I offer my clients a range of services and evaluate each case individually in order to provide only that which I think will be suited to your needs. My approach remains consistent across platforms and my goal is to give you the best I can while striving to get you to “fire” me as soon as is good for you – a line which needs a small explanation.
While my clients pay me for my services, my goal is not to “build a practice” – a phrase which to my mind really translates as monetizing my abilities for all they’re worth, mostly regardless of what is actually in the best interests of my clients. My goal is to give you what you need, not more, not less – and if I think we are done, I will strongly encourage my clients to move on.
My work with couples is significantly based on the training I received starting in 1998 from Dr. David Schnarch, author of Constructing the Sexual Crucible, Passionate Marriage, Resurrecting Sex, Intimacy and Desire, and Brain Talk, and the most masterful clinician I have ever seen. The Crucible Approach is the first, and to the best of my knowledge, the only approach to integrate sexual and marital therapy while maintaining a non-pathologic view of emotional gridlock and challenges to intimacy and desire within marriage. One of my underlying assumptions is that whatever is happening or not happening within your marriage – it is for a reason. My intent is to enable each spouse to discover or acknowledge those reasons, to find the fortitude to understand their respective roles and motivations regarding those reasons, and then to choose to operate from a place of integrity and solidity as they choose to move forward towards the best in themselves and each other.
The Crucible Approach has no “techniques” per se but rather sees each couple as their own unique world which cannot be forced to fit into the constraints of standard one-size-fits-all recipes. That said, the approach does have a core orientation which is relevant for any couple regardless of background, culture, education, or intelligence. This core can be seen primarily as one of anxiety-tolerance as opposed to anxiety-reduction and revolves around a paradigm which is called differentiation. Differentiation is essentially the human ability to balance between two of our most fundamental drives: the drive for connection and the drive for individuality. In a very brief nutshell, the central hallmarks of differentiation build from and towards: 1. The ability to tolerate pain for growth, 2. The ability to maintain a strong but flexible sense of self in the context of an emotionally committed relationship, 3. The ability to not overreact to other’s emotions, and 4. The ability to self-sooth. Although the approach originated from and specializes in the challenges of intimacy in marriage, it is not limited to that area. It truly excels in addressing systemic issues that arise in most marriages by seeing them as an intrinsic and even welcome outcome of the processes by which all intimate relationships evolve. These issues may not feel so “welcome” when you are going through your personal and joint hell-on-earth – but if they are properly understood and leveraged, many couples can look back on these turning points and recognize them as having been true blessings in the evolution of their marriages.
Couples arrive with a range of concerns that might include intimacy, money, in-laws, parenting, communication, etc, which very often serve as windows to the soul of their relationship with each other, and each with their own selves. These windows often illuminate who we choose to be and why, how we choose to run our lives and why, and the degree to which we are willing to live from integrity and our solid selves or, alternatively, from a place of violation of our integrity in collusion with our own fear, childhood wounds, and our less solid sides. Presenting issues are the stage on which a couple live their relationship – but I have found that people are often much more profound than their issues and deserve an approach that respects and actually seeks out the more fundamental personal struggles and triumphs which run silent and deep beneath the surface of the story being told.
That is a glimpse of part of the theoretical underpinnings and clinical orientation which inform what is a very dynamic, human, and often very intense, real-time conversation in my office. My consistent goal is to do therapy towards people’s resources as opposed to within their limitations, and to reach for the best in them. That said, philosophy is great – but it’s not good therapy if it doesn’t generate living traction which clients feel in their lives. In other words, don’t take my word for it, believe me, or trust me. Try it and trust your own best judgement.
Although the Crucible Approach was developed primarily for couples, I have found it to be very effective working with families. Expected session length can only be determined after first meeting with a family for an assessment of needs and capabilities of the family as a whole.
Dr. Schnarch has been to Israel twice for clinical trainings for professionals which provided a wonderful taste that left everyone hungry for more. The many participants were nothing short of totally amazed by what they learned and many wanted to explore how they could bring this vanguard paradigm to their own practices.
Out of this sprang a most delightful collaborative experience in which some of my colleagues have brought me their cases for review and perspective through my understanding of the clinical lens of the Crucible Approach.
For some, this adventure into a radically different treatment paradigm came after decades of clinical and teaching experience in other modalities. I mention this as a testament to the power of this approach to inspire people to change even (or perhaps especially) when they don’t have to – and as an invitation to my fellow practitioners.
These are multi-day immersive experiences for couples in which 1+1 is synergistically equal to much more than 2. Just as my usual 2-3 hour sessions serve to achieve a level of critical mass that will not likely develop in the standard 50 minute hour, so too does the multi-day immersion offer the potential for a quantum leap in a couple’s evolution.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Pirchya in Pirkei Avos 1:6 says “Assume for yourself a master (Rav), acquire for yourself a friend (Chaver), and judge the entire person to the side of merit.” I believe that this Mishna very succinctly and accurately reflects the essence of an approach to differentiation-based couples therapy.
“Assume for yourself a master” or “Aseh Lecha Rav” can be translated as “Go get yourself a Rabbi” — but I like to see it as telling us: “Make yourself ‘Rav'”. ‘Rav’ can mean ‘Rabbi’ but it can also mean ‘Great’ or ‘Grand’. Someone who seeks out and cultivates their own latent and innate greatness, necessarily evolves themselves into someone greater than they were yesterday, last year, or when they were a child. The greater a person becomes, the greater their ability to meaningfully connect with other people; people who are always different and often difficult. The Hebrew word for ‘connect’ is ‘Chibur’ – which shares a root with the word for ‘Friend’ or ‘Chaver’. The more I grow my solid-self towards greatness, the greater my ability to connect to others despite the differences and difficulties, or even because of them.
As my ability to work with the inevitable ‘difficult’ in others grows along with my ever solidifying greater self, so too grows my ability and desire to ‘judge favorably’ the whole person with whom I seek to evolve a connection – while my evolving “greatness” enables me a greater tolerance for the humanity I encounter in that person’s entirety – and myself – in the human process of connection. While some may say that increasing our “greatness” risks pulling us into arrogance, my experience with clients shows that it actually leads to a profound humility, which itself is one of the hallmarks of Moshe who was also the greatest who ever lived.
Greatness-induced humility is a great way of driving marriage and intimacy towards the innate potential which awaits those couples who are ready to make that move. My experience has shown me that the differentiation-based paradigm in which I work is uniquely suited to harness this potential which is innate to every human being.