7 Reasons You Should Do Premarital Counseling

 
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These days, planning for a wedding is a big deal, and the amount of money that goes into a the big day can be quite a lot! While many couples make it a priority to spend money on engagement parties, great food, flowers, music, a fancy Austin wedding venue, and more, they often overlook premarital counseling. It’s not really thought of as a necessary wedding planning expense.

It’s funny... the whole reason you’re having a wedding in the first place is because of your relationship. You love each other, have committed to one another, and plan to spend your lives together. Above all else, the relationship is the most important piece. Yet, it gets overshadowed by all of the other tasks that come along with wedding planning.

If you want a long-lasting marriage, premarital counseling is a reasonable and essential wedding planning expense. “Attend premarital counseling” really is a box that needs to be checked on that long list of wedding planning tasks. But instead of thinking of it as a task like all the rest, you can think of it as an invaluable experience where you’ll each learn how to help keep your relationship strong through the ups and downs of life.

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Why You Should Invest in Your Relationship With Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling helps couples prepare for marriage and gives you a better chance of having a strong, healthy relationship. Here are 7 good reasons you should consider attending premarital counseling before the big day!

1. Lay out marriage expectations

  • Premarital counseling can help you get realistic about marital expectations. Most people have different ideas about what marriage, family, and life together will be like. Talking about what each of you expects out of your marriage can help you check some of those expectations that aren’t so realistic and figure out where certain expectations are mismatched.

2. Learn communication skills

  • You may be going into your marriage believing that your partner will know exactly how to meet all of your needs, or that if you really love each other, you’ll always get along. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a reason that one of the most common issues couples attend marriage counseling for is communication problems. Most of us don’t have great communication skills when it comes to relationships. Instead of feeling like you’re speaking two different languages, you can learn effective communication skills to help you communicate assertively about your needs, expectations, and feelings, as well as learn to truly listen to one another and compromise during conflict. Learning this early in your marriage can save you from communication struggles down the road.

3. Increase your understanding of one another

  • Through guided premarital counseling exercises, you can learn about each of your similarities and differences. You’ll be able to anticipate areas where you may struggle due to these differences, as well as celebrate and appreciate differences in personality, values, or preferences. Having this understanding of one another is also an essential part of working through conflict.

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4. Get on the same page

  • One of the best things about premarital counseling is the fact that you’re each presented with the same information and you’re learning the same things. Being on the same page with expectations, communication, and managing conflict gives you a common language. Implementing new ways of interacting in your relationship is much easier if your partner is on board as well!

5. Identify your relationship strengths

  • When people think of any kind of counseling or therapy, they often think of it as something you do when things are going wrong. Premarital counseling is a little different. Many engaged couples have really strong relationships. In addition to knowing what areas you need to work on, it’s good to recognize your relationship strengths too. Especially when times get tough, your strengths are areas to fall back on to help you get through the hard times.

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6. Discover new things about your partner

  • In general, it’s just fun to learn new things about one another. It’s always great to be surprised about something, even after years of being together. Being curious and paying attention to your partner’s likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams helps your partner feel truly known by you. In the long run, knowing all the little things about your partner gives you the ability to treat your partner well and increases intimacy in your relationship.

7. Increase your chances of a long-lasting, happy marriage

  • For first-time marriages, research shows that about half of marriages will end in divorce. Even for those couples who don’t get divorced, many couples end up staying in unhappy marriages. You don’t want to just make it through, you want your marriage to thrive. By doing premarital work, you’re lowering your risk of divorce and setting your marriage up for success. In fact, couples who participate in premarital education report, on average, a 30% stronger marriage.

Don’t make the mistake of planning only for the wedding day, but prepare for a long-lasting, fulfilling marriage as well.


Getting married soon?

Schedule a premarital counseling appointment with Hannah today!


 

What Does It Mean to Be Relational? | Naming Our Counseling Practice

 
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Austin Relational Wellness

We chose to include the word relational in the name of our practice because it’s the cornerstone of the work we do. But what does it mean to be relational? How do you know if you’re relationally well?


re·la·tion·al

rəˈlāSH(ə)n(ə)l/

adjective

1. concerning the way in which two or more people or things are connected


What it means to be relational

Being relational means acknowledging the interconnectedness of human nature and the important role that relationships play in our lives. We believe that humans are meant to connect with others on an interpersonal and emotional level and that strong, fulfilling relationships help people maintain emotional well-being.

It can be a challenge, as American culture pushes individuality and self-reliance. While individuality is important, it’s also important for people to have healthy connections and relationships. In our culture, this can often be overlooked.

Being relational is all about connection and how we relate to others in relationship. When we speak of being relational or in relationships, it’s oftentimes assumed that we mean romantic partnerships, but this is not the case. Being relational isn’t limited to the more intimate relationships in our lives, like romantic partners, family, children and friends, but all of humankind. It’s recognizing our interconnected nature and our relationships with ourselves, others or a higher power.

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It’s important to make self-exploration and self-improvement a priority because it impacts, not only your own life, but also the people you interact with. Through self-awareness, we learn to understand ourselves better, understand other people better, and in turn, our relationships improve. We can ask… “Who are we? Why do we act the way we do? How are we in the world? How can we understand ourselves and others better so our relationships can improve?”

A relational approach to counseling

In our therapy practice, being relational is considering a client in relation to the people in their life. A relational approach to counseling means exploring client relationship patterns, both inside and outside of the therapy room. We don’t exist in a vacuum. As counselors, we seek to understand the entire system or world of a client throughout the therapy process.

We believe that we’re all heavily influenced by past experiences and hurts, which can cause us to disconnect. In fact, when someone is coming to therapy, the issue often has something to do with strains in relationships or even a lack of relationships. We look at these past experiences and relational patterns to understand how they shape how we act.

When it comes to counseling couples, a relational approach seems more obvious. With couples, we work directly with the relationship in the room. We’re passionate about helping couples improve their most intimate relationships and achieve “relational wellness” in their romantic partnerships.

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We also place high importance on the relationship between the client and therapist. What happens between the therapist and client is an important part of the process. Remember how we said, “strong, fulfilling relationships help people maintain emotional well-being?” The same applies to the client-counselor relationship. Good therapy requires a solid relationship in the therapy room.


What it means to be relationally well

  • Connection

  • Knowing what you need

  • Being able to verbalize what you need

  • Healthy relationships

  • Self-compassion

  • Compassion toward others

  • Learning how to interact with others

  • Self-awareness in relationships

  • Addressing conflict or hurt that comes up


To be relationally well is to be connected in healthy relationships, to understand and ask for what you need, and to have awareness and compassion toward yourself and others. Austin Relational Wellness is an Austin counseling practice committed to helping you live your best and most fulfilling life, and we believe that human connection is at the root of it all.

 

How to Talk So Your Partner Will Listen | Tips from an Austin Couples Therapist

 
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While there are many aspects at play that contribute to having an effective discussion during conflict, one of the most important is the way the discussion starts. Many times, when two people are in conflict, it’s not a discussion at all… it’s an argument… a fight. One of the reasons a fight breaks out is because of the way the topic is brought up in the first place.

How it Usually Goes

Think about it, when you’re upset with your partner or have a complaint about something, how do you typically tell them? I mean, some of the phrases I’ve definitely thrown out there in the past sounded something like this…

  • “You never do the dishes! It’s always my responsibility.”
  • “There you go again, just doing your own thing. You don’t even care about spending time with me. You’re so selfish.”
  • “I can’t believe you. You’re so lazy, just lying on the couch while I’m cleaning the house.”

Sound familiar? Trust me... I’m not proud.

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When you begin conversations with criticism, blame your partner for something, or come at them with feelings of disgust or contempt, they’re most likely going to be defensive. They’ll probably feel attacked and feel the need to protect themselves. On the flip-side, when your partner comes at you this way, do you go into defense mode too? It’s only natural that you would.

According to John and Julie Gottman, renowned therapists and relationship researchers, one of the keys to changing these interactions from fights to productive discussions is in the start-up. In fact, through their research, the Gottmans have found that 96% of the time the outcome of a conversation can be predicted based on the first 3 minutes.

My complaint start-up examples above are called harsh start-ups. They begin harshly and are focused on the other person’s behavior or character. They set the discussion up for failure from the get-go and destroy any opportunity for the complainant to be truly heard and understood. Though you may have a valid complaint and may even eventually get what you want, your partner is really unable to actually listen to you with understanding because they’re left feeling threatened by the harsh comments. No conversation ever ends well when you come in with guns blazing.

The Alternative

So, how can you bring up a complaint or tell your partner you want them to do something differently in a way that sets you both up for success?

The Gottmans call this more effective approach a soft start-up. With a soft start-up, you’re essentially easing into the complaint, so you’re not making your partner feel the need to defend him or herself. In a nutshell, you’re kind of doing the opposite of what many of us do in the responses above.

The Soft Start-up

  • Refrain from blaming, criticising, or focusing on the parts of your partner you think of as flawed
  • Use statements that begin with “I,” rather than “you,” to express how you feel
    • Example: “I feel like I’m not being considered when…” vs. “You don’t care about me.”
  • Discuss one specific event or topic
  • State a positive need
    • A positive need is something your partner can actually do to help meet your need.
      • Stating a positive need sets your partner up for success. By making an actionable request, you’re handing them the tools so that they know how to be a really good partner and better meet your needs in the relationship.
    • A negative need is something that you don’t want from your partner.
      • Stating a negative need leaves your partner without a clear direction. They only know what not to do, rather than what to do.
    • Example:
      • Positive need: “I need you to turn to look at me when I’m speaking and to let me completely finish speaking before you start talking.”
      • Negative need: “I need you to stop talking over me.”

Just like in the harsh start-up examples, you’re expressing a complaint, something you want to see different, or a desire of some kind. The difference is, you’re doing it in a way that makes your need and your feelings about the matter apparent without tearing your partner down in the process.

To even formulate a complaint like this, you have to take a second to think about what you feel and need in the first place, and you have to be intentional with your words. You have to slow down instead of immediately saying whatever pops into your mind during that first moment of hurt or frustration.

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Harsh Start-ups vs. Soft Start-ups

  • Harsh Start-up: “You never do the dishes! It’s always my responsibility.”
  • Soft Start-up: “I feel frustrated about the fact that I’ve been doing the dishes a lot lately. I’d really appreciate it if you could do them tonight.”

 

  • Harsh Start-up: “There you go again, just doing your own thing. You don’t even care about spending time with me. You’re so selfish.”
  • Soft Start-up: “I’d really like to plan a date soon or plan some time to connect. It seems like we haven’t spent much time together lately, and I’m feeling neglected.”

 

  • Harsh Start-up: “You’re so lazy, just lying on the couch while I’m cleaning the house. You don’t even care about having a nice place.”
  • Soft Start-up: “I know you’re tired after having worked all day, but I feel overwhelmed with doing housework alone. Can we agree on a time when you’ll help me clean up today?”

If this way of communicating is different for you, it’s worth taking some time to talk to your partner about trying something new. Obviously, in order for your complaint to be discussed, rather than argued about, your partner will need to try to be understanding and receptive to your request or need. If you’re both on the same page, it makes things a little easier. You can ask them to try to be gentle and understanding as you each try out using soft start-ups. This simple step won’t fix everything about the way you fight, but it is a small step in the right direction.

If your relationship could use some extra help with communication and conflict management, consider contacting an Austin Couples Therapist. Submit a form for a free 15-minute phone consultation with me today at Austin Relational Wellness.


-Hannah


 

4 Austin Date Ideas to Improve your Marriage

 
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Relationships are work. If you want a good one, it takes maintenance.

To have a strong, sound relationship, you need to make sure you’re taking time to spend time with one another on a regular basis. Spending time together as a couple doesn’t mean just being in the same space at the same time, but actually connecting and enjoying one another. One way to do this is to carve out time to go on regular dates. As couples therapists, we typically suggest a weekly date to our counseling clients.

Obviously, the concept of dates being good for relationships isn’t anything groundbreaking. But how many of you actually plan and go on dates regularly? And I don’t mean just going out randomly to lunch because you don’t have anything at the house. I mean actually planning an outing and calling it a date. Many of us start out our relationships with regular dates, but somehow, with all of the busyness in our day-to-day lives, it just gets forgotten. It gets pushed to the back burner.

You’re relationship is important. Building your marriage or couplehood is worth setting aside time. It’s worth nurturing and making a priority.

How to make the most of your dates

The next time you think about planning a date for you and your partner, think about what type of connection your relationship really needs at the moment. Do you need to take some time to get away to talk about life stressors or future plans? Do you need to cut loose and just have fun together? Do you need to challenge yourselves and do an activity to get out of your comfort zones?

Then, consider how the environment and atmosphere affects that need. In what ways can you connect with one another in the space you’re going to for your date? If you need time to talk, will you be able to hear one another in the space or will it be too loud? If you need to focus on one another because you haven’t had much time together lately, will the TVs on the wall be a distraction? If you need to loosen up, will you be able to chill out and just have a good time?

Need some Austin date ideas?

The White Horse

  • Good if you need: Physical affection, to have fun, and to work together

  • Atmosphere: It’s a good ole fashioned honky tonk… loud, music filled, and might get a little rowdy

  • Favorites: Free dance lessons + the fact that you can have a good time while also practicing or learning something new together

Twisted X Brewing Co.

  • Good if you need: Time to talk, a relaxed environment, and to breathe some fresh air

  • Atmosphere: Open-air, back porch vibes

  • Favorites: Their seasonal brews, great food truck, and live music

Justine’s Brasserie

  • Good if you need: To slow down, a space to talk to one another, and some romance

  • Atmosphere: Eclectic, vintage, and romantic

  • Favorites: The laid back atmosphere, no rush service, and good food (especially the fries!)

Butler Park Pitch & Putt

  • Good if you need: To get outside, to take it easy on your budget, and to get some exercise

  • Atmosphere: Relaxed, judgement-free zone (no one cares about your golf skills!)

  • Favorites: Bringing along your own cooler, laughing at bad shots, and the fact that you only need two clubs since it’s a Par 3 course


-Hannah


 

4 Podcasts I'm Loving Right Now

 
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Real life, I love a good podcast. Something to know about me is that I’m not a huge TV or movie watcher. Let me clarify by letting you know that I don’t say this to be one of those holier- than-thou-I-don’t-even-own-a-TV-I’m-above-that-noise type of person. Actually, I wish I enjoyed it more! A few shows catch my attention, but I have a hard time sitting still for long, which makes investing in a season somewhat of a challenge. And then there are podcasts, which only require my ears to listen and have a similar entertainment factor as TV does. I can drive, do dishes, do chores or workout while I listen. A multitasker’s dream.

Here are a few podcasts I’m loving right now!

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Conscious Construction

https://www.abirobinsyoga.com/consciousconstruction/

I’m such a fan of this newish podcast hosted by Austin Yoga Therapist, Abi Robins. Abi is just a force, a very special one at that! We connected last year because of our mutual love for the Enneagram and even decided to pair up to host the South Austin Enneagram Meetup. This podcast dives into the world of yoga, the Enneagram, relationships, spirituality and personal growth. Each episode is almost like a mini therapy session and very thought provoking. Abi interviews some really awesome people and hits on important topics for personal growth. She’s also just a super fun person, and I love feeling like I get to hang out with her each week through listening to Conscious Construction.

Start with these episodes:

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The Enneagram Journey

https://www.theenneagramjourney.org/podcast/

Suzanne Stabile is a spirited Enneagram teacher who has authored two great books, The Road Back you You, and her latest, The Path Between Us. Suzanne is a gifted teacher, and her podcast can help you understand the Enneagram better. Some episodes are a panel of Enneagram teachers talking about various Enneagram topics and others are Suzanne interviewing people on their Enneagram Type. This podcast is best for someone who already is familiar with the Enneagram. I wrote a post on how to get started over here:

Start with:

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For the Love

http://jenhatmaker.com/podcast.htm

This podcast is just a lot of fun. Jen Hatmaker is bubbly, honest and just doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her podcast features a mini-series on different topics such as girlfriends, food, laughter, holidays and faith. If you’re looking for an easy listen, this podcast is for you. You must listen to the Brené Brown episode, and of course, there is an Enneagram episode wedged in there. Check out the episodes below to get started.

A few to start with:

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Armchair Expert

https://armchairexpertpod.com/

I'm just starting this podcast after it was recommended to me by a friend. It’s hosted by Dax Shepard, who I’m mainly a fan of because he and his wife, Kristen Bell, are big proponents of mental health issues and couples therapy. The couple is refreshingly honest about their own struggles and how much marriage counseling has helped their relationship. The podcast features guests talking about the messiness that is life. I mean, the first episode is Ellen DeGeneres. Sign me up!


-Cat


 

Meet The Counselors | Austin Relational Wellness

 
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Meet Colleen

Colleen is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Spiritual Director, and owner of Austin Relational Wellness, a group practice of counselors in Austin, Texas. She provides individual counseling and spiritual direction for adults and also leads spiritual direction groups, Enneagram workshops, and women’s retreats.

The first thing you’ll notice about Colleen is her authentic, enthusiastic presence. Colleen brings her bright personality into each counseling session, where she is outgoing, warm, and has the unique ability to help people feel comfortable from the start. She genuinely cares about each individual therapy and spiritual direction client she works with. She listens with empathy and acceptance and creates a safe space for people to talk through life difficulties. Colleen combines all of her strengths to create an atmosphere where the therapeutic relationship between client and counselor can flourish.

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Colleen’s Counseling Services at Austin Relational Wellness

Colleen offers individual counseling for adults and specializes in working with those struggling with a life transition. She is especially skilled at helping therapy clients work through grief and loss, and she has an incredible ability to hold space for her clients to help them navigate all the difficult emotions that come from different types of loss. Helping clients understand that they are cared for, normalizing their experience of the negative emotions associated with loss, and guiding them toward their own ability to handle the tough experience they are going through is an important part of Colleen’s work.

In addition to her individual counseling work, Colleen is passionate about helping people discover their own versions of spirituality through her spiritual direction services. She works with those who are questioning their beliefs or wanting to deepen their relationships with the Divine, Higher Power, or God. Regardless of clients’ spiritual or religious backgrounds, Colleen works to understand and guide her clients toward greater understanding of the ways spirituality works in their lives. She helps people incorporate spirituality on a practical level by figuring out the role that spirituality plays in their lives, exploring ways to integrate spiritual practices on daily basis, and viewing important decisions and life changes through the lens of spirituality. On a deeper level, spiritual direction helps people explore and interpret their experiences of their Higher Power, spiritually heal from past wounds and hurts, discover their unique purpose or calling, and become who they were truly designed to be.

Recently, Colleen has been putting together Enneagram workshops to help spread the Enneagram to the Austin community and is also in the process of developing a women’s retreat. Stay tuned for more information on these services!

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Outside the Counseling Room

Colleen’s strongly values family, friends, good communication, and fun. Her commitment to these values shows up in her work with clients, as well as in her personal life. Some of the activities she enjoys are reading, scuba diving, grandparenting, and traveling. Colleen likes to spend her free time hanging out with her family, having a good time with friends, going to the latest movies, and catching up on all things Netflix.


Connect with Colleen here!


 

Meet The Counselors | Austin Relational Wellness

 
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Meet Hannah

Hannah is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate supervised by Tammy Fisher, LMFT-S, LPC-S. She provides counseling for couples and young adults and also facilitates Enneagram workshops and marriage retreats at Austin Relational Wellness.

The first thing you’ll notice about Hannah is her grounded, genuine presence. Hannah’s counseling style is conversational, transparent, and relaxed. She has a playful sense of humor, which is something she often brings into the therapy room. She believes that, though therapy is a difficult process, it shouldn’t have to be so serious all the time. She uses her calm demeanor to gently challenge her clients to think about things differently. Hannah’s sense of humor, calm demeanor, and clinical skills help her clients move from a place of feeling fearful about the process of therapy to a place of comfortability and growth.

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Hannah’s Counseling Services at Austin Relational Wellness

Hannah offers weekly counseling at our South Austin office for couples who want to experience more fulfilling lives with stronger relationships. She works with couples who are committed to one another and have a strong foundation but want to have a deeper connection. Couples that come to her for therapy are typically feeling disconnected from one another on some level, whether it’s because they’re having frequent arguments and talking problems in circles or because they’re feeling emotionally disconnected and struggling to find a more meaningful relationship. Hannah also works with premarital couples to help establish this connection and prevent future disconnection prior to marriage. She uses Gottman Method Couples Therapy to help couples learn to effectively talk to one another about their issues, create more meaningful time together, strengthen their bond, and begin to know one another on a deeper level.

In addition to her work with couples, Hannah also offers weekly therapy for individuals. She works with young adults who are going through tough life transitions and tend to be really hard on themselves. She helps people who are worried they’re not measuring up to certain expectations, feeling a sense of stuckness, or holding themselves back because of painful emotions. By creating a safe space, her individual counseling clients feel truly heard and understood. She works to help her clients become aware of their emotional and thought processes, relational patterns, and unique strengths to help them recognize their true potential and get in touch with their best selves. One of the ways Hannah helps people connect to who they truly are is through exploration of the Enneagram of personality, a personality typing system that sheds light on different patterns of being. She enjoys integrating this tool into her work with clients.

Hannah also co-facilitates the Creating Connection Couples Retreat, a space for Austin couples to get away from their busy lives for a day to focus on forming a stronger bond, learning about one another’s needs in the relationship, and working on valuable communication skills. The retreat can be an alternative or a supplement to Austin marriage counseling for couples who feel like they have a good foundation but could just use a little relationship pick-me-up. Held in South Austin in a beautiful Hill Country setting, couples who attend will enjoy complimentary beverages, great food, and a group couples massage lesson from a local licensed massage therapist. Austin Relational Wellness is pleased to be able to offer this couples retreat to the community and offers a few special perks to premarital couples who attend.

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Outside the Therapy Room

Hannah’s most important values are those of growth and family. This is apparent in her work but also in her personal life. She’s really into the Enneagram and is currently enjoying several Enneagram podcasts that help her with applying this tool to her own life. Hannah enjoys spending time doing anything creative, is consistently finding new recipes to try out, loves exploring the Austin brewery and winery scene, and enjoys going out to listen to live music. She spends most of her free time with close friends, family, and her husky, Mika.


Connect with Hannah here!


 

Meet The Counselors | Austin Relational Wellness

 
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Meet Cat

Cat is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate supervised by Tammy Fisher, LMFT-S, LPC-S. She provides counseling for young adults and teens, as well as couples counseling, at Austin Relational Wellness.

The first thing you’ll notice about Cat is the passionate energy she has about her role as a therapist. She’s warm and non-judgmental, which makes the fear-provoking experience of meeting with a counselor more enjoyable. Cat makes her therapy clients feel at ease with her open and genuine personality. Her ability to make her clients feel comfortable helps when working through tough life challenges in the therapy room. She’s passionate about building community and helping people live their best, most authentic lives.

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Cat’s Counseling Services at Austin Relational Wellness

Cat offers weekly counseling at our South Austin office for people who feel stuck and hopeless no matter what they try. She helps people who have talked a problem in circles and still feel like things will never change or get better. Cat offers a space for healing when clients are worn out from carrying around this stress and are just plain tired of doing it all alone. She works by helping her counseling clients become aware of their own motivations, coping skills, and relationship patterns to get people out of that stuck place so they can start feeling more fulfilled.

One of the ways Cat helps her clients in therapy is by using the Enneagram of personality. The Enneagram is a powerful and dynamic personality system, describing nine distinct and fundamentally different personality types. The nine types have different patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting. As you discover your personality type and how it colors your view of the world, you’ll also discover what motivates you, your coping strategies, and keys to personal development. The Enneagram aides in development of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and compassion for others. It helps people in their relationships and on their personal journeys.

In addition to individual counseling, Cat also offers couples counseling for young adults and premarital counseling. She uses the Gottman Couples Therapy Method to help couples reconnect through rebuilding friendship and intimacy, while managing conflict. Cat strongly believes in the power of a healthy, loving relationship and strives to help couples feel better together.

Speaking of healthy relationships, Cat is one of the leaders of the Creating Connection Couples Retreat. This retreat is a great opportunity for couples who just need to pause and reconnect, as well as premarital couples. Held in a retreat-like setting in the South Austin Hill Country, with treats and delicious food, it's a chance for couples to reconnect with intention and grow their love

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Outside the Therapy Room

Community is an extremely important value to Cat, both in her career as a counselor and in her personal life. She has a strong need to connect with others and a firm belief that things turn out better when we support one another and work together. In her free time, Cat enjoys Melody DanceFit, finds crossword puzzles relaxing, and loves a good bluegrass band.


Did something here resonate with you? Connect with Cat! Reach out to her for a phone free consultation. Evening appointments are available.


 

Don’t Have Time for Marriage Counseling? Check Out This Austin Couples Retreat

 
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We recognize that, in Austin, marriage counseling can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Whether it’s due to mismatched schedules, an inability to make appointments at certain times because of Austin traffic (ugh!), or financial strain, working on your relationship in couples therapy may not be an option for you and your partner. While there’s certainly great value in attending weekly sessions with a therapist as a couple, there are other ways to help strengthen your relationship or marriage, such as couples workshops or marriage retreats.

Coming up in May, Austin Relational Wellness is holding the Creating Connection Couples Retreat. The retreat is held on a Saturday in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Just a short drive outside the city to southwest Austin, you’ll find the Bluff Trail House, a comfy, inviting space where our retreats are held. Throughout the day, you’ll be able to enjoy the grounds, dine on delicious food and snacks, and sip on ice cold beverages.

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What happens at the couples retreat?

We’ll begin our day with a light breakfast and coffee as we introduce ourselves, give you a chance to get to know one another a bit, and set our intentions for the day. Then we’ll jump into a bit of teaching and help you get a sense of where you currently are in your relationship and where you’d like to be as a couple. Next, we’ll teach you about a concept surrounding certain needs we all have in relationships. We’ll help you figure out your own needs, as well as your partner’s.

During our break for lunch, you’ll have a chance to connect with your partner alone as you enjoy the grounds during a couples picnic. After lunch, we’ll dive into the relational needs a little deeper and do some activities to help you get a better understanding of what these look like for each of you.

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Because every relationship has conflict, the next part of our day will focus on conflict resolution. You’ll assess your current conflict style, and we’ll teach you some evidence-based techniques to help with communicating during conflict.

Something we’re excited to offer is a couples massage lesson. This portion of the day gets you out of your head and connected with your partner to increase closeness and affection. Our licensed massage therapist will give a group lesson on basic massage techniques that you can use to help meet your partner’s needs. Comfy clothes are a must for this part of our day!

We’ll wrap up by focusing on your vision for the future of your relationship. By creating this plan, you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your relationship going forward. You’ll also take some time to express appreciation to your partner one-on-one before we end the day.

If you’re looking for an alternative to Austin marriage counseling, our couples retreat is an option worth considering. You can find out more information and reserve your spot for our next retreat here.


-Hannah & Cat


 

The Valentine's Gift That Keeps On Giving

 
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In our therapy practice, we believe humans are hardwired to connect with others. Just as we need air to breathe oxygen into our lungs, food to nourish us, and water to keep our bodies functioning, we also require certain emotional needs to be fulfilled. We refer to these as relational needs, and they are met through relationships and social connectedness. One of the relational needs is affection, which is expressing care and closeness through physical touch and words such as “I love you” or “I care about you” (Ferguson, Ferguson, Thurman & Thurman, 1994).

This relational need is especially important in romantic partnerships, as a lack of affection is a total relationship killer. I love to teach my couples counseling clients about the relational needs and help them discover specifically how they need to be met. One way I do this with couples in therapy is by helping them discuss and clearly define how they like to experience affection. Traditionally, affection gets lost in the idea of mushy-gushy love or sex, but I’m continually surprised by the various ways my therapy clients like to feel affection.

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For many, affection is met through physical touch like hugs, kisses, holding hands, or sitting close. It might also be placing your hand on your partner’s knee while driving, a touch on their shoulder as you’re passing by, or a back rub after a stressful day. These little signs of affection help you feel closer to your partner and have a huge payoff.

The more obvious way to show affection is through touch, but affection does not have to be physical. It is ultimately about showing warmth and tenderness toward someone you care about. Someone with a high affection need would likely appreciate being greeted when they walk in the door with a warm smile or a hug and a kiss. Working as a couple to establish a ritual of how you greet and leave one another can be an anchor for affection in a relationship.

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Additionally, affection can be expressed by sharing how much you care for your partner through words. Saying “I love you” or “You mean so much to me” is an important way to show your partner you care. Looking for more ways to show affection through words? One way is by letting them know they look good! Paying someone a genuine compliment can be meaningful, especially when you’re comfortable in the relationship. But it’s not all about looks. Share with your partner what you admire about them. If you’re not the verbally affectionate type, write them a note! Leaving a surprise message just for them can also show you care.

It doesn't always have to be grand, actually that would be exhausting. It’s the small things which, according to Pamela Regan, Ph.D. in an article for Psychology Today, are just as important, and sometimes even more important than the big things, as they "represent very important attempts by our partners to establish intimacy and to connect with us emotionally."


How is affection showing up in your relationship? Use the questions below to help you and your partner discuss what you both need.

Grab your partner and take turns asking and answering one another the questions below. Have a piece of paper handy so you can write down what they say. Make sure to switch so they write when you share.

  • “How do you like to have your affection need met?”
  • Give specifics!
  • Try to come up with at least three specific ways your partner can meet your affection need.
  • Ex: “A goodnight kiss and to say, “I love you,” before we go to sleep.”
  • “It means a lot to me when you _______.”
  • Let them know the things they are already doing that you love.
  • Ex: “It means a lot to me when you text me just to say you love me while I’m at work.”
  • “It would be meaningful for me to feel more _______.”
  • Decide on one way you would like to see more affection from your partner.
  • Ex: “It would be meaningful for me to hear from you when you think I look nice.”
  • Tip: Using this sentence stem works a whole lot better than, “Why don’t you ever compliment me?”

-Cat


Ferguson. D.L., Ferguson, T., Thurman, C., & Thurman, H. (1994). Intimate Encounters: a practical guide to discovering the secrets to a really great marriage. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.