Couples Therapy for One: To Fix a Marriage, Some Go Alone

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bernstein explains how some partners are seeking individual therapy to better their couple’s relationship.

Many couples in troubled marriages wait too long to get help. By the time both spouses agree to counseling, the relationship has often been strained to the breaking point. A common scenario is one partner wants to go and the other does not. As a result, some couples therapists are adapting traditional couples-counseling techniques for use with one spouse only.

Colleen Orme, 48, a marketing consultant living in Great Falls, Va., did this several years ago, after her marriage hit a rough patch. She and her husband sought counseling, but after Mr. Orme decided to discontinue couples therapy, she completed the sessions without him. “We spend a lot of time in marriages trying to fix the other person,” she says. “I changed my approach and decided to focus on how I can become happy.”

At the University of Denver, unpublished results from a five-year longitudinal study of 300 long-term couples suggest that a month or so after receiving relationship-skills training, those who got it as individuals saw as much improvement in their relationships as those who got the training as a couple. A year and a half after the training, the Denver researchers found that couples where the women attended sessions alone reported being happier than couples where the men attended alone.

Howard Markman, a psychologist and the study’s lead researcher, says the women learned relationship skills more easily and were better at teaching them to their partners. Women also are more comfortable talking about feelings and the strong emotions that arise in couples therapy.

The process works best if both partners participate, experts say. But if just one partner is willing, a couples-based approach can be substantially more effective for the marriage than traditional individual psychotherapy, Dr. Markman says. This is because couples therapy teaches practical skills for improving the relationship; individual therapy often focuses on uncovering patterns from childhood and other experiences.

For a more in depth look at Elizabeth Bernstein’s article, including a specific “how to” toolbox, click here

To follow her column on relationships click here

We’ve revamped our Isenberg Counseling Facebook page and invite you to take a look at the articles we’re posting on couples and other topics of personal interest to our clients and friends.

America’s Not-So-Dirty Secret: The Sexless Marriage

Behind closed doors, millions of couples are harboring a not-so-dirty little secret: We still love each other, but we don’t have sex anymore.

Can a romantic relationship exist without sex? Robert Weiss, in his blog “Sex and Intimacy” writes that for an estimated 40 million people in the United States, the answer is yes. Whereas the average married couple over age 30 has sex 58 times a year (just over once a week), 15 to 20 percent of couples are “sexless,” according to national surveys.

To read more and to subscribe to Weiss’s blog click here

For a complete listing of articles by Robert Weis, click here

Follow Robert on Twitter @RobWeissMSW

Talking Face to Face Is So Yesterday

In an article from The New York Times, Dominique Browning discusses technological advances have affected face time:

Face time — or what used to be known as spending time with friends and family — is exhausting. Maybe that’s why we’re all so quick to abandon it. From grandfathers to tweenies, we’re all taking advantage of the ways in which we can avoid actually talking, much less seeing, one another — but still stay connected.

Read the rest of the article here.

For Dominique Browning’s Slow Love Life blog click here.

10% Of Americans Take Antidepressants

10 % of Americans take Antidepressants

Did you know that more than 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 take an antidepressant, a class of drugs that has become widely popular in the past several decades Antidepressants were the third most common drug used by Americans of all ages between 2005 and 2008, and they were the most common drug among people 18 to 44, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The team analyzed data on more than 12,000 Americans who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 2005 and 2008. They found that antidepressant use in the United States jumped nearly 400 percent in the 2005-08 survey period compared with the 1988-94 period. The increase followed the 1987 approval of Eli Lilly and Co.’s Prozac or fluoxetine, the first of a newer class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs.

-Taken from the Chicago Tribune

Depressed Wary of Antidepressants

According to the Chicago Tribune article “Depressed wary of antidepressants,” the journal Annals of Family Medicine conducted a study that found that patients suffering from depression might not inform their doctor of their symptoms. The most common reason people are withholding information is that they are afraid that the only recommendation they will receive from their physician is for an antidepressant prescription medicine. In a survey of 1,054 adults, 43% of those surveyed cited more than one reason why they would be wary to inform their doctor of depression, with the most cited concern being prescribed medicine. Another 10% stated that they would withhold symptoms and information due to the possible chance that they would be referred to a counselor or psychiatrist. The study also found that those people who listed several reasons as to why they were less likely to report depression were typically female, Hispanic, with less education, and lower income.

Intimacy And Sex

Not Tonight, Honey: The Plight of the Dual-Income, No-Sex Couple is a Work and Family column by Sue Shellenbarber for the Wall Street Journal. Shelly was interviewed at length for this article as was Michelle Weiner Davis, author of Divorce Busting and The Sex-Starved Marriage. The article deals with diminishment of intimacy and sexual relations amongst couples facing high amounts of stress. The article offers suggestions on keeping love alive.

View the full column on the Wall Street Journal’s website by clicking the link below:

Not Tonight, Honey: The Plight of the Dual-Income, No-Sex Couple


Shelly wrote a letter to the editor of the NAPERVILLE SUN entitled The Problem of Shame in Our Community in response to a column by Denise Crosby on heroin use titled Sick of hearing about heroin? Keep reading. Shelly’s letter is included below in it’s entirety.

The Problem of Shame in Our Community

Denise Crosby wrote an important column in the July 24th Sun, entitled “Sick to death of hearing about heroin? Keep reading.” She wondered why “people don’t think it can happen in their school — certainly not in their family.”

She quoted Beth Sack, a very experienced addiction specialist at Linden Oaks Hospital at Edward, who thought the answer laid in our concern about “stigma.” Sack thought we needed to keep writing about the problem of heroin in our community because “awareness is the best preventative tool.”

Awareness is so important, I agree. If you don’t know a problem exists how can you deal with it? In a way that is obvious. But why do we keep having to invent the wheel, so to speak, around a problem that has been in this community since the first drug awareness programs began.

Heroin is nothing new in this community and has been reported on before in The Sun. So the question that should also be asked is why the stigma continues to exist?

And I would answer that not only heroin usage by our kids is something difficult to talk about, but so are so many problems that we have individually and as families. I would have preferred to see “shame” discussed in the article or another one Crosby could do.

We are so ashamed of ourselves as parents when our kids get into problems deeper then we want to believe can happen to our precious ones. We may not have done anything wrong in our parenting, but others or we can find something we should have done better. But then shame afflicts us in so many ways: our own not so nice backgrounds, our marital problems, our job losses, our own dependencies, which are innumerable, etc. etc.

In fact shame is so prevalent in our families and communities that our first defense is “denial” of the problems. Seeing is believing and if we refuse to see it, it isn’t there. Problem solved!

Of course it isn’t, but putting things off by disbelieving the truth in front of us is a profound human ability. Small problem, people can die as a result of this ability.

Certainly having a child go into rehab or worse, overdosing or committing suicide, is about as hard as it gets being a parent. I guess we all need forgiveness about something in our lives. And perhaps we can be easier on ourselves if we recognize we all carry shame or “stigma” about something. We all need to reconcile ourselves to being human and discussing the problems that come with that condition. Coming out of the closet which shame puts us into is a universal need.

-Sheldon Isenberg

For more from Naperville Sun columnist Denise Crosby on this and other issues, please follow the link bellow.

Columns by Denise Crsoby

Professional Continuing Education, 2011

Shelly and Raye Isenberg attended the following continuing education seminars this past summer.

On July 21st they spent the day in a course entitled “Keeping Ethics in Clinical Practice: Everyday Issues and Dilemmas.”

On July 22nd, they spent the next day in a seminar entitled “Restoring & Revitalizing Marital Sexuality.”

In 2011 thus far Shelly has spent 30 clock hours in professional continuing education. Raye has spent 27 clock hours in professional continuing education.

The Dead Zone

Are you too tired to talk with your spouse or significant other after work? According to an article from The Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger, you’re not alone. A December 2007 study conducted by the Harvard Business Review about 45% of high-earning managers enter a conversational “dead zone” after a long workday where they are too mentally drained to say anything at all to their partner. Such strain can wreak havoc on both family and personal life. If you find that you or your significant other are too drained to talk after work, Dr. Christena Nippet-Eng says there are ways to start having meaningful conversation during the week. Couples can make a point to talk on the phone during the workday allowing them more time to relax and decompress after work. Couples can also schedule time after dinner to talk or even occasionally hire a sitter so that they can retreat to a local coffee shop. As David Clark from Kansas City Montana states “there’s life beyond whatever you’re dealing with at work.”

If you are interested in reading Sue Shallenbarger’s full article please visit The Wall Street Journals Website through the link provided below:

Dealing With the Dead Zone: Spouses Too Tired to Talk

For Better Or Worse

In Heather M. Little’s Chicago Tribune article “For better or worse, Marriage forecast: Which ones work?” John Gottmann, professor of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, states that marriages in which couples see aspects of the relationship, such as laughter and validation of the courtship, give way to pain and criticism are more prone to divorce. This shift can lead both husband and wife to feel isolation and loneliness bringing about the desire for separation. Gottman suggests that a marriage can be put back on track by adopting three problem-solving behaviors that are characteristic of healthy and happy marriages. These behaviors include:

• Validating your partner
• Finding mutually satisfying solutions to problems as they arise
• Eliminating conflict caused by what may be frequent conflicts or disputes by simply agreeing to disagree.

For more literature from John Gottman, please visit his page on for a listing of his books on building and maintaining a healthy and happy marriage:

John Mordechai Gottman, Ph.D. Amazon Page