history does not have to define us or be the determining factor of our lives.


Responsibility is not identifying with our past failures or successes.  Nor is it allowing others to place the past upon our person.  Responsibility cannot be the acceptance of other’s failures or successes.  We may have all had a moment in time, whereby we slough off personal responsibility, transfer personal responsibility or blame others for our failures or the successes in our lives.   Personal responsibility is not the denial of our successes or of our failures, rather it is the willingness to take ownership of our personal history.  

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Benefits of Friendship on a Relationship

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on May 6, 2013 1:47 pm

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The key to a healthy relationship is the purposeful development of a healthy friendship.  Couples who have achieved the merits of friendship, have strived to develop their relationship beyond the confines the marriage. 

“Excluding some very good family relationships, the only other close adult relationships we have besides marriage are with our long-term friends.  What is extremely interesting about these two affiliations is that marriage is the least successful adult relationship, whereas long-term friendships are by far the most successful.” (Glasser & Glasser, 2000, p. 17)

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA