Get Help for Your Relationship with Philadelphia Couples Therapy

I’ve been excited to offer Philadelphia Couples Therapy since 2015. Although my practice is now virtual, I have found that clients still appreciate working with a local therapist who understands the nuance of living in the City of Brotherly Love. My practice, therapeutic style, and integrated treatment methods are described below.

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What is Couples Therapy?

Couples Therapy is the experience of the relationship becoming the client. It is different from Individual Therapy in that the relationship is observed and analyzed as its complete and own entity. Goals are set for the relationship to operate at optimal desired functioning.

The Couples Therapy experience is as unique and nuanced as the couple itself. It can be similar to Individual Therapy in that the identity of each person is taken into deep consideration. Each individual is learned in as many relevant ways as possible to best support what the couple is looking to gain from investing in therapy, together. Relevant ways include but are not limited to family of origin histories, ethnic, racial, and cultural identity, sexuality and expression, prior relationship history, economic status, history of therapy, etc.

How each individual shows up to the relationship, based on their past and present experiences, is observed in terms of how it creates and maintains the relationship.

I think of myself as both an observer of, and an active participant in, the couples communication process. I am confident in my ability to gain an accurate sense of where, how, and why communication breaks down in relationships and reflecting that back to the couple.

These dynamics are processed significantly throughout the couples therapy process. Couples learn how to work through a particular issue, but also how to develop skills that will be helpful across a wide range of issues in the future.

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Does Couples Therapy Work?

This is always an interesting question. There’s a myth that couples therapy only “works” if the couple stays together. That is true if that is what both members of the couple want and if that ends up being the most functional for each person.

Sometimes couples present in therapy with one or neither person knowing if they want to maintain the relationship. While that is definitely not a dealbreaker for attending couples therapy, it does influence the initial focus. In these cases, therapy is exploratory in that the uncertainty about commitment is processed before other, deeper couples work can begin.

Other times, couples present both really wanting the relationship to continue. In most cases, when this is genuinely true of each party, the couple’s work is successful in the sense that commitment is born or renewed, issues are well understood and integrated, and the couple feels confident that their clarity and goals are aligned.

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Types of Couples Therapy.

Behavioral Couples Therapy
Behavioral Couples Therapy uses a lens that focuses on the behavior of each member of the couple. What motivates people to engage, or not engage, in relationship-related behaviors is a significant point of focus. Individual behaviors that directly and indirectly impact the couple are also assessed.

In behavioral couples therapy, there is a valuable feature of “acceptance.” This means that behaviors that are not likely to change are looked at in terms of why they are unlikely to change and how well they can be accepted by both members of the couple.

Psychodynamic Couples Therapy

Psychodynamic Couples Therapy is a depth-based, insight-oriented approach to treatment. Conscious and unconscious behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are analyzed in terms of how they impact the couple.

What draws each member of the couple to one another, and why, is a signature element of this therapy. It also includes a significant understanding of early childhood experiences and ideas about relationships, as well as personality development and functioning.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is founded on the idea that people are most influenced by how they feel. Emotions like anger and shame and behaviors such as being shut down, avoidant and preoccupied are understood at deeper, more meaningful levels. Increasing capacity for vulnerability to support healthy intimacy is a hallmark feature of the approach.

Online Couples Therapy
Many therapists, myself included, have found ourselves transitioning to online couples therapy since the Covid pandemic in 2020. I have been pleasantly surprised at the little change I’ve experienced in the process of online therapy and in the overall outcome of the work.

In fact, online couples therapy seems much more accessible for folks who have busy schedules and are able to save time on commuting to and from therapy appointments, as well as a reduced need for childcare during sessions. It functions much the same way it does as in-person therapy, and supports couples who live in different locations and/or are traveling but still want to keep consistent scheduling.

Benefits of Couples Therapy?

The benefits of couples therapy can be extensive. And like anything, the benefits exist to the degree of what couples are willing to put in.
Each individual usually reports having a better understanding of each other and their relationship as well as a better understanding of themselves. With that, they are better able to achieve a more intimate and realistic view of their partner.

Significantly improved communication is a hallmark of couples therapy. As the therapist, I work diligently to become an expert at the communication style and process of each member and to make accurate sense of how this supports or undermines the functioning of the relationship. With established trust and confidence, I appreciate the opportunity to reflect my observations back to the couple, and to make thoughtful, keen recommendations on how to improve.

Couples therapy is also helpful when a couple has children (either from the current or former relationships) or plans to have children. The mental health and well-being of children are directly and indirectly linked to that of the parents.

When a couple is struggling in their relationship, the children often notice (consciously and unconsciously) and as a result can manifest some of their own related challenges in thinking, feeling, and behaving. That said, when parents improve – often so do the children (no matter their age).

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What to Expect at Couples Therapy?

Couples can expect to begin by meeting with me for an initial 50-minute session. This session is an opportunity for each individual to get to know me and share their unique perspective and understanding of the relationship.

It is also an opportunity for me to learn more about each individual and make recommendations on how I believe I can help the relationship. If I am not confident about my ability to help clients meet their goals, I most definitely say so. My clients tend to appreciate my warm, but direct approach to this type of therapy.

After an initial session, all of us decide if we’d like to continue the process.

If we do continue, sometimes I will meet with each member of the couple individually, and then together again as a couple. Sometimes this pattern repeats throughout the therapy, and sometimes it does not. How the process continues really does depend on the personalized needs of the couple.

I am always transparent about the rationale for my recommendations and always welcome questions clients may have about my working process.

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Where Can I Help?

I operate couples therapy in Philadelphia, PA. However, I am licensed to provide online therapy in more than 31 states and Washington D.C.

Dr. Dena DiNardo Licensed in over 30 States

Philadelphia Couples Therapy FAQs.

Can the therapist also work with us individually?
Ethically, a couple’s therapist should not be doing “individual therapy” with one member of the couple; much in the same way that an individual’s therapist should not later become a couples therapist. It creates an imbalance of power that can significantly undermine the couple’s work.

That said, I do often see each member of the couple separately, but always in service of “the relationship.” If I see one person individually, I will always see the other person individually, and return to meeting for joint sessions.

The couple and the type of issues they are working through often informs the decision about how to structure these sessions.

How long does couples therapy take to work?
It definitely depends. I’ve worked with couples who want to address something very specific and finish in 3-6 sessions. Other couples require more depth work and have found efficacy in 8-12 sessions–or more. I’ve worked with couples for a year, or longer, who continued to enjoy the benefits of the work even beyond what they originally thought they would be interested in. I am transparent about my sense of it once I have met with a couple.
How often do we have to go to couples therapy?
Initially, I like to see couples once a week to get a clear picture of what’s going on, to establish a positive working alliance, and to understand as much relevant background information as possible. It is not uncommon for couples to move to every other week once they feel they’ve started gaining some traction with their goals.

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About | Therapy | Contact | Online Therapy

Phone: (267) 261-8866
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Based in
Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Dena DiNardo Therapist

PA Clinical Psychology License PS018373
PA Marriage and Family Therapy License MF000854
National Provider Identifier 1932579109
Authority to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology 8876

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