Therapy Student

Month: August, 2013

Temporary Relationships


I was fueling at a gas station in Wisconsin when something caught my attention from the periphery. It may be that my clinical training as a marriage and family therapist leads to an above-average critical nature, but I find it endearing to a certain extent that drive thru wedding chapels exist. In retrospect, endearing may not be the correct term but it nonetheless illustrates what William Doherty (2001) refers to as a consumerist attitude towards marriage. I would suggest that the terms marriage and relationship are interchangeable to a certain extent, especially as cohabitation is increasingly becoming the norm. While I would also like to differentiate between marriage and relationship, in that the former would be considered more permanent, recent divorce statistics report a rate of 3.6% per 1,000 individuals. This may not seem alarming at first glance but when framed into the context that the marriage rates are 6.8% per 1,000 individuals (CDC, 2013), the rate of failure for marriages in 2012 was roughly 53%.  The associated collateral damage of divorce such as children and financial obligations are some of the numerous factors that are not recognized.

That being said, it is important to recognize and fully understand the consequences of marriage and divorce.  It may not be financially feasible to see a therapist or counselor on a weekly basis in order to understand how the past manifests in the present, but there is a simple exercise that can provide insight into ones role in intimate relationships. While in a comfortable space, create enough columns for one’s childhood caretakers and recent partners, listing their positive and negative qualities. This may not answers to deeper questions, but typically partners will align with one or both of the caretakers as theories on attachment note that partners are attracted to another based on similarities. This is counterintuitive to popular belief but individuals are ultimately drawn to routine – e.g. favorite movies, favorite dishes, favorite brands.


In conclusion, remember that “[t]he meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances[.] If there is any reaction, both are transformed” (Jung, C.G., n.d.)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Marriage and divorce.

Jung, C.G. (n.d.)

Doherty, W. J. Take back your marriage: Sticking together in a world that pulls us apart. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Relationship Questions


As a marriage and family therapist, I am trained to systemically analyze relationships and provide insight. While I am unable to provide clinical advice due to liability, I am willing to answer general relationship questions and provide resources where psychotherapy may not be financially feasible.

Please e-mail questions to, noting that they will be posted on the blog with confidential and identifying information concealed.

Alcohol and Relationships

Alcoholism is a publicly discussed topic but living with family members who suffer from alcoholism is as important as the disorder itself.

According to the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V, 2013), alcoholism is classified within substance use disorders. The distinction between abuse and dependence is based on the concept that the former manifestation is mild whereas the latter manifestation is severe. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) defines binge drinking as the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The term binge drinking is also popular amongst the media but often misunderstood as a milder manifestation of alcoholism. This scene may sound familiar, “he is an average individual who works hard during the week but drinks the entire weekend” (personal communication). According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2004), binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that raises an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.08, which is typically five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women.

Regardless of the technical aspect, living with the disorder is painful as one family member describes, “you never know what is going to happen next – one moment they are a sweet and compassionate individuals whereas the next moment they are a tyrant” (personal communication). Individuals may feel alone in what seems like a never ending nightmare but 52% of adults 18 years of age and over reported drinking regularly according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). These statistics do not justify alcohol abuse or dependence but normalize an increasingly disturbing trend.

The early signs of alcohol related disorders begin with low levels of drinking and increase directly with volume and pattern of drinking. Since alcoholism is characterized by an increased tolerance of and physical dependence, it affects an individual’s ability of consumption. While the long-term use of alcohol leads to adverse effects on mental health, causing psychiatric disorders such as depression, its effect on relationship functioning is largely not discussed.

There is no doubt that relationships suffer when one is drunk because judgment is suspended. If you or someone you know live with an individual who suffers from alcoholism, please see the resources below. Regardless of the traumatic stressor in which alcoholism is rooted, alcohol induced behavior is not an excuse for physical and/or emotional abuse. Remember that sticks and stones may break the bones but words shatter the soul.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Alcohol use.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Binge drinking.

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2004). NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking.


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2011). Children of alcoholics.

Frederiksen, L. (2009). If you loved me, you’d stop! What you really need to know when your loved one drinks too much. Menlo Park, CA: KLJ Publishing.

National Association for Children of Alcoholics. (n.d.). Kit for parents.


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