Oct 122004
Authors: Jennifer Johnson

For students who may feel their relationship is suffering from

unresolved conflicts and miscommunication, couples therapy may be

the solution.

Couples therapy is offered at the University Counseling Center

to help students focus on issues such as poor communication

patterns, unmet needs, personality conflicts and feelings of under

appreciation in a relationship.

“Students come to couples therapy with as many issues as you can

imagine,” said Steve Ross, clinical psychologist at the University

Counseling Center. “Communication, school and work schedules,

family conflicts and financial issues are just a few.”

Ross said the therapy tends to be educational and

solution-focused, concentrating on strengths and providing

“homework” assignments to practice new ways of communicating,

connecting and sharing tasks.

“Although it is definitely hard to balance a relationship on top

of school and work life, couples therapy can help students figure

out a way to balance their time and make room for the

relationship,” Ross said.

While couples therapy seeks to improve problems occurring in

relationships, some students may attend sessions because they wish

to end a relationship on good terms or resolve relationship issues

to allow them to maintain a friendship.

“Some students may not want to always improve their

relationship, but instead want to come in to help them deal with

feelings of loss and grief that they may endure after a breakup,”

Ross said.

Whatever the case for seeking couples therapy, Ross suggests

couples not wait to come in, even if the problem is minor, because

it is better to work on the issue early on.

Susan Macquiddy, psychologist and training director at the UCC,

said any kind of couple is welcome at couples therapy.

“We see a number of married, unmarried, gay and lesbian

couples,” she said.

Macquiddy said the primary reasons students come to couples

therapy is to either prevent problems before they can occur, or

because of difficulties that are already taking place.

“The therapy sessions are a good way to not only learn about the

relationship, but also yourself as you begin to develop various

skills in order to solve problems effectively,” she said.

Macquiddy feels that aside from inner-relationship conflicts, a

difficult relationship may have negative effects on school, work

and social activities as well.

“Relationships are important to us, so they can cause

distractions in our everyday life, especially if a lot of energy is

spent on solving problems,” she said.

Dominic Brewer, a senior staff counselor at the UCC, believes

graduate students may have the most difficult time when dealing

with school and a problematic relationship.

“I think a lot of problems occur because there is not enough

time allowed for the relationship due to hectic school schedules

and added pressure to spend time with each other makes it harder,”

he said.

Brewer said couples therapy is a good idea because it helps

reconcile any differences and assesses if there is enough love and

commitment left to work through the problem.

“About 99.9 percent of couples want to work on the relationship

and stay together, but if couples cannot seem to connect, breaking

up is usually the outcome,” he said.

All three psychologists contacted at the UCC agree that

communication is key to maintaining and balancing a healthy


“Couples need to realize that in order to prevent problems from

occurring, they need to create time with each other.” Ross said.

“This time together will help maintain a healthy, loving


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