Try Something Different.

Are you sick of having the same arguments over and over?  Are you stuck in resentments and pain from the past?  Are you feeling disconnected, frustrated, or angry?  Are you getting nowhere trying your significant other to understand you? 

Couples therapy and workshops with Dr. Shiels provide you with the skills to shift the dynamic of your relationship from disconnection to fully understanding, respecting, considering, and valuing one-another. 

Imago Relational therapy, a large component of Dr. Shiels' approach, not only helps couples and parents communicate more effectively, but helps them fully and deeply understand each person's sensitivities and needs. Therapy and Workshops not only provide a structured framework in which to communicate, but shift the culture of the relationship to one that is safe, comfortable, and welcoming.


1) You will learn how to communicate using Imago Relationship Therapy techniques, which will: 

Allow you to safely express your needs

Allow you to feel heard

Diminish all criticism, defensiveness, and shutting down

Allow you to feel deeply understood and considered

2) You will practice this process on you own (If participating in a workshop or group, you will NOT be required to share information with the group).

3) Through safe, guided exercises, begin to identify you and your partner's unmet needs and sensitivities (appreciation, consideration, respect, etc.) and the unhealthy ways in which you both try to protect these needs (criticism, power-struggles, withdrawing/avoiding, etc.). You will begin to clearly understand and acknowledge these needs and coping mechanisms by engaging in a safe and comfortable dialogue. 

4) You will renew your commitment to meet each other's needs, abandon strategies that are unhealthy, and replace them with more healthy strategies.  You will commit to one another to continue this new approach of love and understanding.

Practice this, and watch as your issues become resolved, and you reach a deeper, more intimate connection with one another that continues through a lifetime.


-The therapist should be compassionate and understanding toward both partners.

-The focus should be on the larger patterns of emotional issues and ways of communicating.

-You should learn useful communication strategies and ways of thinking to use on your own.

-The therapist should never take sides or give you the impression that he/she is taking sides.

-The therapist should not try to have you conform to a particular gender role.

- The therapist should hold each partner accountable for refraining from disrespect and overt criticism.

-The therapist should be someone with whom both partners are comfortable and neither partner feels unfairly judged or repeatedly misunderstood. 


What if my partner doesn't want to come? 

It is very common for one partner to have more interest in attending therapy or couples workshops than the other. If you must attend alone, you will derive some benefit from doing so.  However, I highly suggest that both partners attend in order for a more fulfilling and effective experience.  This is what I suggest:
  • Do everything within your power to make it clear that you view your partner as part of the solution and not part of the problem. The last thing you (and I) want is for your partner to feel like they’re being called into the principal’s office. I try to make your experience with me as different from that image as possible and it helps if you are working on that too.
  • To increase the chances that your partner will have a non-shaming experience, I encourage you to start to take unconditional responsibility for your part of the relationship issues. This isn’t easy because doing this increases your vulnerability before you have seen that your partner will reciprocate; trust that I will help your partner stretch to take responsibility in his/her own way.
  • Don’t use “poisonous short-cuts” like threats, coercion or manipulation to get your partner to come to therapy. These are tempting because they can produce quick results but are always short-term and make the problem worse later.
  • Think of it as your (temporary) job to make it as easy as possible for your partner to come with you to therapy. Your partner will notice even little shifts away from criticism and you will have my help later to make sure your partner is doing just as much work as you.

Who benefits from couples therapy or workshops?

Counseling and/or workshops are benefit any couple, whether the relationship is just beginning, well-established, happy, or struggling.  Counseling is appropriate for those who are content and would just like a "tune up," as well as those looking for solutions before resorting to divorce.  It is also beneficial for engaged couples who would like to learn effective and fair communication strategies before getting married.  Dr. Shiels is welcoming to same-sex and heterosexual couple alike.

What will we do in the workshop?

We will have short discussions, time for reflection and personal writing exercises in your manual, and private time to practice new skills with your partner.

What if I don’t want to talk in a group?

That is fine. No one is required to share in the group discussions, and those who do are not expected to share personal information of any kind. Participants say they learn a lot when other participants share, but each person can participate in them as much or as little as they desire.

I consciously try to create a climate of safety for participants and we trust that each person knows how to get what is most relevant for themselves over the course of the workshop. Privacy is very much respected.

Is it like group therapy?

The short answer is 'no'. The workshops are considered educational with the goal that participants will leave knowing more about themselves, the relationship journey, and their partners than at the beginning of the workshop. My hope is that participants also will take away useful skills and tools to continue deepening their relationship with their partners.

What are some of the areas covered in the workshop?

Those attending will discover their individual unmet needs for appreciation, consideration, love etc. as well as their reactivity styles that can impede successful communication.  Next, those attending will learn how to ask for their needs with an assurance that they will be listened to and validated.  We will practice an extremely effective way of communicating and resolving conflict called "intentional dialogue." Finally, couples will create a relationship vision to take away from the workshop, based on what they have learned about each other's needs from one another.  


Imago Relationship Theory was developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of "Getting the Love You Want," "Keeping the Love You Find," and "Giving the Love That Heals."