Couples counselor that understands women's needs.

Hello.  I am looking for a couples counselor that is not afraid to challenge a man (my partner).  I have noticed that many counselors try so hard to make the man comfortable in therapy that they don't challenge him, and even only address his concerns, and not the woman's.  During our last therapy, my partner acted very calm (not at home) and I tended to do the opposite, finally hoping to be heard.  At home, almost walking on eggshells so that he won't stonewall me, I speak calmly.  When we were in therapy I would desperately try to be understood by our therapist who ended up treating me like I was too 'emotional', and would believe my partner was calm and collected.  So, I ended up often getting invalidated while the therapist took my partner seriously.  I need a counselor that is acquainted with these roles and can see through them.  I'm looking for a therapist that won't invalidate me as emotional, and focus on that, and give a free pass to my seemingly 'rational' partner.  In our therapy I ended up feeling very disempowered while my partner felt heard and justified by the therapist. I guess I'm looking for a couples counselor that is aware of sexism in therapy, and knows how to avoid that.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Generally speaking I think it's worthwhile discussing your concerns with any potential therapist upfront. During the initial conversation /interview with therapists ask how they deal with inequity between spouses in both communication styles and presentation of position, etc. Sounds like your partner is manipulative so maybe bring up that you have felt like in the past sessions that you've been invalidated by his behavior.

Try reaching out to Jessica McGowan. She's probably not for everyone, in terms of her direct approach, and she's definitely not the silent "tell me how your feeling" type. It's interactive, conversational type therapy but I've felt she's fair and not easily duped by manipulative behavior.

Thank you for posting!   You've already helped me.  I thought I was being nuts (aka neurotic) whatever because this is the 2nd therapist (with a 15 year gap in between) who I suspected is entranced by my husband.  Yes, he is bewitching: respected professor, tall, left-brain (though also creative too), super vocabulary, etc.  Anyhow, Thank you!  I'll be interested in what other therapists are recommended.

The therapist I see individually does a lot of work with couples: Liron Cohen at The Couples Center, which I believe she runs with her husband. She helped me free myself from a toxic relationship when other therapists couldn't see what was going on. If you look her up on Yelp she has a good reputation as a couples counselor who fosters intimacy, but in my experience she's also good at seeing through people's BS.

If you suspect that your partner is a narcissist -- just a wild guess based on the difference between private and "public" behavior that you reported -- do some research to see if the profile fits. It's well known that couples counseling is counterproductive with narcissists because of the kind of dynamic you've experienced. Narcissists almost never own their part in a negative relationship dynamic, and have no qualms about using information against you the information that you divulged in the spirit of vulnerability and trust. The best thing to do in that case is to leave.

Hello! If someone reaches out to your post with a suggested therapist please share. I am interested in a couples therapist.

Thank you in advance! 

It happened to me in couples therapy, it was damaging both to me and to my marriage.  Many years later I went into my own therapy, and left the marriage.  My therapy was good for me.  Good luck. 

I agree with the other poster, your partner may be a narcissist. It makes them feel powerful to get you riled up. You may have to explain to the therapist, "He is mean to me and nice to you." And you have to do your part to change the dynamic. I suspect that he is the one who should be changing. But that is unlikely. So stay calm at home and in therapy, no matter what buttons he pushes. I also suggest the family meeting instead of therapy, exactly because of the problems you are having in therapy. Set up a day and a time to talk calmly once a week. I hope this helps. 

Firstly, I'd like to express my sorrow for your experience. This therapist sounds very unprofessional if they were making obvious preference for one partner's version of events over another, or discounting your input.

We have been in couple's therapy for nearly 2 years, and it has been the absolute lifeline of our marriage, and our home. We discuss our own personal histories and how it affects our current relationship, as well as our struggles with raising kids in a way that is different from our own upbringing. We use Alice Robinson. She is amazing at listening, showing empathy, and getting to the "heart" of the situation. She balances listening to both sides of the story - drawing out the "quiet one" and creating breaks when the "talkative one" starts to take over the session. And she is very good at referring back to ask "how did you react at the time?" Because in retelling a story, we do change our voice/mannerisms! She also does a great job of pulling out themes that come up again and again so we can see how we're progressing or re-thinking our approach as a family.

Here is her info:  (415) 496-9863 2417 Carleton St, Berkeley

Best of luck!

This situation seems so common that I'm surprised this is the first time I've heard someone describe it. My mother experienced the same thing 30 years ago when the couples therapist didn't believe that my dad had anger issues because he seemed so nice in the counseling sessions. I myself went to a couples counselor with my husband and for 2 years thought that she "got" me and understood the dynamic of him just letting me do all the emotional work, and finally after 2 years she admitted that the whole time she had thought that I was being too demanding and that I was basically the problem. (She apologized for being so wrong, but didn't offer to give back any of the money we had paid over 2 years, or give us some free sessions or anything.) I have come to feel that it is a very rare female therapist who will actually believe the woman and hold the man accountable for his actions, instead of taking care of the man as we women are taught to do. I think male therapists might be better at this, ironically. 

I recommend Karen Levine, MFT. My husband and I have worked with her through some tough issues around conflict and communication. She is warm and engaging, and had some really good insights into our patterns of behavior. I felt like she was able to see us for who we really are, not just for how we acted when we were in her office. She sometimes challenged my husband to think differently about his role in our relationship, and the ways society expects men and women to behave. She challenged me to see my own patterns as well, and we both felt really understood by her. (I believe she was a Women’s Studies major in college, which probably helps!) I suggest giving her a call.  (510) 761-5303   --MG

Working with Sheila was very helpful for myself and my spouse (married M/F relationship). As we began our counseling relationship she sat down with each of us individually to gain some insight into what each of us was after and concerned with. We each filled out an extensive questionnaire as well.

Our sessions would begin with my husband and I talking to each other about an issue or concern that we brought to the table and Shiela would come in to help as needed by giving us insight into how may be coming across to/being interpreted by our partner, how we might communicate something more effectively, assisting with de-escalating the conversations, etc. She was immensely professional and I never felt she favored myself or my husband. It took a few sessions to warm up and not feel like we needed to be on our best behavior in front of someone else. That said I was always surprised how when we were honest and brought our true feelings and concerns out in to the open we couldn't help but reveal our frustrations, pain points and personalities in a way in which she could help us.

I believe she uses aspects the Gottman method for couple therapy.