Couples Counseling

Couples, whether heterosexual or LGBTQ, often seek therapy because they’ve become stuck in a negative cycle that may involve arguing, withdrawing, communication problems, or sexual issues. You may also be struggling with feelings of betrayal or difficulty with trust.

Working together, I can help you strengthen your relationship, including improving communication, increasing sexual intimacy, healing from an affair, exploring commitment issues, and resolving other problems. I also provide premarital counseling.

Clients have told me that they appreciate my warm, non-judgmental, and collaborative approach to couples therapy.

“How do we begin couples counseling?” To begin the process, you’ll first meet with me as a couple for a 75-minute session, and then each of you will have a 45-minute individual session with me. After that, we’ll meet weekly for 75-minute couples sessions.

You’ll leave each session with home assignments to help you continue working on your relationship. I also may suggest books, videos, or other resources.

“How long does couples counseling take?” It depends on the issues you’re facing, the length of time you’ve been experiencing them, and the quality of your relationship when it was at its best.

If you or your partner isn’t sure whether you want to make a commitment to working on your relationship, I may suggest Discernment Counseling (see below).

Some couples who already have good relationships seek short-term counseling to help deepen their relationship or to strengthen a specific area, such as communication or sex.

“I want to do couples counseling, but my partner is thinking about leaving.” If one or both or you isn’t sure whether to end the relationship or to commit to working on it through couples counseling, I can help you decide. We’ll engage in a short-term process (maximum of 5 sessions) called Discernment Counseling that will help each of you gain greater clarity and confidence about which path to take moving forward.

I also provide relationship therapy to individuals whose partners won’t do couples counseling or who have recently ended a relationship.

“What couples counseling approaches do you use?” It depends on the relationship issues you’re experiencing. I generally use Imago Relationship Therapy, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), Gottman Relationship Therapy, and Existential Couples Therapy because I’ve found that they’re the most successful approaches to healing relationships, increasing emotional and sexual intimacy, and improving communication.

I also use approaches developed by Joe Kort (LGBTQ affirmative therapy), Emily Nagoski (sexual intimacy), David Schnarch (sexual intimacy), Tammy Nelson (sexual intimacy), Wendy Maltz (trauma and sexual intimacy), and William Doherty (discernment counseling).

EFT has been endorsed by the American Psychological Association as effective, and more than 20 years of research validates the approach. Studies have shown that EFT has a high success rate: approximately 90% of couples show significant improvement.

“Do you provide premarital counseling?” Yes. If you and your partner are planning to marry or enter a committed relationship, I can help you get off to a strong start. In one to three 75-minute sessions, we’ll explore core areas that contribute to a successful marriage.

“Can you help us with sexual problems?” Yes, as a sex therapist, I can help you with a range of issues. I’ll provide information, suggest strategies and at-home exercises, and will guide you in finding solutions so that your sex life and relationship are more satisfying.

It’s my job to help you feel comfortable, safe, and respected while exploring these issues. There are no exams, no nudity, and no sexual touching in the therapy room.

“We don’t have a monogamous relationship.” I’m experienced working with folks who have open, polyamorous, and other types of consensually non-monogamous relationships, as well as couples who are considering opening their relationship. What’s important is to clearly define and agree on the terms of your relationship. I can help you explore this and gain clarity.

Lisa Smith Psychotherapy, 202.540.8244, smithpsychotherapy@gmail.com, 1801 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009 (Dupont Circle Metro)