I am currently taking a leave from couples counselling for the foreseeable future. Apologies, I am unable to accept new couples referrals, or offer couples consultations at this time. Revised October 2023.
It is estimated that the average couple endures 6 years of conflict in their relationship before seeking professional help. Many enter the Willow Tree Counselling office on the brink of divorce or separation with doubts that their relationship is salvageable. As a therapist, I enjoy inviting clients into the neutral ground of my office and facilitating helpful dialogue. I bring hope and practical suggestions to the sessions; you bring a desire to learn new skills and make concrete, healthy changes in your relationship.
I utilize Gottman-Method couples counselling. This is a research-based couples therapy approach based on more than 4 decades of studies by psychologists John and Julie Gottman. It is sometimes known as “nuts and bolts” counselling due to its emphasis on practicality.
Gottman-Method therapy emphasizes a thorough assessment phase to precisely target areas for change as well as better understand the strengths of your relationship. Identifying and mobilizing strengths is a key component of achieving meaningful change; relationship counselling needn’t be dour and depressing!
Couples sessions are 50 minutes and are in-person or by secure video through the Jane App. You can expect the following format:
Session 1: Couples attend the first session together. I learn about your history as a couple, we review your reasons for coming to counselling, your expectations for the relationship and your expectations for therapy. At the end of the session, I invite you to complete the Gottman Enhanced Relationship Checkup questionnaires, individually at home. These online questionnaires are not intended to predict the outcome of your relationship, but rather to help us get an in-depth picture of where things are at, including your relationship’s strengths and challenges.
While completing the questionnaires is optional, it is highly recommended, as doing so yields important information about the health of your relationship, seen from multiple angles. Each member of the couple completes the questionnaires separately which take approximately one hour to complete. Results are emailed to Megan once both partners have finished, ideally before session 2.
Session 2: I meet individually with one member of the couple and then the other, for two separate 50-minute sessions. Here I learn more about you each as individuals and your separate perspectives and commitment to the relationship.
Session 3: Feedback session. Based on session 1, 2 and the questionnaires, I help you target areas for change and identify the strengths of your relationship. We review Gottman-Method therapy principles in more depth and how this could frame future therapy sessions. We clarify goals and I share my therapeutic observations. Couples then receive a personalized report of their questionnaire results to reference and review.
Total sessions range in number, depending on the couples’ need, budget, availability and interest. I generally meet with couples every two weeks to begin, although some couples wish to accelerate progress with weekly sessions. As we see improvement in the relationship, we move to once every 3 weeks, then once monthly, once every 3 months and then once or twice a year. The purpose of the yearly session is to ensure that gains are being maintained over the long term.
Sessions will always start by addressing pressing or immediate issues, and through this exploration, interweaving skill-building, both through feedback from me and via exercises targeting the areas for improvement, as identified in the assessment phase. I may do an exercise with you in session and often assign between-session homework. This “continues the therapy” throughout the week and helps maximize the value you are receiving from counselling.
New for 2022, I am now strongly recommending the Gottman Relationship Builder, to help you get the most out of your sessions. The Builder is a 14-module program, containing 94 short videos and 41 exercises, used to reinforce skill development in the areas targeted for improvement in the assessment phase. Some couples also enjoy reviewing modules and doing the corresponding exercises in areas where they are strong, to bolster confidence. I will collaborate with you on a timeline for scheduling the modules, and modules will contain special instructions from me, to customize your at-home practice.
While couples typically derive more benefit from using the Builder as an adjunct to their therapy, some prefer to pursue the program independently once the assessment phase is complete. This latter option tends to work best for couples who are currently not able to participate in ongoing couples counselling, or are preferring to see how far they can take things independently, before returning (or not) to couples sessions. Success with the Builder is dependant, in part, on motivation to work on the relationship and willingness to break old habits and apply new skills.
Many couples, whether they are working with me or not, also choose to download the free Gottman Card Decks app, which offers a myriad or activities, or “decks” that you can do together.
Ongoing client feedback is encouraged to ensure that we are on a therapeutic path that is meeting your needs as a couple and couples have the option of completing their original questionnaires again, later in the course of counselling, as another way of measuring progress.
I work with a variety of couples: queer couples, straight couples and neurodivergent couples (where one or both people are neurodivergent). In addition to couples seeking to salvage or improve their relationship, I also provide separation counselling for couples who are looking to part ways respectfully. I also work with “in-between” couples who are trying to sort out domestic situations where finances are preventing them from separating, separating couples who are seeking co-parenting strategies, or couples who are negotiating a shift from partner to friend or no further contact. I am also able to provide secure video counselling for long distance couples in different locations, providing each person resides in either BC, Ontario, the Yukon or Nunavut.
My couples session rate is the same for individual counselling. Please visit the fees page for general information about my pricing.
There is an additional cost of $39 USD (payable directly to the Gottman Institute) for couples who have chosen to complete the Gottman Enhanced Relationship Check Up questionnaires, plus my fee of $250, to partially cover the time it takes me to review and summarize the questionnaires/session assessment results and develop specific recommendations for you. This fee must be paid before I release the formal report.
For couples who choose to purchase the Gottman Relationship Builder, the cost is $150 USD, payable directly to the Gottman Institute. Couples have lifetime access to the Builder, including all videos and exercises.