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  • Writer's pictureShannon Johnson

Guide on the Side...

As I work with more and more couples, I am struck by how different every relationship really is. Think of your relationship as a giant mixing bowl. We all have our history, our stories, our values, our desires, and we pick a person with a different history, stories, values, and desires to journey through life with. Then sprinkle in our changes, our person's changes, maybe kids, careers, moves, money, dogs, gerbils, cars, physical health, mental health, spirituality, etc. wonder that this relationship gig is so tricky!

I chose to work with couples because relationships are complex, and they truly play a fundamental role in our overall happiness. I never get tired of hearing each couple's unique story. Where did they meet? Why they were attracted to each other? How is family history impacting their relationship? Is there trauma history? Is there an addiction history? What are their strengths? What are their needs? What matters to the individuals? What matters to the couple?

You may be familiar with the phrases "guide on the side" versus "sage on the stage." They describe different educational approaches. With the sage approach, the clinician with "the knowledge" imparts "the knowledge" to the couple. I find that many couples leave that type of therapy frustrated because they didn't believe "the knowledge" really helped or applied to them.

Because of the vast differences in couples, I don't believe I could ever find a "one size fits all" model. Instead, I love to approach my work with couples as a guide. I certainly spend a lot of time learning about relationships and models, and I apply this knowledge in session, but ultimately the couple is in the lead. They know what must change in their relationship. They know what boundaries are important to them. They know what values are important to them. Sometimes it just takes some support (perhaps from your guide on the side) to access the answers, but the couple has the knowledge.

This is why Brandi and I are excited about the Thriving Relationship Online Workshop. We have crafted a framework that allows couples to target the areas they need to strengthen in the comfort of their own home. The material can be accessed at a time that works for the couple. Some of the weeks may seem like a breeze because that is a strength area for that relationship, and some of the weeks may bring up the conversations and pattern changes that need to happen. If you make the time and commit to the process, we have created a framework to "guide" you in building and maintaining a thriving relationship. To learn more:

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