Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB) has seen an increase in couples therapy. Managing families during this time has created a heavy burden of stress, especially in families with children.
One or both parents were forced to work from home and manage remote learning for children. People lost jobs or had to leave their jobs to care for children, creating financial hardship.
Increased exposure to social media and 24/7 news has only added to this stress, while disagreements about pandemic-related topics such as vaccines and masking have strained many relationships. The pandemic has also been a time of reflection as people have reevaluated what they want from life and what they will and will not tolerate moving forward.
None of this even accounts for the stress of having a loved one get sick or die from the virus.
Needless to say, many couples are facing multiple challenges in their relationships, leading to increased demand for couples therapy.
How Couples Therapy Helps
“Our clinicians have experience working with virtually every population and couples therapy is no different,” said Staela Keegan, MSW (Master of Social Work), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), LCADC (Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor), and Clinical Director at NFSB. “Part of the problem during the pandemic has been that behavioral coping techniques like going to the gym, shopping, and spending time with friends have been unavailable. Couples have been isolated and now need to learn more internal, cognitive coping skills. The pandemic has caused new relationship problems and pre-existing issues have escalated.”
For example, extended periods of time at home together have highlighted previously unseen differences in parenting. Couples don’t always agree on parenting styles and need to learn how to work together to present a united front to their children.
What’s the right time to go to bed? What is the appropriate type and amount of discipline? How much time should children be able to spend with technology? How should they be using technology? Conflicting or inconsistent answers can lead to relationship issues for parents and confusion for children.
Couples Therapy Techniques
There are dozens of approaches that our clinicians can incorporate into couples therapy, from traditional methods to more modern, highly specialized treatment techniques.
How a parent communicates, processes emotions, and disciplines children is often based on their family of origin. People typically come into relationships with a preconceived notion of love and parenting that was learned early in childhood. Also, feelings of neglect or abandonment from childhood often resurface in adults’ behaviors.
Family of origin issues often need to be discussed to resolve relationship and family issues. For example, Imago relationship therapy focuses on transforming conflict into healing by helping partners understand each other’s feelings and childhood experiences.
“Our clinicians always tell clients to think about what was said to them before responding,” Staela said. “Then begin the response with ‘what I hear you saying is.’ Imago therapy validates what the client’s partner said and shows empathy instead of placing blame. This leads to a more productive interaction that can resolve conflict and heal childhood wounds that are carried into the relationship.”
Several NFSB clinicians specialize in art therapy, a more specialized form of treatment that has produced tremendous results. This type of therapy accesses a different part of the brain to help couples express emotions through drawing, painting, and other artforms. Our clinicians are required to participate in continuing education to stay up to date on recent trends and innovative treatment options.
If you know a couple that has been going through a rough patch or is considering divorce, please refer them to The Center at NFSB for couples therapy. Visit our website or call 973-667-1884.