Shelly has been counseling couples for much of his professional career. He married Raye Isenberg some 53 years ago. As Clinical Social Workers, they established their professional partnership in 1980, building their former counseling practice, Isenberg & Associates, into a highly regarded practice known for its work with couples and families. Shelly also taught courses in marriage and family therapy at a professional school of social work.
While often called Marriage Counseling or Marriage Therapy, Shelly refers to his work as ‘couples counseling’ because in addition to seeing so many married couples, he also sees couples not married, some for pre-marital counseling and consultation, and others who live together in committed alternative relationships. The form of coupling or partnering is less important to him than that the couple wants to continue to grow their relationship past whatever barriers may have gotten in their way.
Shelly has a life-long interest in the interplay between our individual need to grow our personalities to our fullest potential, and our need for a committed relationship. We all have a need to love and be loved. But we also need to know how to stay in love, the actual ways to behave with our partners to enhance the possibilities of life-long commitment. In couples counseling, coaching and consultation, Shelly strives to help couples learn to deal with their differences, changes and expectations that come into play through the course of life’s development.
In his work with couples, Shelly carefully listens to each partner’s personality, cultural and religious values, and expectations regarding particular issues. He sees how each behaves with the other, particularly in conflict about differences they can’t seem to resolve on their own. Sometimes extended family involvement plays a role, especially in those families from certain cultures. His job as a counselor is not only to bridge those differences, but to help each individual actually hear and see their partner with fresh eyes and ears.
Couples may struggle with trying to accommodate the expectations of relationship and family while trying to meet their own needs. This can result in alienation, endless fighting, depression or an affair. It takes only one partner to say this self- and couple-defeating behavior must stop. When the couple cannot agree to counseling together, one partner can often impact the impasse between them by coming in alone. Couple’s therapy with one partner is possible as a leverage for change.