In addition to your regular Valentine’s Day traditions this year, take advantage of the Comprehensive Clinic’s free relationship checkup.
By taking inventory of your relationship, you and your partner can create a deeper connection and build a stronger bond. In a relationship checkup, married, engaged, or dating couples have the opportunity to discover strengths in their relationship as well as new ways to improve.
Checkups are conducted by graduate interns in BYU’s marriage and family therapy program and consist of three to five 50-minute sessions. In the checkup, couples participate in structured discussion, interviews, and questionnaires. By working together to build a healthier relationship, you’ll be saying “I love you!” in a brand new way.
“We’ve arrived; we’ve made it to the Promised Land!” said Director Dean Barley in reference to BYU’s newly remodeled Comprehensive Clinic. Opened in the 70’s, the clinic was recently updated to allow for increased patient comfort and more space for students to work. Furthermore, a new assistant director was hired, David Fawcett, who will help move the clinic technologically forward in the hopes that it will be cutting edge and better able to serve the community.
The much-needed remodel had been a goal for decades; limited space made it hard for students to work and sparse therapy rooms sometimes made the work difficult. Specific changes that were made include:
Accent walls, whiteboards, and TVs in rooms
Soundproof therapy rooms
A mothers’ lounge
Increased storage and moving shelves
A play therapy room with a plethora of toys, a castle, and a sand table
“It’s great, [I] love it,” a student working at the clinic said. “It’s good to be back, now I have a space.”
What is the Clinic?
The BYU Comprehensive Clinic offers counseling services to members of the public in the Utah County community. It is a research and training facility where counseling is provided by graduate student interns under the close supervision of experienced faculty who are licensed therapists. In addition to therapy, the clinic offers various psychological assessment. In 2016, 1,191 people were helped at the clinic; this was higher than average, as the clinic sees 900-1,100 people a year. More than 100 therapists are employed there and oversee a multitude of graduate students. They supervise their therapy and teach them the skills they need to be successful at their work.
LDS Family Services and the Communication Disorders Department are housed in the clinic. In addition, BYU recently acquired the old seminary building adjacent to the clinic; they will host psychology students there.
Future of the Clinic
“It’s a brave new frontier,” said Dr. Barley in reference to the future of the clinic. He and Dr. Fawcett will use technology to supplement their therapeutic process so as to improve it and the flow of the treatment. To him, the remodeled clinic is truly “a dream come true.”
Twenty-one year old BYU student CarolineBelnap met her future husband in New York City and married him in July of 2014. A little over a year later, Belnap says she sought out a therapist because she felt it would help her personally. She calls her personal therapy experience “comforting” and says that it’s something she looks forward to each week.
“A personal therapist or couples counselor can be such a help because you have the confidence of the person you are talking to and they are not going to judge you,” Belnap says. “For me, it helped me learn how to handle situations in a healthier way rather than doing something I would regret later.”
A member of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, Belnap says that Mormon culture may lead people to think that “marriage is going to be this happy thing with beautiful kids and beautiful home.” Speaking from her experience, Belnap says she recognizes the benefit of using counselors and therapists. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Influence of family members or others with a negative perception of therapy
A belief that therapy is only for “crazy” people
A belief that a couple’s relationship is private and shouldn’t be shared with a stranger
“We tend to be self-reliant so it can feel like we are failing if we seek help,”Anderson says. “People should know, though, that couple therapy works and it works well, particularly for couples who come before their problems are deeply entrenched.”
Therapy can help you learn about yourself and your partner in ways that don’t happen during the normal courtship process. It can help you develop a solid foundation of open and honest communication and can help you have difficult conversations that you might otherwise never have. – Shayne Anderson
Two Becoming One
One misconception about marriage that Anderson says he sees most often is the belief that once you’re married the hard part is over. Anderson says that marriage is hard work and that it involves the merging of often very different family cultures. “Each partner comes to the table with a host of unspoken beliefs about gender roles, sexuality, emotional intimacy, finances, etc. Working through these to come to a set of shared beliefs takes work.”
BYU’s Comprehensive Clinic offers free treatment, also know as “marital checkups.” Generally, a couple meets with a master or doctoral student studying marriage and family therapy who assesses the health of their relationship and offer suggestions for improvement. This resource allows couples to have a trained therapist at no charge.
Anderson offers some questions that couples can incorporate into their dialogue to discuss how they can improve their relationship. He also encourages couples to ask these important questions on a regular basis:
Are you putting the other first?
Do you feel happy with the division of household labor?
Do you both feel that you have an equal voice in the relationship?
Humans have a fundamental need to be emotionally connected with another person. According to Anderson, humans possess the attachment need, a term coined by John Bowlby. Anderson says that individuals can “develop a secure attachment to someone when we can be vulnerable with a partner who is emotionally available to us and responsive to our needs.”
All relationships require communication, and, regardless of one’s relationship stage, counseling works for all individuals. Anderson highly recommends premarital counseling for individuals pursuing a marriage.”A good therapist will help the couple discuss some of the potential pitfalls and help the relationship begin on a solid foundation of communication,” Anderson says.
Jamie Moesser, an alum of BYU, speaks about her experience with marriage therapy: “I think all couples need to see a therapist occasionally, just like they do their doctor or dentist. It greatly benefited my husband and I. I got to re-discover the man I married, and we are growing closer every day. No matter who you are, marriage takes effort.”