The bulk of the intensive will involve both parties together, but you may meet with me individually from time to time. Homework is given between the sessions to keep your progress in play and allow you to practise.
Remember, the brain grows through repetition! Insight alone cannot change behaviour.
Jump to sections:
WHY the Intensive Format?
Relationships sometimes go through “dark ages” in their connection—they become deeply entrenched in positions or pain—these states require more intervention and holding than is available in shorter sessions.
The brain learns most and the heart openness widest when emotional safety is in place and there is a sense that one can take personal risk. Establishing this level of safety when a couple is in excruciating pain and frozen by a protective barrier of defenses requires the completion of specific tasks by the couple and the therapist over a period of TIME. These concerted efforts lead to the softening of positions and postures and are crucial to generating genuine engagement, openness, and vulnerability.
Once an atmosphere of curious courage is established, Intensives look squarely, steadily, and compassionately at core conflicts, bringing awareness, insight, and resource so that long-stuck or shelved dynamics get the sustained air-time they need to dissolve. The heat generated from the crisp focus on core dynamics, coupled with the rapid acceleration of understanding, and the sustained practise of new skills over a lengthy period pushes underlying or hidden issues to the surface. When these raw places are met with three powerful hearts working in unison for emotional healing, transformation occurs, freeing the raw energy that was constricted beneath the defense. Harnessing that vital lifeforce into a new dance for the couple takes visionwork and practice, both of which (again) take TIME to unfold. Standard length sessions do not permit this level of engagement.
What is an Intensive?
An Intensive presents a powerful opportunity for partners to devote their undivided attention to strengthening their alliance for an extended period, thus stepping into a new level of collaboration. Guided by Sara, an expert relationship champion, they join in a deep excavation of the patterns of conflict and enmeshment that have kept them stuck over the years, and begin taking strategic steps to transform their relationship. Intensives also work well for sudden ruptures in cases of infidelity or addiction relapse or any other life event that destabilizes the partnership. They are also perfect if competent couples counselling is not available—say a rural setting.
Intensives Produce GROWTH!
You will Enjoy…..
- A return of joy, ease, connection within yourself and between you and your partner
- Capacity to regulate and contain volatile emotion rather than act it out (and further rupture connection). A deep sense of dignity, pride and new relational capacity Emotional resilience, a stable sense of your own ground of being. Internal attachment which reduces symbiosis and fusion in your relationship
- A deep sense of dignity, pride and new relational capacity
- Emotional resilience, a stable sense of your own ground of being. Internal attachment which reduces symbiosis and fusion in your relationship
- New respect for your partner as you watch him/her confront and grow
- Confidence in your relational competence which will allow you to transform challenges into new growth.
- Increased emotional safety within yourself and between you and your partner
- Knowing how to communicate so that you are heard and your partner feels heard
- Knowing your exits out of the relationship and begin to turn toward rather than away from your love bond
- Develop your capacity for vulnerability and harness the healing that arises
- Develop an observer self and a compassionate witness which acts as an inner mentor, guiding you to act in concert with your deepest relationship values
- Recognize the impact(s) you have on your relationship
- Develop a collaborative alliance with your mate, based on integrity and dignity
- Understand your triune brain and develop skills to soothe your central nervous system
- Unplug from the power struggle with your partner and increase personal and relational power.
- Develop a Conscious relationship vs an Automatic, Reactive one
- Be conversant in strategies to de-escalate fights and reactivity
- How to protect yourself when your partner uses abusive or demeaning language.
What will we DO?
We will not focus on the “content” of your tangles, as this leads to the quagmire of “he said/she said”–endless debates without solution. Rehearsing age-old stand-offs leads to a spiral of resentment which cannot be solved through defending positions, justifying behavior, accusing, or avoiding. Instead, the process unfolds in stages carefully designed to rebuild connection. This sequence has proven extremely effective: Assessment, Establishing Safety, Capacity and Resource Building, Regression work, Repair, Progression work, Vision work.
During the Assessment phase, the couple will share their story, and Sara will listen for the magic that brought them together and the continued strengths in the alliance. She will identify the couples’ developmental stage and impasses and probe for the unmet needs residing in the longstanding conflicts. The degree of motivation, the nature of their intentions, the comprehension of their impacts on their partner, the individual maturity level, the degree of affection and intimacy and the strengths of the partnership will all be observed.
During break out individual sessions, an opportunity exists for each partner to work through intra-psychic impasses and receive individualized coaching on his/her own developmental challenges. As an important piece of the work focuses on the concept of differentiation, the therapist will circumscribe each individual’s contributions to the problems and create a roadmap for developmental growth and change.
Emotional Safety occurs as we understand and grow our ability to regulate our limbic reactivity and choose relationship enhancing responses from the frontal cortex. A brief introduction to the relational brain is given and specific tools taught to support the skill of tolerating strategic discomfort in the service of growth. Grounding of the physical and emotional body are taught and practiced so that partners build capacity to contain and remain open to themselves and each other. This “containment muscle” will allow subsequent regression work and the exploration of differences.
With Capacity and Resource building, the goal is to progress the relationship within and between yourself and your partner so that new awareness and concern are available for the deeper work to follow. Then move into understanding the neuroscience of love bonds, acquiring new competence in realms of relating through empathy, validation, mirroring, gazing rather than glaring, strengthening the internal observer, being in the moment, tuning inward toward the emotional body, gaining capacity to soothe intense emotional states, engaging in reflection and clear thinking. New emotional muscle allows the couple to “grow up and heal down” as they expand into healthy adulthood.
With new tools firmly in heart, we will then move into Regression work, excavating with firm kindness the underlying issues, bringing occluded psychic material and blindspots into the light where they can be worked through to resolution. Through examining repetitive behavior, core beliefs, and established defences, we will discover the deficit(s) intra-personally and inter-personally that are keeping the relationship tethered. Locating the frustrated needs of each party and teaching the couple how to productively share and meet them allows completion of developmental tasks and stages–resulting in tremendous growth and a return of joyful aliveness.
Repair work occurs as each party is able to describe their impact on eachother and take responsibility for the pain they have created in the alliance Couples learn a repair process and work to restore open hearted good will by expressing the remorse they now experience and by naming steps they will take to reduce the risk of further blunders
With the air cleared, Progression and Visionwork can now begin.. Through specific dialogues, written work and Visualization, the couple begins to consciously build their ideal partnership. Special rituals and readings support the emergence of this transformed alliance. When the needs of the couple differ, they are firmly supported to stay with the process of fully locating and disclosing what they think, feel, wish and desire in a vulnerable way, beginning the process of differentiation. As they practice hanging onto onto themselves and staying tuned to their partner simultaneously, long standing conflicts are presenced and begin to shift.
Why would you do an Intensive?
- You or your partner are frozen in pain, stuck behind a barrier of defence, and you need the longer format of an intensive to soften, allow vulnerability, and the possibility of genuine connection
- You or your partner are “acting out” the pain in any of these ways: contempt or sarcasm, an unfounded lack of trust, “stonewalling” or shutting one another out, affairs, addictions, fear of intimacy, reacting rather than responding, withholding love and affection, etc
You want expert and discerning guidance as you build and practice the skills for relational intimacy and maturity.
- A sense of urgency; the degree of discomfort between you exceeds your capacity to tolerate
- Relationship is at the breaking point; you are sick to death of the deadlock, the stalemate
- You need to know that you’ve left no stone unturned to restore your love
- You’d give anything (including your story about yourself/your partner) to have the ease and joy of the early years back
- You recognize that you need to make some changes–that you keep ending up in the same unfullfilling binds–you want a strong coach as you grow to the next level of relational maturity
- Weekly therapy is not generating the paradigm shift you are longing for
- You sometimes feel like the protagonist in the movie Edward Scissor-Hands–longing to be close, yet shredded with every contact
§ The skills and practices you learn during the intensive are designed and taught so that you can take them home and continue to sustain your ideal relationship with them §
What you need to bring for Success
- An unswerving commitment to examine your own relational behavior, beliefs and blind spots and give up long-standing projections
- An avid interest in your partner’s deep enquiry into their relational behavior
- The initiative and follow through to read the materials and practice the skills outside the session (the brain will not change from insight alone–practice is mandatory)
- Willingness to initiate change regardless of whether your partner does or not; to manifest unilateral change if necessary and not play the “you didn’t so I didn’t” game
- Transcend current narratives about what is possible for “us”–allow yourself to re-envision your relationship
- Willing to fall in love again–to open and soften allow enhanced emotional, sexual and spiritual intimacy
Don’t sign up if:
- You think it’s all your partner’s fault
- You’re likely to resist the coaching you will receive in sessions; expect to be kindly but firmly confronted to face and enquire into the blind spots you are enacting in your partnership
- You are not willing to work before, between and after sessions
- You are not willing to make changes and tolerate the unfamiliar and uncomfortable in order to birth a new level of maturity in yourself and your love relationship
Flexible Formats to fit your schedule and budget:
An intensive is minimum 150 minutes (triple session) and billed at $150/50 minutes. Longer sessions can be made by combining an Intensive and a Couples Double, or two Intensives back to back, or with a weekend or day between. The online booking system will determine what session combination is possible. Sessions can be be booked singly, however, it is most effective to have several over a period of days in order to allow for integration, skills practise with a partner, and personal introspection/homework.
Weekend intensives can sometimes be customized if these options do not work. Please enquire
Don’t delay! Research shows that couples often come in for help 5 years later than is optimal. Relationships in crisis often need a concentrated effort that delves deep into issues and stops the emotional hemorrhaging that can cause irreparable damage. If your relationship hangs by a thread, it will likely take an intensive jumpstart to begin the repair process.
Intensives are designed to fit YOU; however partnerships often experience specific challenges with sexual functioning, infidelity or the possibility of separation, so the following specialized intensives were developed:
If you winced reading this description of the work, know that EVERYONE has a Jekyll and Hyde and every marriage has it’s weak links. Given this state of affairs, there are two options:
1. Face, own, and soften your shadow side, taking responsibility for it in your relationship,
2: Deny your shadow and defacto, project it onto your partner, who will then stagger under the burden.
Payment And Cancellation: Deposit: 50 percent at time of booking, balance due at the beginning of first session. Cash, check, money order or e-transfer are accepted. Cancellation policy: Prior to 72 hours; 30% of the deposit will be refunded Cancellation made less than 72 hours in advance will not be refunded