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Destigmatizing relationship counseling

This week, storefronts will put away their black & gold to bring out red & pink. Although many people shower their loved ones with gifts and treats on Valentine’s Day, we know that intimate relationships call for our attention all year long.
I asked Wendy Levin-Shaw, LCSW, a therapist at JF&CS’s Squirrel Hill Psychological Services, to share her thoughts on communicating love and care to your partner (beyond chocolates and flowers, of course!).
Communication is key to any relationship, including an intimate one. Often a lack of communication between partners leads to troubles that strain and damage their bond.
Sometimes, though, we need a little help learning to communicate. Talking — and listening — doesn’t always come naturally, even for couples who look as if they’re thriving.
Maybe you and your partner are considering relationship counseling as a way to improve your communication skills, but there’s something holding both or one of you back. Relationship counseling has an undeserved connotation and unfair reputation that it’s somehow shameful and just for “bad marriages.”
Marriages or other intimate relationships don’t have to be damaged to benefit from working with trained professionals. While therapy can be an effective solution to mend broken bonds and explore challenges, it is also a powerful tool to improve and energize healthy relationships. 
Here are some tips on approaching relationship counseling:
1. Start early. It’s never too soon to start building a healthy relationship and learn effective ways to address concerns and reconcile differences.
2. Pay attention. Keep an eye out for stressors. It helps to know what bothers you or your partner in order to work on resolving it.
3. Go at your own pace. Relationship counseling is tailored to your needs as a couple. A therapist is an experienced and neutral third-party, who provides a safe environment to talk. Therapists help us find within ourselves the ability to deal with concerns.
4. Listen up. Especially in counseling, a willingness to hear what your partner has to say is helpful. Understanding your partner’s point of view may be the most beneficial thing you do to improve your lives together.
                                    – Wendy Levin-Shaw, LCSW
                                    Squirrel Hill Psychological Services
Our compassionate, experienced staff at Squirrel Hill Psychological Services work with women and men individually, and with couples and families together, to help them understand their relationships better, strengthen bonds and work through specific concerns. To learn more, call us for a confidential consultation at 412.521.3800. We’re here to help.