STEPHEN MESSER, PH.D.

Relationships are difficult. This simple truth lies at the foundation of Dr. Messer’s interest and commitment to helping couples move forward. The objective is to facilitate moving through the current distress, demoralization, and anger, sorting through and addressing head-on the issues, and arriving at a more satisfying, comfortable, and meaningful place for each partner and the relationship. To accomplish this challenging goal, Dr. Messer initially aims to create a therapeutic relationship that provides a setting in which each partner feels they can express the problems and issues as they see them without judgment and being heard fully and authentically. In this setting of mutual trust and respect, he can assess the concerns that bring couples to the session, through actively listening, asking clarifying questions, and observing patterns of verbal and nonverbal interaction. An accurate, collaborative, ongoing assessment is critical for the formulation of the central issues at hand and the development and implementation of the most effective strategies to engage the presenting problems within the context of the relationship. The assessment and treatment plan is conducted in a highly collaborative, sensitive, and empathic manner with all input genuinely valued, elaborated, and considered. Dr. Messer has extensive training and experience assessing and working with a wide variety of specific relationship challenges and threats to their integrity and sustainment. Such issues range from the slow, insidious, cumulation of annoyances and grievances about the quality of day-to-day interactions or past decision-making, to more abrupt crises including revelations of loss of intimacy and desire for separation, sexual indifference or infidelity, or the infliction of various forms of emotional, psychological, and/or physical abuse. 

Dr. Messer utilizes a variety of techniques to assess, support, and intervene in what are usually long-term ineffective or maladaptive interactional patterns of relating and communicating. This includes strategies to facilitate the expression of feelings and wants more clearly, to develop stronger active listening skills and empathic responding, to identify and modify non-constructive assumptions and beliefs about each other and the relationship, and to articulate clearly each partner’s vision of the current and future relationship. He engages couples in session, facilitates direct communication through rehearsal, practice, and the provision of feedback. Dr. Messer utilizes an integrative approach, relying on research-informed strategies when available, particularly the therapeutic models of the Drs. John and Julie Gottman (Gottman Method) and Dr. Susan Johnson (Emotion-focused therapy). The aim is to flexibly use the most appropriate strategy and techniques, at particular times in therapy, that will result in the most positive outcomes possible for the unique partners and their relationship.