Thought for the Day: Last Monday, I began to tell the story of Henry and Linda's marital therapy. I introduced them and shared a question that I ask all clients at the beginning of therapy. Namely, "If a miracle happened and therapy cured you over night, how would you know? What would be different?" Linda and Henry's visions of a miracle were pretty similar. They would be communicating with one another and laughing more. They would be living together in harmony and would see eye to eye on religious matters.
Since both Henry and Linda had mentioned problems in communication, I gave them a homework assignment. I encouraged them both to read the book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray. I often assign reading to clients since it can speed up the process in therapy. In sessions, I can coach them in skills discussed in the book. I explained the theory behind the book and introduced the concepts men and women's different communication styles.
The next week, to my surprise only Henry had started reading the book. Often, men will delay starting a reading assignment and women will have completed the entire book. Linda had not had time. Although he had only read the 1st chapter, he liked it and could already see that it applied to their patterns of miscommunication.
The couple's week had been slightly better, but they brought up an argument that had transpired which was typical of their disagreements. I decided to try a role-playing technique to attempt to get them to imagine interacting differently. They were each to direct the other partner in a two minute ideal scene. What would a perfect interaction between them look like. Henry wanted Linda to be the director first. Linda broke into tears. She said, " I don't think we could have even two minutes of an ideal relationship. It's just not possible."
When Henry began to contradict Linda and said, "Come on, we can get along for two minutes." I stopped him and got him to listen to his wife. I encouraged him to just find out what was making her feel so hopeless about their marriage. I reminded him about what he had read and he listened to her in a way he had never listened before. When she had completed what she wanted to say, he was able to ask if she wanted anything from him or if she just wanted him to listen. He said it saddened him to see her so upset and asked if he could do anything to help her. She asked him to just hold her and he did.
After he held her for a few touching moments, I decided to ask if they wanted to try the role play again. They were both able to act out their perfect 2 minute interaction. I didn't know for sure, but I felt I had just witnessed one of the miracle moments in therapy. Next week, in the third installment, I will share how Henry and Linda's week went and you can be the judge of whether psychotherapy is a science or a miracle or a combination of the two.