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Catherine Ferreira-Babor, Psy.D.
Therapy for Adults, Teens, and Couples

Walnut Creek, CA Therapist

Catherine Ferreira-Babor, Psy.D.

2930 Camino Diablo, Suite 305B
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
1806 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94703

[email protected]
Marriage Counseling

I am a big fan of relationships! A person’s ability to have happy, mutually satisfying relationships is fundamental to an overall sense that life is worth living and that you can overcome the obstacles that all of us have. Having the ability to rely on others for help, as well as being helpful to others, deepens one’s sense of meaningfulness and connection.

I am often asked:

  • Why do I feel so stuck? Every time I try to talk to my partner, we end up in an argument? We can’t seem to get out of the rut that we are in! I’m starting to feel hopeless…

  • Can you teach us how to discuss difficult things without ending up angry with each other?

  •  I have so much resentment towards my partner from years of conflict that I can’t even begin to see where to start? Can you help me heal from our past?

  • Things have happened that have caused me to feel that I can’t trust my partner but I still want our relationship to last. Is there any hope?

  •  Can you teach us what a healthy relationship is? We are so used to interacting the way that we do now, that I can’t tell what is just a bad habit?

  • We have already decided to separate and we want to do so with as much respect and kindness as possible. How do we do that? 

  •  My partner had an affair. Is there any hope that we can heal and rebuild our relationship?

  •  I miss my partner and yet when we’re together we feel like strangers. How can we start to feel closer again?



The following is material from the Gottman Institute. Please visit their website (www.gottman.com) for more helpful information. It is posted here as a quick resource for couples in need.  In therapy with me, we can work to assess and develop the skills, attitudes and capacity for meaningful relationships.

  • Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.
  • Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.
  • Soften your "start up." Arguments first "start up" because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone. Bring up problems gently and without blame.
  • Accept influence. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. If a woman says, "Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready," and her husband replies, "My plans are set, and I'm not changing them". This guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband's ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.
  • Have high standards. Happy couples have high standards for each other even as newlyweds. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
  • Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Happy couples know how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of control. Successful repair attempts include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humor; stroking your partner with a caring remark ("I understand that this is hard for you"); making it clear you're on common ground ("This is our problem"); backing down (in marriage, as in the martial art Aikido, you have to yield to win); and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way ("I really appreciate and want to thank you for.…"). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
  • Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones.  For example, "We laugh a lot;" not, "We never have any fun".  A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. Make deposits to your emotional bank account.