Seldom or never does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly without crisis. There is no birth of consciousness without pain. – C. G. Jung
Dr. Harter believes in couples capacity to change and has a nonjudgmental, practical approach to helping them resolve conflict. Her style is interactive and depending upon each couples needs, sessions are divided between teaching communication skills and helping couples better understand the role of emotions in relationships. She also works to create an atmosphere of trust and respect and can bring humor and wisdom to the seemingly most entrenched of couple dilemmas. In each session, she observes partners’ verbal and nonverbal behavior and offers feedback about ways to improve relating and stop harmful conflict from escalating. At the onset of treatment, each member of the couple identifies a treatment goal and Dr. Harter keeps the work directed toward these goals across meetings, often assigning “homework” between sessions. When focusing on patterns of communication, for example, couples often practice making a distinction between the intent of behavior versus the impact of behavior. Common topics addressed include division of household chores, co-parenting, finances, sexual intimacy, in-laws, major life decisions, healing violations of trust, and differences in core standards and beliefs. Treatment typically involves helping couples develop more flexible and varied ways of making sense of their own and their partners’ actions, and understanding how experiences in childhood may shape one’s current approach to relationships and perception of their partner. This combination of skills training, coaching, insight, and en vivo practice in a secure setting often enables couples to clarify confusion and to access loving feelings, which may seem lost. Couples, in turn, are able to practice letting go of past disappointments, and use their relationship as a platform to form a more deeply gratifying and love-filled life.
Dr. Harter first began working with couples in the early 1990s as a premarital enrichment counselor through The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This experience led to her involvement in intensive training, research, and therapy with couples well into the next decade before opening her private practice in 2006. She has worked with diverse couples and has expertise in cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic treatment approaches. Upon completing her post-doctoral work, she served as project director for the marital portion of a 70-year-long study of adult lives at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She begins additional training this spring in an Internal Family Systems approach to treatment.