As a Clinical Member of AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy) Dr. Atchison has been working with couples and families for over 15 years. Her “talk therapy” approach with couples is present-focused and direct. For instance an initial question would be “are we doing marriage counseling or divorce counseling?” Childhood issues are not addressed unless they contribute to the marriage difficulty. The couple is given specific homework assignments to complete between sessions such as identifying changes that each can make to improve the relationship. The overall focus is on improving the relationship.
Sessions are generally couples sessions rather than individual ones. Each individual is asked to be honest. Between-session phone calls from the clients are discouraged in order to maintain a sense of fairness between both parties and the therapist.
Issues addressed include premarital, “empty nest” and “never nested”, and communication skills. For the couple with infidelity issues a specific treatment program is followed that encourages appropriate expression of feelings, development of trust, and moving toward forgiveness. If the marriage can not be saved and the couple chooses to divorce, counseling is available to address feelings in the ending of the marriage.
For those couples who prefer, sand tray is also offered as a therapeutic medium. Sand tray therapy is a method that uses sand contained in a tray. The sand itself is a therapeutic medium with it awakening the senses of sight, touch, and smell, and perhaps evoking in adults memories of childhood. The participant is encouraged to select from an assortment of miniature figures of numerous varieties and to create or build their world in the tray. Through this experience the participant addresses therapeutic issues for which they might not be consciously aware. More information can be found in this web site about sand tray.
Family therapy involves empowering the parent to assume a parental leadership role while children assume the role of a child in the family. The approach is especially effective with families recovering from addiction, divorce/step-parenting, and other occasions when t typical family roles have been distorted.
“I have found that many times a child’s bad behavior is only a symptom of parental problems. It is the child’s way of getting the parents into therapy.” ~ Dr. Atchison