Dr. Matthew W. Turner

Dr. Matthew W. Turner, Ph.D., ABPP / FAACP

Board Certified in Clinical Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology
Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Psychology

Austin, Texas

Marriage and Couples Therapy

What can I expect in the first session?

The first session of couples therapy is typically 90 minutes in length and focuses upon assessment of your marriage. I will interview each party separately for about 30 minutes to get a sense of how committed each party is to the marriage, what they view as the problems in the marriage, and what they think should be done. I then interview a couple together to get a sense of how they relate and handle conflict.

What is my and my partners' responsibility in marriage / couples therapy with you?

The primary responsibility of a couple in therapy is to discuss in a frank, honest manner with one another in front of the therapist their problems. You can think of marriage therapy as a laboratory where marital interaction, conflict resolution namely, is placed under a microscope and a couple is given feedback on how to best resolve conflict. An important responsibility of couples is to apply what they learn from therapy to their lives outside of therapy. The real work of therapy happens between the sessions. Finally, it is the responsibility of a couple to honestly report the effectiveness of interventions of the therapist. If it feels phony or foreign, tell the therapist so that a better intervention can be created.

What precludes marriage therapy with you?

I do not conduct marriage therapy when there is an ongoing extramarital affair nor if there is any physical or sexual abuse occurring in the marriage.

How do you conduct marriage therapy?

I view marriage therapy as primarily dyadic, that is, I teach conflict resolution skills and other skills to improve the marriage. The ultimate goal is to teach a couple how to resolve their conflicts so that they no longer need to rely upon a therapist to resolve their conflicts.

How does marriage spiral into divorce?

Typically through the distance and isolation cascade: Intense emotional reactions to conflict LEADS TO viewing problems as too severe AND that it is best to work problems out alone which LEADS TO parallel lives which LEADS TO loneliness AND then divorce. Marriages headed toward divorce also have the 'Four Horsemen' as John Gottman (the psychologist that pioneered this approach to marriage therapy) refers to it: Criticism (any statement that implies there is something globally wrong with one's partner), Defensiveness (attempt to defend oneself from a perceived attack), Contempt (any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts oneself on a higher plane than one's partner), and Stonewalling (withdrawing from the interaction, men are renowned for this particular maneuver). All marriages have some criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling, but in happy marriages contempt is absent. Contempt is a very powerful predictor of divorce.

Is there any scientific support to your approach to marriage therapy, i.e., does it work?

Yes. I utilize an approach to marriage therapy created by John Gottman, Ph.D. It is the only theory / approach to marriage therapy that has found to be effective in research outcome studies marital therapy.

Any books you recommend?

Yes. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver.