The Doctor's In!

Dr. Greg explains why he saw Tamara individually during couple therapy.

on Apr 16, 2013

Couple therapy is very different than individual therapy in that you are treating the relationship primarily rather than just two individuals. That is why it was such a problem that in the second "couple therapy" session, Steven did not come to the second session with Tamara. At this point, I had two choices: see Tamara alone or send her away.

I did see her, but before I did, I informed her the research literature has shown that one-partner “couple therapy” may result in a negative outcome for the couple (Wilcoxon & Fenell, 1983). Understanding the possible impact, she agreed to stay and to focus on her specifically and tried to leave Steven out of it as much as possible. 

As a result we uncovered her issues with desire for respect and being liked. I explained the often inverse relationship with the two -- that someone who is highly respected is not always liked, and someone is well-liked is not always respected. Sometimes what gets you liked by others can also diminish their respect for you, and vise-versa.

What also became apparent was the use of the animals in the relationship to cut the tension between the two. Couples often do this with animals, but also use other means such as television, alcohol, or even their own children to help them avoid any tension. A little is OK, but too much can drive a wedge in the relationship. In the third session, Tamara brings her cat to the session -- an act I labeled as "passive-aggressive." 

A passive-aggressive act is typically an aggressive act done in some non-assertive manner. Here the aggressive act is that Tamara brings her cat (Kozy Mel) to the third session even though I asked her to come "without Jimmy Chew [the dog], without any animals." Then she claims she thought it only applied to Jimmy Chew. Passive-aggressive acts are typical when people feel powerless in a relationship; yet wish to express their power and/or anger in a situation.