I believe it is important to start by finding out if each person is open to making changes. For example, if a couple is seeking help following an affair or betrayal, talking about the commitment and willingness to change is an important first step. I listen to each person's feelings, accepting where they are. The first goal is to learn how to manage feelings which may be very intense, such as anger, fear, shock and anxiety, I ask couples to agree to certain guidelines which may help them begin to feel some relief...and hope.
During this phase of recovery, the couple begins to redevelop trust. Together, they begin to look at what may have led up to the current crisis. Within the "safe haven" created in the counseling process, couples examine recent stressors. With empathy and understanding counseling teaches better communcaiton while looking at cycles of family patterns. Couples can begin to experience increased intimacy and healing. Trust develops when couples are "transparent" and honest with their communication. It takes time and work to develop trust. A couple begins to build on a foundaiton of intimacy, trust, communication and tolerance of differences.
As couples continue to practice new skills in communication and begin to experience changes, they may address misunderstandings which come up and begin practice resolving current issues. Sexual probelms can be addressed when the couple feels more confident with the new skills and improved understanding. Within a "safe haven" trust can continue to develop. The couple can realize the value of forgiveness and tolerance of difference. Being happy becomes more important than being right.