How is Mindfulness Incorporated into Couples Therapy?


    How is Mindfulness Incorporated into Couples Therapy?

    In the realm of relationship healing, mindfulness can be a transformative tool. We reached out to couples therapists and marriage counselors to share how they integrate mindfulness into their practice. From encouraging present moment awareness to fostering harmony through mindfulness education, discover their valuable insights in these top four examples.

    • Encourage Present Moment Awareness
    • Practice Mindfulness-Based Communication
    • Guide Couples in Breathing Exercises
    • Foster Harmony with Mindfulness Education

    Encourage Present Moment Awareness

    Mindfulness is such an underrated tool in couples' counseling. If you think about it, most of the distress that informs conflict among couples is a function of what is happening now and what has already happened. To that end, the more present a couple can be, the better they typically fare. Couples often present in therapy wanting to work on conflict resolution, feeling ashamed or bewildered by why they yell or cry or 'lose it' during arguments. But what about what got you to that place in the first place? What came up before the yelling, the tears, the turmoil? I encourage couples to get curious about what shows up in their bodies during conflict and to notice when it shows up: to really tune into their bodies and recognize the physiological cues of distress like increased heart rate, sweating, stomach tension, and fidgeting. It's the awareness (or mindfulness) of their onset, and knowing what brought you to that point in the first place, that allows you to communicate your needs more effectively and ultimately fight fairer.

    Ang Romulus
    Ang RomulusClinical Psychologist, Create Outcomes

    Practice Mindfulness-Based Communication

    One of the techniques I use involves mindfulness-based communication exercises. Here, couples are encouraged to speak to each other about a concern or issue, one at a time, while the other practices active listening. The speaker is mindful of their own feelings and thoughts, expressing themselves honestly but with care. The listener, on the other hand, is mindful of their reactions, trying to understand their partner's perspective without interrupting or planning a response. This promotes a deeper level of empathy and understanding between the partners. Hope this helps!

    Kayla Crane
    Kayla CraneLMFT, South Denver Therapy

    Guide Couples in Breathing Exercises

    I use mindfulness in couples' therapy to slow things down in the room. When emotions are running high, I ask them to stop, close their eyes, and guide them to take 10 slow, deep breaths and tune into where they are and the present moment.

    Reminding them to continue to breathe, I calmly and slowly ask them to tune into their bodies: Can they become aware of the smells in the room, their heartbeat, the feel of the couch under their torso, supporting them, as well as their partner's presence seated next to them? I share, 'This moment in time is a gift; it shall never return, so let's enjoy it. Your partner is here to support you, and you can ask for what you need, if you do so with kindness.'

    Reach now for the other's hand, hold it, and take another 10 slow, deep breaths, working to sync your breath with one another. When you're ready, open your eyes, and turn towards your partner. They can do this at home too, reminding them nothing is accomplished in anger, only in slowing down, and being present with one another, listening.

    Pam Bauerle
    Pam BauerleRelationship and Sex Therapist, LMFT, CSTIP, Couples Resource Collective

    Foster Harmony with Mindfulness Education

    By incorporating mindfulness into my practice as a relationship educator, I help couples develop greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and connection with each other, ultimately fostering a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship.

    1. I start sessions with a mindfulness exercise that helps my clients ground themselves in the present moment and cultivate awareness of their thoughts and emotions.

    2. I educate couples on mindfulness practices such as deep breathing, body scans, and mindful listening. I encourage them to practice these techniques both individually and together to enhance their connection and reduce reactivity.

    3. I teach couples how to use mindfulness to stay present and calm during conflicts. I encourage them to pause, take deep breaths, and observe their thoughts and emotions before responding.

    4. I help couples develop empathy and compassion for each other through mindfulness practices. I encourage them to practice loving-kindness meditation and cultivate a non-judgmental attitude towards themselves and their partner.

    Julie Muir
    Julie MuirCelebrant + Mental Health Advocate, Julie Muir - Celebrant