Counseling & Therapy

24Sep 2018

Six Reasons Why Marriage Retreats & Intensive Couples Therapy Succeed

(When Regular Couples Therapy Fails)

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Our award-winning Connections™ program of marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives has national recognition and is ranked the #1 marriage intensive retreat in the State of Florida. We have conducted over 70 weekend retreats over the past 2½ years. With experience, we continue to learn more effective ways to help couples in distress. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to all of the courageous couples who have taught us so much about trust, vulnerability, taking risks, and the power of love.

In this article we will discuss:

  • The six reasons why marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives achieve positive outcomes when other types of couples therapy fail;
  • The types of relationship distress addressed in marriage retreats and intensives; and
  • The six goals of couples therapy intensives and marriage retreats.

Six Reasons Why Marriage Retreats & Intensive Couples Therapy Succeed

Traditionally, marriage counseling sessions are scheduled only once a week, or every other week. Sessions generally run for about an hour or two in length. Marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives are more effective because so much more can be accomplished over 2-3 days. It normally takes about 4-6 months of regular weekly couples therapy sessions to accomplish the same goals. The unique program components in marriage retreats and intensives result in a deeper understanding of relationship distress and toxic patterns – and a deeper understanding and appreciation of your partner and yourself.

Most couples tell us that they learn much more, and feel more hopeful after one couples retreat than after months or years of traditional therapy. Here are the six reasons why retreats and intensives are so successful:

1. Full achievement of couples therapy goals – Couples complete an entire program of intensive couples therapy in 2-3 days (or in our Brief Intensive Couples Therapy package for local couples, the program is one full day and includes six 90-minute follow-up sessions). Research shows that most couples in traditional therapy do not complete a full course of couples or marriage counseling. The drop-out rate is high – often after only 2 or 3 sessions. Their goals for therapy remain unmet. The most important goals of couples counseling can be met during a weekend retreat.

2. More benefits in a comprehensive program – During couples retreats, a comprehensive program is completed – one that provides a deeper understanding of distressing relationship patterns. Couples learn to use tools to create a successful and loving partnership, and they feel more closely connected and intimate after just one weekend intensive.

3. Emotionally corrective experiences (re-connection) – Research studies prove that human beings are capable of meaningful change only when there is significant emotional investment and connection. During retreats and intensives, couples are guided through a series of emotionally corrective conversations – leading to loving and empathic re-connection.

4. A New Depth of understanding – The intensive aspect of couples retreats provides a depth of understanding rarely achieved in traditional couples therapy. Specific exercises during couples retreats deepen understanding and compassion for one’s self, one’s partner, and for the relationship itself.

5. Relationship commitment – The very act of signing up for a couples retreat is a type of commitment to the relationship and the process of healing and repair. In our experience, couples who enroll in this type of intensive couples therapy demonstrate more commitment to follow through and apply new skills than they do after traditional couples therapy.

6. Answers, tools, and a new start – Couples usually come to us with momentous questions and concerns about their relationship and how to create change. Marriage retreats and intensives are designed to provide specific answers to these matters. And our program provides the necessary tools for dealing with communication problems, handling conflict, and creating intimacy. Most couples who complete intensive couples therapy say this is a fresh new start that brings them hope and positive direction.

Types of Relationship Distress Addressed in Marriage Retreats and Intensives

  • The most common problems addressed in couples retreats and intensives include:
  • Conflict, fighting, anger, blame, and power struggles
  • Lack of intimacy, disconnection, shutting down and distance
  • Complaints, criticism, defensiveness, and “stonewalling”
  • Communication problems
  • Infidelity and affairs (including porn addiction)
  • Parenting problems with children and step-children
  • Trust issues and insecurity

Six Goals of Couples Retreats and Intensives

The primary goal of couples retreats and intensives is a relationship based in trust, secure loving connection, and partnership. Both partners feel their basic relationship needs are being met. Specific goals include:

  • Intimacy – Improved closeness, connection and affection, physically and emotionally.
  • Security and trust – The foundation of trust and safety in any relationship is built on the deep emotional connection that results in partners who feel they can truly count on each other. They can depend on each other to be there, to be responsive to their needs, and to feel valued, appreciated and accepted.
  • Communication – Ability to communicate feelings, concerns, and needs productively and with empathy and compassion. This includes listening skills with the ability to hear not only the words, but the underlying feelings and needs. Listening and hearing without judgment or reactivity.
  • Partnership & conflict resolution – Learning to work together as a team, with negotiation and compromise – along with genuine interest in the each-other’s welfare, the relationship, and the family.
  • Compassion and empathy – Non-judgmental acceptance, emotional support and positive regard. This is the basis for learning how to create or resume a deep and abiding friendship. * Family harmony – Improved cooperation and partnership in co-parenting children and step-children. Creating a more loving and harmonious family environment.

For more information about our Connections program of marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives please contact us today. All couples who enroll in our Connections program receive 2 copies of our popular Workbook for Couples, which is also available for purchase separately through our web site. The following links provide additional information:

25Jan 2018

10 Signs That Your Therapist is Doing a Good Job

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

If you’ve ever been in therapy – or if you’re considering counseling or therapy for the first time, how do you know if you’re with the right therapist? A great deal of scientific research now proves that therapy is effective – whether it’s individual counseling for men or women, couples therapy or group therapy. Well over 80% of clients or patients report satisfaction and improvement as a result of therapy. But how do you know your therapist is doing a good job?

10 Signs That Your Therapist is Doing a Good Job

  1. You know that your therapist “gets” you – you feel deeply understood and accepted.
  2. You feel a sense of unconditional positive regard from your therapist. Your therapist doesn’t “judge” you.
  3. Your therapist is attentive, asks good questions, and is not distracted.
  4. Your therapist remembers what you’ve talked about from week to week, and your therapist understands your goals and how to get there. Your therapist works with your agenda, without imposing his or her goals on you.
  5. Your therapist doesn’t “fix” it for you – doesn’t always have the “answer”. Rather, your therapist helps you to find your own answers – the ones that will work best for you.
  6. Good boundaries – your therapist should not be your friend. A therapist should be on time, end the session on time, and should not have frequent or regular contact with you outside of scheduled sessions. There should never be any type of romantic or sexual involvement.
  7. Your therapist keeps you on task – the focus should be on you, and what you need to do to solve your own problems. Your therapist should gently, but firmly redirect you if you are blaming other circumstances or people.
  8. Your therapist seems knowledgeable and experienced in your area(s) of concern.
  9. Before seeing a therapist, make sure he or she is licensed in that state, and find out about advanced training in the problem areas you are concerned about (for example, relationships and couples therapy – many therapists don’t have advanced training or experience).
  10. You feel seen, heard and understood as a unique individual – with a sense of empathy and compassion. Counseling and therapy isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” process. Your therapist doesn’t come up with stock answers from a textbook. Each person and situation are uniquely different, and your therapist should have a deep appreciation for your particular circumstances.

This article originated from a response by the author to a question from, a popular question-and-answer site featuring expert professional contributors. Please follow Richard’s Quora page at

If you have any questions about counseling for men, counseling for women, or couples therapy, please contact us today. To schedule a consultation, please click here.

02Aug 2017

Sneak Preview
From Connections: Workbook for Couples
By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

This is an excerpt from the new Connections: Workbook for Couples, which is scheduled for publication in October, 2017. This Workbook is a companion guide to our marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives. It will include information about love and marriage, the true causes of relationship distress, and tools for relationship repair and creative solutions. The Workbook includes exercises designed to help couples create loving connection and partnership.

In Section Two, “The Nature of Relationship Distress,” the 4 primary causes of relationship distress are identified. Men who are emotionally and relationally underdeveloped are marital saboteurs. These “LATE Men” are a major cause of relationship distress.

How LATE Men Sabotage Relationships

To overstate the obvious, men and women do relationship differently. Women have more relationship skills than men. Men tend to be more disconnected emotionally. Many years ago, I was walking down the beach with my sister and we were talking about these differences. She told me that “All men are emotionally crippled.” This may be a bit of an overstatement, but tragically, it’s mostly true.

The LATE Men – A Major Cause of Relationship Distress
Why do so many men sabotage their most important relationships? I’ve specialized in counseling for men, couples therapy, and personal growth workshops for over 30 years. A majority of these men struggle with relationships and other adult responsibilities. They lack emotional fluency, they’re untrained in relationship skills, they have shame issues, and anger management problems. I call them The LATE Men: Adult men who function as Lost, Angry Teenagers. They are often stuck in an adolescent level of development – literally, LATE to grow into full adult functioning.

The role of men historically has been to protect and provide for their families and community. Men have primarily been defined by their work roles, not by their relationships. But the male role has changed dramatically in recent history, as a result of revolutionary economic and social changes. In the past, there was no need or expectation for men to communicate in an intimate manner. No need to talk about their feelings, to be emotionally sensitive to others, to “validate” their female partner, or to be emotionally supportive in marriage. The LATE Men are relationally behind the times, and their parents didn’t have the knowledge or skills to help them evolve.

The new, more empowered role of women in our society presents a great challenge to The LATE Men. Today, women compete with men in the same workforce, and these enlightened, empowered women expect, often demand that men carry an equal load at home with meals, child care and other traditionally “female” tasks. Those same women also require emotional connection, support, and open communication. But LATE Men haven’t been trained or socialized to meet these new expectations and demands.

In fact, most men are quite limited because, while growing up, they weren’t taught how to feel or to communicate relationally – rather, they were taught to stuff their feelings and to disconnect emotionally and relationally. Psychologist Terry Real says that men have been deprived of their hearts, and women have been deprived of their voice. Men are taught not to feel (historically, only anger was acceptable in men – “big boys don’t cry”). And until very recently women were taught compliance in a patriarchal model of the family – so they had no voice. Women were dependent on emotionally unavailable men, and now many of them are angry and demanding more. The world of relationship has been thrown into a crisis state.

Women are unhappy in their marriages because they want men to be more related than most men know how to be. And men are unhappy in their marriages because their women seem so unhappy with them. Terry Real (The New Rules of Marriage)

Counseling for Men Improves Relationships

The sad truth is that men want and need connection – including the LATE Men. In fact, they need emotional connection and support just as much as women. But men are afraid of closeness and intimacy because they’re taught to be strong (“be a man”), to be powerful, in control, and to protect against vulnerability at all costs. Psychologist Stephen Bergman describes the “relational paradox” today’s men struggle with:

The boy is placed in a terrible bind: on the one hand, he feels the pressure to disconnect for self-achievement (to be especially good at doing things or fixing things, to be competent in the world); on the other hand, he still has a strong yearning for connection. (from A New Psychology of Men)

Intimacy is threatening because LATE Men don’t have the knowledge or skills to manage the feelings and relationship demands necessary in marriage and deeply committed relationships. That’s an important reason why men tend to sexualize relationships – they are far more capable of sex than they are of emotional intimacy.

What can be done to help the LATE Men and their wives and partners? Couples therapy and counseling for men is highly effective in teaching men emotional and relationship skills, such as:

  • Identify, understand and talk about feelings
  • Listen openly, without judgement, and with compassion
  • Practice expressive intimacy and affection
  • Staying emotionally connected even during times of relationship distress
  • Express relationship needs openly without pressure, control or demands
  • Using empathy to understand partners’ viewpoint and preferences

Connections: Marriage Retreats & Couples Therapy Intensives

The Connections Workbook will be available through our web site, and on this winter.

Couples who attend one of our Connections marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives will receive complimentary copies of the Workbook.

For additional information, or to pre-order the Workbook, please contact us today.

04Apr 2016

What is Couples Therapy?

EFT, Gottman Method, and Other Methods

An illustration of an abstract tree optical illusion formed from a man and womans face concept design

How Does Marriage Counseling and Couples Therapy Work?

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

When couples need help due to relationship distress they are often unsure about where to go – and confused by the different services available. What are the differences between marital enrichment workshops, marriage counseling and couples therapy? Couples may hear about a bewildering array of relationship counseling methods, from the Gottman Method to EFT and Imago. What are these methods, how are they different from each other, and what’s most effective?

Types of Couples Therapy and Workshops

o Couples Therapy – This term is used interchangeably with marriage counseling, relationship therapy, and couples counseling. All of these terms refer to the most common type of therapy for couples – generally weekly or biweekly sessions for all types of couples, married or unmarried. When couples experience serious relationship distress, couples therapy is generally the “treatment of choice.” Couples therapy is a type of counseling or psychotherapy that helps couples to understand their conflicts and problems and to improve the relationship.

o Brief Intensive Couples Therapy – This type of marriage or relationship counseling was developed by the Relationship Center of South Florida. The package of services for couples include a full day (Friday or Saturday) of assessment, educational information, exercises and intensive therapy, and six 90-minute follow-up sessions. The full day session is highly effective for couples who want to jump-start the process of healing and relationship repair. And the package price is considerably less than the normal hourly rate for couple’s therapy.

o Workshops and Retreats for Couples – A wide range of workshops and retreats are available for married and unmarried couples. Some of these workshops are referred to as marriage enhancement, couple’s retreats, marriage boot camps, and others. They are usually held on weekends and include educational information and experiential exercises to help couples identify and understand specific types of relationship distress, and to begin the process of improving their relationship.

Our Center offers weekend workshops and weekend intensive counseling sessions for couples. We use a combination of EFT, Gottman Method, and other methods in our intensives and workshops (see below).

State-of-the-Art Couples Therapy Methods

Couples therapy is a relatively new and emerging practice. During the past 25 years, there has been an explosion of research and development regarding relationship distress and treatment methods for helping couples. The following methods are considered to be the current state-of-the-art in couples therapy.

1. EFT – Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy – The best research available to date shows that EFT is the single most effective type of couples therapy. Developed primarily by Dr. Sue Johnson, EFT helps couples to identify and understand their relationship dance (cycles and patterns of emotional reactivity). Couples are then guided toward a deeper understanding of underlying feelings and unmet relationship needs that drive the dance. The EFT therapist guides couples toward de-escalation (reduced fighting and conflict), reconnection, healing and compassion. Our Center specializes in EFT methods, and our counselors and therapists have completed advanced training and supervision in EFT. For additional information about EFT, see their web site at

EFT is based on the new science of love, attachment and relationships. The emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology has revealed that all humans are “hard wired” for a deep level of emotional and physical attachment. Successful relationships are based on secure attachment – a close bond of emotional depth which is safe, secure and consistent over time. We need a partner who is emotionally and physically available, responsive to our needs, and engaged with us in a caring and meaningful way. Relationship distress is caused by a lack of connection, unmet needs, and real or perceived emotional injuries during times of tension or conflict. Arguments, fighting and distance in the relationship result in insecure attachments, and a pattern (dance) of emotional reactivity develops.

Numerous research studies now show that EFT – Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy is the most effective type of marriage counseling and couples therapy. Our Brief Intensive Couples Therapy, workshops and weekend intensives are based primarily on EFT theory and methods. Our workshops are also based in part on the Hold Me Tight workshops developed by Dr. Sue Johnson and other EFT therapists.

2. Gottman Method – Developed by Dr. John Gottman and others, this method is based on over 40 years of research with more than 8,000 couples. Dr. Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman discovered several critical factors that determined levels of marital satisfaction. They found that negative patterns of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are predictive of relationship distress and divorce. Positive relationship

skills can be developed, and lead to higher levels of relationship satisfaction – such as accepting influence, approaching conflict in a soft and gentle manner, nurturing the friendship with “love maps” and other methods, and practicing relationship repair behaviors.

Dr. Gottman endorses the EFT model for couples therapy, and finds it to be consistent with his research into marital satisfaction. Our Center incorporates his findings and methods in our couples therapy, workshops and intensives.

3. Imago – Perhaps the next most popular type of therapy for couples, Imago was developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix. Imago is based on the theory that we unconsciously choose a partner based on unresolved childhood struggles. The Imago method is primarily based on a communication protocol. Partners face each other and use active listening techniques to deeply and empathically understand each other’s feelings and needs. Imago methods have not been validated by scientific or medical research. In fact, Dr. Gottman’s research shows that communication by couples about their relationship distress is not effective, and often counter-productive. Therefore, our Center does not practice or recommend Imago methods.

4. Other Methods – Our Center is influenced by and utilizes other findings and methods developed by some of the most accomplished experts in relationship distress and couples therapy. Examples include Terrence Real, who developed REAL – Relational Solutions and Relational Life Institute; Michelle Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, who developed a solution-oriented approach to marriage counseling; and Dr. Esther Perel, an expert on love, desire, security and independence in relationships.

How Does Couples Therapy Work?

Couples therapy is highly effective in helping couples to reduce relationship distress and improve loving connections and partnerships. Research findings have identified the 3 most important healing forces in couples therapy and marriage counseling.

* Relationship With the Couples Therapist – Most people report that couples therapy was helpful and effective when the therapist was authentic, open, non-judgmental and deeply understanding and empathetic. Those who are most satisfied with their therapy say that the therapist fully understood them and their struggles. The couples I’ve worked tell me that they deeply appreciate it when I give them honest feedback – and sometimes I challenge them by pointing out patterns and behavior that create problems and contribute to conflict and distance in the relationship.

* Corrective Emotional Experience – Some of the most important moments in couples therapy occur when couples are able to express their deepest feelings with non-blaming “I statements” – for example, “I feel so alone, like I’m the last thing on your list.” Or, “I loved you more than anything or anyone, and now I feel like you’re always disappointed in me.” When the feelings are deep and authentic, these conversations are guided toward a deeper understanding of relationship patterns with compassion and empathy.

* Positive Relationship Skills – Very simply, replacing old negative reactions with positive relationship actions. Examples include daily relationship rituals such as compliments, loving remarks, and signs of affection; practicing unconditional positive regard and acceptance; showing appreciation and gratitude; respecting boundaries; asking to have your needs met in a positive manner; etc.

Even the most disturbing and unrelenting types of relationship distress can be transformed into relationship success and satisfaction with effective couples therapy. This is our primary specialty at the Relationship Center of South Florida. For further information about marriage counseling, couples therapy, our brief intensive couples therapy package, workshops and weekend intensives, please contact us today.

03Feb 2016

Trending in Counseling & Therapy

CBT, Mindfulness, and Recent Advances

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Psychologist counseling and support group for work stress related disorders flat icons set abstract isolated vector illustration


Do you know what’s trending in the fields of counseling and therapy? How do you know which approach or method is right for you? CBT – Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – continues to attract a great deal of attention. Mindfulness methods have gained considerable popularity over the last 5-10 years. Counselors and therapists frequently mention EMDR, evidence-based methods, motivational interviewing, ACT and DBT… When people look for help the psychological jargon can be confusing and overwhelming.

The 5 Most Important Facts about Counseling and Therapy

1. Many research studies show that all types of counseling and therapy are effective, with only minor differences between them.

2. The single most important factor that determines the effectiveness of counseling and therapy is the fit between client and therapist.

3. Clients who report satisfaction and success in counseling or therapy indicate a positive relationship with the therapist – they feel understood, accepted and supported.

4. The therapeutic relationship is based primarily in unconditional acceptance and positive regard.

5. CBT, Mindfulness, EFT and other methods that have been studied extensively are proven to be highly effective.

Current Trends in Counseling and Therapy

The following list of counseling and therapy methods includes the most popular trends, but not necessarily the most effective treatments. Other therapies such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, client-centered therapy, and solution-focused therapy are excluded from this list because they do not necessarily represent the most current, popular trends. It is important to note that many therapists find that traditional methods are more effective.

* CBTCognitive Therapy, or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, has been around for quite some time (first gaining popularity in the 1980’s) – and it is still very popular. The focus of CBT is irrational or negative thoughts and beliefs – and how they are responsible for emotional and behavioral problems. This therapy method involves identifying and changing thoughts and behavior to reduce or eliminate distressing symptoms. Years of research studies show CBT to be highly effective – but not necessarily more effective than other methods.

* Mindfulness – or Mindfulness-Based Therapy is gaining a lot of attention in the media and with counselors and therapists. Medical research on mindfulness methods and meditation has shown a great deal of promise. The regular use of these methods is associated with lower levels of stress and anxiety, reduced symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure, improved focus and attention, and many other positive results. Mindfulness methods are easily incorporated into many types of counseling and therapy. These methods focus on breathing exercises, meditations, emotional detachment and non-reactivity.

* EFTEmotionally Focused Couple TherapyEFT was developed as a type of marriage counseling and couples therapy, but it is also used with individuals and in therapy groups. EFT is based on the new science of love and relationships. Research studies show that EFT is the most effective type of therapy for couples. The main focus is the relationship dance – emotionally reactive patterns and cycles that result in conflict, fighting, and distance. Then we identify underlying feelings and emotions drive that dance, along with unmet relationship needs. The EFT therapist guides couples toward a deeper understanding of their dance, feelings and needs, and helps them to heal the relationship using new conversations based in empathy and compassion.

* EMDREye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – This short-term treatment for trauma recovery (including childhood neglect, abandonment and abuse) is gaining wide acceptance due to promising research studies, and endorsement by leading trauma therapists and researchers. EMDR therapists help clients to reprocess trauma by creating a learning state that allows for past experiences to be fully integrated and stored in appropriate locations in the brain.

* Evidence-based therapy – This is not a specific type of therapy. Rather, evidence-based therapies include those methods that are supported by research studies of effectiveness and consistent, positive results.

* Motivational Interviewing is an approach that was initially used with alcoholics and drug abusers. It is a client-centered, goal-oriented method for resolving internal conflicts and ambivalence. In this approach there is a non-threatening, non-confrontational collaboration between client and therapist. The therapist usually asks questions designed to elicit motivation for change from the client’s internal system of beliefs and values.

* DBTDialectical Behavior Therapy is a type of CBT originally designed for use with chemical dependency and certain personality disorders. The goal is to change destructive patterns of behavior and to help clients manage their reactive emotional states. The therapy includes methods used in CBT and mindfulness practice, as well as reality testing and guidance on distress tolerance and developing a variety of social and coping skills.

* ACTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy is a mindfulness-based method that teaches clients techniques to accept unpleasant feelings and situations, and commit to behavior change strategies. The approach is action-based, uses rational observation of thoughts, feelings and behavior, and productive goal-setting.

Our Approach at RCSF

At the Relationship Center of South Florida our integrative approach includes many of the cutting-edge methods indicated in this article. Our couple’s therapists use EFT, the Gottman Method, and we individualize our approach for each couple. When we work with individuals, many of our therapists use some combination of CBT, mindfulness methods, and some of the other therapies mentioned here – along with more traditional therapies such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, client-centered and solution-oriented therapies. Please contact us today to learn more about our services, or to schedule an appointment.

22Dec 2015

Illus-GroupTherapy“This Group Saved My Life”

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

When I was a 19 year old college sophomore, struggling with relationship problems and depression, I tried group counseling at my university counseling center. It’s been over 40 years, and I clearly remember one group session that brought me to tears. The therapist pointed out my disconnection from others in the group, and it changed my life. I realized how I protected myself emotionally with a rigid defensive façade, and the group helped me to feel safely connected in my vulnerability with others.

Now I’m the therapist, and I’ve been running counseling groups for a long time. Last month I was surprised and touched by a comment made by a 51 year old woman at the end of one our group counseling sessions. She gave me a big hug and told me “This group saved my life.” She had struggled with addictions, childhood trauma (abuse and abandonment), and serious relationship problems most of her adult life. With group support and feedback she got her life on track, and she’s become an informal “leader” in the group and her community.

Three weeks later, a similar comment was made by a member of my weekly men’s therapy group. One night after group he told me that “This group changed my life.” Over the past few years, this 46 year old man has been in individual therapy, marriage counseling, and has attended personal growth workshops. He told me he’s learned more about himself and has made more positive changes as a result of group counseling than everything else combined.

Why is group counseling so effective? What exactly happens in therapy groups, and how do they work?

Types of Group Counseling

There’s an almost endless variety of therapy groups. Some of the most common types include:

o Men’s groups, with a special focus on men’s issues and life roles. Anger, shame, and relationship challenges are often discussed. Men supporting and encouraging other men is an emotionally powerful, rewarding experience.

o Women’s groups often focus on relationship issues, self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and life balance issues.

o Mixed adult group counseling (male and female) – Relationships, depression, anxiety, addictions.

o Couples groups – Small groups of married couples (relationship issues).

Group Counseling Methods

o Process groups – My preferred method for conducting therapy groups is also considered to be the most effective in creating long-lasting change. Process refers to what actually happens in the group itself (in contrast to content – the topics people talk about in the group). The focus is on the here and now – the interactions between group members. What happens in group is an accurate reflection of what happens outside of group. The group becomes a “living laboratory” that reveals authentic feelings, behavior and styles of interaction. Process also provides an opportunity to practice new, more constructive ways to deal with feelings and relationships in the present.

o Experiential groups – Such as psychodrama and personal growth groups. Structured exercises encourage members to learn about themselves and others through actual experience. These exercises are often used with process-oriented group methods. Exercises include role playing, guided imagery, and the use of art and music to facilitate awareness and reflection.

o Client-centered and psychodynamic – These traditional therapy groups are less structured, free-flowing client discussion groups. The therapist provides personal and interpersonal insights and facilitates positive and supportive client interactions. Process group methods are frequently used in these groups.

o Problem solving and skill building – These focused groups usually address specific problem areas such as interpersonal conflict or avoidance, anger management, social skills, and others.

How Does Group Counseling Help?

Group counseling often provides benefits that are unlikely to occur in individual therapy. Group members are frequently surprised by how rewarding the group experience is. Group members are supportive, understanding, and honest in their feedback. They often have ideas and solutions counselors or therapists may have overlooked. There’s a wider range of perspectives, and group members often encourage and empower each other to make positive changes. Another important benefit is that group counseling is considerably less expensive than individual therapy.

Research studies have identified many “curative factors” in group counseling. Irv Yalom, M.D. is one of the most authoritative experts in group therapy, and he identifies the 12 most important curative factors in group psychotherapy:

1. Helping others – improves self-respect and reduces negative self-focus

2. Sense of belonging and acceptance by the group – feeling connected and understood by others

3. Universality – “we’re all in the same boat”; “I’m not that different from others”

4. Learning from the way others see us – how we come across to other people

5. Relationship skills – learning how to get along better with others; trust; vulnerability

6. Guidance – from group members and the therapist

7. Emotional release – expressing feelings and speaking one’s truth in a safe environment

8. Modeling behavior – learning new methods for dealing with feelings; learning new behavior and styles of interaction from others in group

9. Learning from the re-creation – we tend to re-create our patterns of behavior and reactions (often learned during childhood) with new people in a group

10. Insight – learning about our rigid opinions and attitudes, why we feel and react toward others

11. Hope – from watching others solve problems and make progress in their lives

12. Acceptance – of the realities in life that all of us face together (unfairness; loss; emotional and physical pain; loneliness; and the need to take responsibility)

We currently have openings in our men’s group, and we’re forming a new women’s counseling group. Contact us today for more information, or to talk to a therapist about joining one of our groups.

15Dec 2015

Photo-HappyGolfer-BlogBuild Confidence and Self-Esteem With Sports Performance Counseling

4 Keys to Success

By Greg Douglas, LMHC

Where does confidence come from and how can I become more confident? This is a question I have asked myself on many occasions and throughout many different situations in life. How can I build confidence so that I can feel competent and achieve success? At first glance there seemed to be no simple answer. No instruction manual to bolster the way I feel about myself and to perform at peak levels. Not until I discovered a pathway to build confidence and self-esteem – in the principles of sports performance counseling.

Building Confidence in Sports Performance – My Story

As a young junior golfer I became enamored with the sport and vowed that I would do whatever I could to master the game. I read golf magazines, sought out advice from seasoned professionals, practiced countless hours, and took regular lessons. Even after my extensive review of sports performance guidelines I was left with the thought that there was something missing from my game. Many athletes struggle with self doubt and feelings of anxiety or low self-esteem when they fall short of performance expectations. After hearing television commentators state that players “have to be confident in order to play their best” I wondered, “Is this what’s missing for me”?

I set out on a search to find a way to become confident about my golfing abilities. How will I do this? Will I need to wait until I have some level of success in order to feel competent? Can I find a way to build confidence and self-esteem from the ground up? How will I even know what being truly confident feels like? These were the questions that motivated my journey. At this time in my life I had no idea about how the principles of sports performance counseling could help me. I came to the conclusion that there would be no way for me to play well without being able to somehow develop a base level of confidence in my abilities.

At this point I decided to engage in an experiment to see if there was a way to develop confidence without first achieving success in a competitive situation. I developed a system to increase my confidence by setting small goals for myself. I marked off an area on the driving range and set a goal to land 2 shots in a row inside the designated area. I achieved this small goal, and felt good about the accomplishment. Then I changed the goal to hitting 5 shots in a row inside this area, then 10, and then 20. As I continued to achieve these small goals I felt better about my golf game and was pleased to experience improved self-esteem and a new confidence in my abilities. I had stumbled upon some of the most important principles in sports performance counseling.

I began to use these principles of sports performance counseling in other areas of my game. I set a goal to make five 3-foot putts in a row, and then 10, and then 20. At one point I became so confident in my putting that I would make a hundred 3-foot putts in a row before ending my practice session. As you can imagine, this newfound confidence in my abilities translated to the golf course. That summer I achieved my best success in tournament play to date and began to really believe that I could achieve success on a larger scale than I ever thought possible. My confidence and self-esteem reached new, higher levels than ever before.

4 Keys to Confidence in Sports Performance

I discovered four keys to increasing self-belief, improving self-esteem, and developing the kind of confidence needed to perform near peak capacity. These keys, which are central in sports performance counseling, include

  • Identify small, realistic, and achievable goals
  • Focus on the process of improvement – not the results
  • Give yourself credit for even small improvements
  • Use imagery to make practice feel like “the real thing”

The takeaway from this experiment: You can build confidence before you achieve success. There is no reason to wait until you win a game or tournament to feel a sense of competency and positive self-esteem. This rings true not only in the area of sports performance, but in many other aspects of life, including school or work performance, dating, speaking in front of groups, and making good parenting decisions. These keys can transform self-doubt, anxiety and performance fears to confidence, competency, and a true belief in your ability and potential.

Please contact us today to learn more about sports performance counseling.

07Jul 2015

Staff Therapist, RCSF

Do you find yourself hand washing again and again? Do you repeatedly use sanitizer? Do strange and horrible thoughts get stuck in your head? Are you an over-organizer? Do you hoard objects? Although many of us engage in these behaviors from time to time, when these thoughts and behaviors begin to cause pain and hardship in our lives, they may point to a more serious problem: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

What is OCD? It’s a disorder characterized by thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals (compulsions) that are significantly impairing and distressing. The obsessions are recurrent and intrusive thoughts that cause distress while the compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that reduce distress and anxiety.

Do I have OCD and if so do I need OCD treatment?

Although both the symptoms of OCD are as diverse as the individuals suffering from the disorder, many people with OCD fall into the following categories:

* those who clean and wash repeatedly to escape their fear of germs and contamination

* those who feel the need to repeatedly check various things such as door locks, making sure their ovens are turned off, and even their writing and homework

* those who need to do everything perfectly or feel that something terrible will occur

* those who fear they will harm their loved ones (children, relatives) for no reason

* those who need to organize everything until it feels “just right”

* those that compulsively hoard things they don’t need (newspapers, receipts, etc.)

How do I know if my symptoms require therapy? In general, if you spend more than one hour a day either thinking these obsessive thoughts or doing these compulsive rituals, you may require treatment.

OCD Therapy

The most effective form of OCD treatment is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) with exposure and response prevention (ERP). This treatment involves the exposure to the anxiety producing situations or objects while preventing the individual from engaging in the triggered compulsions or rituals. ERP systematically habituates the individual to the feared situations, gradually reducing his or her anxiety. ERP significantly reduces OCD symptoms in about 90% of patients.

OCD treatment typically begins with a creation of a symptom hierarchy or rating scale of distressing or obsessive thoughts, objects or situations. This entails rating on a 0-10 scale all of the obsessive fears and avoided situations. The exposures then begin with the lowest-ranking obsessive fear or situation. Often just speaking or writing about the feared situation is the first exposure. “En vivo” or real-time physical exposures are most effective when the therapist first models the desired behavior (e.g. touching the unclean object along with the individual). Throughout the exposure the therapist is aware and diligent in the prevention of any ritualized behavior that may use to reduce anxiety. Generally, the anxiety level should be rated every five minutes. The exposure to the stimulus is typically continued until the distress is reduced by half which may take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Finally, the exposures are continued several times outside of the therapy session.

OCD treatment in Boca Raton FL is available. Our clinical team at the Relationship Center of South Florida is highly trained in this type of OCD treatment. We have seen the tremendous positive changes that often accompany this type of therapy.

06Feb 2015

Marriage Retreats & Intensives

A 6 Step Healing Process

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Marriage retreats and intensive weekend programs have become quite popular. But what exactly is a marriage retreat and how does it work?

There are several types of marriage or couples retreats. Some are primarily educational, with lectures, exercises, and tools for improving relationships. Some retreats have a religious or spiritual component, and others emphasize a specific type of marriage counseling theory or approach. These programs generally include 3 major components:

3 Primary Components of Marriage Retreats



Communication and Problem Solving Tools

All of these components can be helpful in guiding couples toward an improved relationship. But how exactly do they work? How do marriage retreats and intensive weekend programs help couples to heal their marriage?

Research studies now indicate a healing process that includes 6 necessary steps or processes (Johnson; Gottman). Relationships and marriages are most likely to improve and result in long term satisfaction when these healing processes are included.

The 6 Step Healing Process for Couples

1. De-escalate and reconnect

Most couples who seek a marriage retreat or intensive weekend counseling program are in a state of distress. Couples usually report a pattern of tension, arguments, fighting, distrust (sometimes due to infidelity), and/or withdrawal and distance in the relationship. The healing process often begins with compassionate guidance by the counselor or therapist by helping couples to reduce the tension and talk about their feelings and concerns in a safe and empathetic environment. When one or both partners are distant or shut down, the counselor supports and guides both partners toward a more open, trusting reconnection.

2. Recognize and understand relationship patterns

The relationship “dance” is identified and discussed so that both partners have a clear understanding of these patterns. There is usually a “pursuer” and a “distancer” in the relationship and the patterns may include blame-defend, demand-avoid, criticize-counterattack, and so on. We know that the problem in most relationships is the dance itself. The goal is to understand the underlying purpose or reason for these patterns, and to explore the unmet needs and distressing feelings that drive these patterns.

3. Rebuilding trust in the marriage

A feeling of safety and a secure connection is the foundation for a strong, lasting, and satisfying relationship. Marriage retreats and intensive counseling programs for couples must include this healing process. Trust is obviously eroded and compromised when there is infidelity. Infidelity includes affairs, flirtations, online intimacies (inappropriate “friendships” or sexual behavior), and the use of pornography that results in emotional distress to a spouse or partner. Other trust issues result from real or perceived abandonment in the relationship, patterns of criticism, blaming and excessive anger, addictions, threats of divorce, excessive control issues, and actual marital separations. Couples need to discuss feelings and beliefs related to these trust issues, and marital therapists or counselors need to carefully guide these discussions to help couples develop a sense of understanding and empathy.

4. Compassion, empathy, and emotionally corrective experiences

This is possibly the most crucial step in the healing process. Couples must be able to connect emotionally with understanding and compassion, in order to heal the relationship distress. The distressing patterns in the relationship are driven by strong emotions and unmet needs – fears and insecurities, hurt feelings, feeling abandoned, unimportant, disrespected and unappreciated. These and other feelings and needs drive the dance, and the feelings need to be understood and discussed in an atmosphere of compassion and empathy. Effective marriage retreats will include guided discussions between each couple where each person is able to express these feelings openly and authentically – and the partner will respond with understanding and empathy. This is the emotionally corrective experience that heals the relationship.

5. Identify and express relationship needs

These needs are usually emotional in nature, and include the need for safety, security, trust, connection, appreciation, respect, and importance. Couples need to feel loved and cared for, emotionally supported, seen and heard. Effective marriage retreats help couples to understand and discuss these needs with empathy and compassion.

6. Communication and problem solving tools

When couples reconnect in an atmosphere of safety and mutual care and concern, the use of communication and problem solving tools is easily facilitated. In marriage retreats these simple tools may include active listening techniques and speaking from the “I position” (for example, “When this happens, I feel ___________”) instead of complaining, criticizing or blaming statements. New solutions to old problems can be facilitated as couples learn some simple tools of negotiation, compromise, and acting in partnership.

Marriage retreats and weekend intensives for couples can be very effective in facilitating the healing process for relationships in distress. Follow-up marriage counseling sessions after the retreat are often recommended. Couples are encouraged to do some research before deciding on a marital retreat. What is the structure and content of the retreat, and is the subject matter and counseling process based in sound research that measures effectiveness? Are the therapists and counselors trained and experienced in working with couples? A telephone or skype interview with the primary counselor(s) is recommended – to make sure there is a good personality fit, and to answer some basic questions about content and format. And the therapist or counselor should determine if the marriage retreat is appropriate given each couple’s unique relationship circumstances.

13Feb 2013

pills photoIs Medication Necessary?

By Nicole Pearl, D.O. Psychiatry

Often an individual will question, either alone or together with his or her therapist, whether treatment with a psychotropic medication is needed. While this can be a complex decision, and one that should ultimately be made in conjunction with a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, there are important guidelines that can be utilized by the individual to assist in an initial self-assessment.

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