Do I need marriage therapy or trauma therapy?


The short answer is, call me to discuss, because every case is different. However, I can quote the latest statistic that at least 2/3 of children have a traumatic event in their past, and that it is usually related to important relationships. Given that, it should be no surprise to anyone that the last three referrals for couples' therapy I've taken have had difficulties strongly influenced by childhood trauma in one or both partners.

Why does this not factor into more couples' therapy? Simple--most therapists don't bother to ask, and often clients think, "Well it's in the past, and this therapy is about my marriage, so it doesn't matter." It matters a lot! Our families taught us how to love, and sometimes that lesson is that love must be painful, or that arguments are a bad thing because they must involve yelling. Keep in mind that these views are programmed into children at such an early age that it's difficult to change the automatic response in an escalated situation with your partner.

Let me tell you what I usually do. I give my clients what they are looking for, which is enough couples' sessions to stabilize the relationship so it is no longer in crisis, and I try to understand the family backgrounds that influence the relationship, which includes trauma, but more focuses on how the client learned to have relationships. When things are stabilized, and we are hitting a wall on progress due to pre-programmed traumatic responses, I switch one or both partners to trauma therapy. When needed, I intersperse couples' sessions during trauma therapy, in which we don't discuss trauma. When trauma heals, we continue on with couples' therapy.

Of course, if clients don't want to have trauma treated, we can do the quick and dirty version and increase relationship quality, but why would you want to do that--especially if you have read the entries on this blog related to trauma treatment and how fast it can be? Trauma can be the brick wall that prevents couples from ever having true intimacy.