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For Couples, The Gift of Conversation

Just UsGregory Howard For some couples, Valentine’s Day provides a chance for them to demonstrate their affection through therapy and counseling sessions.

This Feb. 14, while most of America translates love into flowers, you might consider giving your loved one a different sort of gift — a trip to a therapist.

“Couples therapy is a safe space for couples to engage, slow down and gain insight on their challenges and resources,” said Jean Malpas, a licensed marriage and family therapist and faculty member at the Ackerman Institute for the Family on the Upper East Side. “It’s a place to rediscover the wonderful aspects of one’s relationship, things that might otherwise get lost under the noise of the conflict.”

While many consider counseling to be the residue of conflict, it does not have to be used only as a tool of intervention. There are also plenty of people in healthy relationships who have decided to use counseling as a method of developing more successful communication.

“It’s a far-reaching concept, and it certainly includes nonverbal cues,” said Gertraud Stadler, Postdoctoral Research Scientist and a founder of the Columbia Couples Lab, a research center where members of couples and their interactions are studied, especially under stressful conditions. The lab also collaborates with the New York University Couples Lab.

Manner of phrasing — pronunciation, rhythm and tone — are all quiet cues that sometimes go unrecognized. Attempts to communicate can get “lost in translation,” Mr. Malpas said, propagating an unintentionally destructive cycle of reactivity and hurt.
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