Here at Austin Professional Counseling, we specialize in couples therapy. As a national trainer and educator for couples therapists across the world, John brings a unique expertise to his work as well as in training the therapists in our practice. While many therapists are willing to see couples, not all have comprehensive training in couples therapy. Couples therapy is very different from individual work and it requires dedicated training and experience to navigate the complexity of a couple’s ‘dance’ and know how to help a couple improve.
What is unique about our approach to couples therapy is that we won’t just sit around talking about your issues. We will actually help you practice different habits and behaviors until you are comfortable with your new skills and can use them more easily at home. Couples therapy has changed due to modern neuroscience research, and we understand now how important it is to work with the automatic, procedural system that guides many relationship behaviors. John typically determines the first obstacle that seems to be getting in the way of your connection, then works inward from there, tackling dynamics in order of priority and helping you develop new skill as a couple.
What is also unique about our approach is that we consider the interplay between psychological tendencies and habits, family history, culture, and physiology in order to fully understand what is involved in partner interactions. Could it be excessive stress or anxiety getting in the way of your connection? Attachment trauma in one or both partners? Difficulty managing emotions or calming the nervous system in conflict? A tendency to lie and be deceptive or coy due to critical parents? A lack of skill in inviting your partner’s care when you need support? Or a lack of skill in knowing how to support someone emotionally? Both physical and psychological forces are at play in partner interactions and we help you decode the mess so you can act smarter as a team and take care of one another.
“John Howard is dynamic teacher of relationship science who has a talent for conveying complex research in simple, easy-to-apply ways. His lens on relationships is profound and he has the expertise to help even the most complex couples to deepen love, connection and understanding.” – Dr. Diane Poole-Heller, World-Renowned Psychologist
Couples should always come in before they think they should, because research shows that couples typically wait too long to seek support, allowing problems to cause more damage than they need to. We are strong believers in pro-active couples therapy that improves already-good relationships, helps take them to the next level, and protects them against issues becoming major problems.
John’s passion for working with couples come from his own journey of experiencing neglect and difficult relationships in childhood and then learning the power of healthy relationships in his adult life. No matter your issues, we’ve heard it all, and we’re ready to support you in reaching your relationship goals. Good or bad, relationships are some of the most meaningful experiences we have in life. It is worth investing time and energy into having the best versions of them we can have. Our therapists are passionate about helping couples deepen love and improve communication, and have specific training in couples therapy.
“If you want to transform your partnership, run, don’t walk, to John. As a couples therapist, John is the best of the best. He can help any couple significantly deepen their bond, connection and fun together. John is awesome!” – Carrie Contey, PhD, National Parenting Expert
In addition to the relationship benefits that can result from couples therapy, recent research recommends couples work as an effective way to work on individual issues, as our issues often arise from and are magnified in close relationships. Our culture at times promotes the notion of working on our issues individually, but even individual issues can sometimes be more effectively addressed when worked on together by a strong partnership. That is because the brain is wired for relationship, and we learn things more easily when such growth is supported day in and day out by those we share our lives with. Issues such as depression, anxiety and self-esteem often benefit from a couples therapy setting that gets both partners aligned around a common process and healing goal. Couples work also has the added benefit of improving fun and reducing stress in the home environment, which pays huge dividends to all family members.
“The Relationship Whisperer. My husband and I call John the Relationship Whisperer because he is so good at what he does. I have been in therapy since I was 18 and he is the best couples therapist I’ve worked with.” – C.W., Austin
Couples therapy has seen an explosion in new, ground-breaking research over the last 15 years. Improved brain-imaging technology, attachment research, nervous system insights as they relate to trauma, and studies on how to most effectively help our minds ‘learn new tricks’ have led to radical shifts in couples counseling. Gone are the 1970s approaches that emphasized structured communication and the therapist teaching each person how to behave or not to behave. Or even approaches that place the couples therapist in a mediator position, determining right and wrong. The new models of couples counseling focus on practicing new responses live in session and helping each partner understand the other’s automatic reactions in order to increase safety, understanding and love.
Modern couples work is influenced by concepts from attachment theory, regulation theory, emotional research, trauma, somatic science and neurobiology. John teaches these methods nationally and employs them in his work. Our therapists have generally trained in several different prominent models of couples therapy including PACT (Stan Tatkin), EFT (Sue Johnson) and Gottman Method Couples Therapy. In addition, John has studied approaches that seek to understand the flow of energy between partners as well as the most current scientific methods of understanding physiology and nervous system activity in relationship interactions.
John trained for six years under legendary couples therapist Dr. Stan Tatkin, widely regarded as one of the top couples therapists in the world. Dr. Tatkin is the author of Wired for Love and Your Brain on Love and a professor of family medicine at UCLA Medical School. John assisted Dr. Tatkin in his trainings as the first teaching assistant of Dr. Tatkin’s developing institute, and was eventually 1 of 12 couples therapists in the world invited to form the Core Faculty of the PACT Institute, the leading training organization that help couples therapists worldwide learn and practice the very latest science and methods in the field.
John has also studied with other notable leaders in the field of psychology such as Drs. Pat Ogden, Alan Schore, Dan Siegel, Steve Porges, Don Catherall, Bonnie Badenoch and Diana Fosha. He has studied the couples therapy work of Sue Johnson (Emotionally Focused Therapy–EFT) and is certified at Level II of Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Most importantly, John has many years of experience seeing couples of all types and ages for a variety of relationship goals and imparts that experience to our associate therapists. All our therapists train regularly in the most current approaches to relationship health and couples therapy and John collaborates with them in discussing couples being seen in our practice.
John teaches Couples and Family Therapy at the new Dell/Seton Medical School, and is an adjunct professor in the Masters in Counseling program at St. Edward’s University. He presented “Bringing Interpersonal Neuroscience into Couples Therapy“ at the national Attachment, Trauma & Intimacy Conference in 2016, has led a relationship wellness program at Google, Inc., and collaborates with Dr. Diane Poole-Heller as a faculty member in her international Therapy Mastermind series. He is currently working on an innovative approach to couples therapy named Presence Therapy™ that integrates mindfulness, interpersonal neurobiology, experiential psychotherapy and psychobiology.
Our approach to couples work is generally challenging, deep, and rewarding. With our support, couples work to get to the bottom of their issues so that they can be fearless at home and masters of their partnership. Goals are set at the beginning of the work and we move efficiently toward meeting them. Couples should come in ready to take their relationship to the next level!
“Now a closer, stronger couple. Our communication skills have markedly improved. My husband and I feel now safer and more open with each other. It’s wonderful to see my partner as a stable nurturing resource. Thanks John for all of your help! –J.I.