How I Work as a Couples and Relationship Counselor

Our main goal in marriage and relationship therapy is to help you transform your conflict and relationship pain into the deeply committed and fulfilling relationship you long for.

My philosophy on Marriage and Relationship Counseling

Relationship pain is not necessarily a sign you’re with the wrong partner. Instead, it’s a normal stage in relationship development. The trick is to avoid getting stuck in this stage, to move through it and recapture the cherished intimacy and trust that has faded.

…the pain and conflict of committed relationships arise not out of lack of love for our partners, but from a misunderstanding of what love relationships are about. Your conflict can be the very fuel for the fulfillment you seek.Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.
Creator of Imago Relationship Therapy, Oprah’s favorite relationship therapist

Right now it may be hard to believe that your problems can be the doorway to a better relationship. Yet, this is the basis for our work in couples counseling. I use a combination the Imago Relationship Therapy model, the model from the Couple’s Institute, as well as Emotionally Focused Couple’s therapy because all these models see relationship pain as normal rather than pathological. Instead of coming from the point of view that there is something wrong with you and/or your partner, it is based on the idea that all relationships reach this point.

I draw from three different models because not all people need the same thing at the same time.  I believe that each relationship (and the people within it) are unique and a one size fits all approach does not serve my clients.  These three approaches are the most effective models I have found.   I see a difference in couples when I use these methods. They transform their relationships sooner. The couples in my office become more hopeful about themselves and their relationships more quickly than when I used other models of relationship counseling based on seeing relationship pain and conflict as pathological. Their self-esteem recovers more quickly, and the couple’s progress accelerates.

Other models I have used tend to leave people feeling that they and/or their partner are somehow inadequate, inherently lacking, have a flawed character and they become much more discouraged about being able to make progress.

As we work together in relationship counseling we will build hope about you and your partner and about your relationship more quickly. As your hope grows so will your commitment to improving your relationship.

3 Keys to Transforming your Relationship…

There are several elements that must be in play for a relationship to be transformed:


I provide the kind of structure in marriage counseling sessions which creates safety. The structure keeps partners from “attacking” each other with blaming, accusing, name calling, or character assasination.Through our couples counseling sessions, I will coach the two of you into a more calm, respectful and compassionate dialogue with each other.

Feeling safe with your partner is crucial. If you don’t feel safe you will probably be defensive and attack back. You can’t get anywhere productive or compassionate that way. That is why I simply don’t allow couples to fight in my office. You probably fight at home already. It probably doesn’t get you anywhere – except feeling more hurt and angry. You don’t need to pay good money to do more of that.

Instead of your fighting…

I will guide you into a safe and productive way to initiate a discussion about a “hot topic” (a topic you often argue about). I will coach you and your partner how to talk to one another productively. This technique is designed to decrease your partner’s defensiveness and boost their ability to take in what you have to say. This enables you, the sender, to be heard and validated rather than be constantly interrupted and dismissed


Really feeling heard by your intimate other can have a profound effect on you and your relationship. I coach the listener to listen nondefensively and nonreactively. I guide the listener to slow down and use Imago listening and responding skills. This minimizes defensiveness and hurt feelings. These techniques are designed to help you take in your partner’s perspective so you can give a thoughtful response. This is essential in moving out of stalemate on the issue and into a compassionate and productive place so you can foster meaningful change in the relationship.

The Imago relationship counseling structure slows you down and enables you to take in what your partner is saying and respond in an authentic but kind way. This allows you to talk more openly with one another and increases intimacy.


The third key to transformation in your relationship is feeling that you are being taken seriously and not being dismissed. It makes a huge difference in how you feel knowing that your perspective is important to your partner. You and your partner may strongly disagree about the issue. However, it is still essential that you accept each other’s unique perspective. It is also vital that you communicate that acceptance to your partner. Through couples counseling, I will be there to support and coach you to listen to and take in your partner’s perspective. I will also coach you to respond to that perspective in a way to keep the discussion moving forward.

These three fundamental keys of successfull Relationship Therapy help you and your partner restore the respect and compassion for each other that may have been lost. Once these three keys are in place, together, we will move to help the two of you make those bigger changes which will continue the transformation you’ve already begun.


Don’t wait for things to get worse… Take the chance to heal now. Call Barbara Calvi today at 818-917-9184 for your free 10-minute, no obligation consultation.