Therapy for Couples Who Are Parents - Dr. Judith Zackson, PhD


The leap into parenthood seriously tests many couples. According to research, couples often become dissatisfied with their relationship within a few years of having a child. It’s no wonder, given the challenges: sleepless nights, ‘raging’ hormones, reshaping your identity, reshaping your partner’s identify, little time for long talks, intimacy, and/or sex. All these serve to create a divide between partners. Additional difficulties arise in coping with everyday life stressors, such as expectations of schools and society, and a child’s unique personal or academic challenges.

Furthermore, parenting often re-awakens buried unresolved issues with one’s own parent(s), which can be accompanied by anxiety, depression, or irritability. When new parents have unresolved issues with their own parents or from their own childhood, they are more likely to have marital conflict and more problematic interactions with their children.


How hard times are handled as a couple can have lasting effects on your relationship and on your children’s well being. Research has shown that the quality of the relationship between parents plays an important role in shaping children’s intellectual, social, and emotional development. When a couple lacks intimacy, has difficulty communicating, and cannot resolve their conflicts, the child tends to show signs of poorer adjustment, both in school and generally. This is especially likely when children blame themselves for their parents’ conflicts.


In therapy, Dr. Zackson focuses on challenges for mothers as well as fathers. She helps them recognize patterns from their families of origin and find ways to stop repeating negative cycles from generation to generation. Treatment helps couples to understand and respond to each other’s needs, deal constructively with powerful emotions, and resolve ongoing differences between partners. Couples learn to understand that their conflicts have predictable negative patterns: by recognizing these patterns as they are occurring, they can learn to interrupt and change them. Sessions revolve around forging new kinds of interactions, creating more positive patterns, and using the language of emotions, vulnerability, and empathy. Over time, these changes have cascading positive effects on your relationship and the well being of your children.