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Relationships can often be the most fulfilling or detrimental part of one’s life.  All of us typically interact on a daily basis with either family, friends, roommates, acquaintances, teachers, colleagues, neighbors, supervisors… or other members of our community.  Each of these relationships (no matter how involved or uninvolved) has an impact on your life; and therefore has an impact upon your emotional health.  Many psychologist believe that relationships with family (and especially one’s parents) can be the most powerful factor effecting one’s mental health.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -  DSM-5 (The resource psychologist, psychiatrist, and other mental health therapist use to diagnose mental health conditions) describes several relationship difficulties, including:  Relational Distress with a Spouse or Intimate Partner, Parent-Child Relational Problems, Sibling Relational Problems; and also describes maladaptive relationships resulting in abuse and neglect of children and adults.  Furthermore, the DSM-5 describes various Personality Disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Avoidant or Dependent Personality Disorder; all of which encompass interpersonal relationship difficulties as one of their main components.

The DSM-5 describes Relational Distress with a Spouse or Intimate Partner  when:  the major focus of clinical attention is to address the quality of intimate relationships or when the quality of that relationship is affecting the course, prognosis, or treatment of a mental or other medical disorder.  Typically this relationship distress is associated with impaired functioning in behavior, cognition and/or affective (emotional) domains.

The DSM-5 describes Spouse or Partner Psychological Abuse as nonaccidental verbal or symbolic acts by one's partner that results in significant harm to the other partner.  The DSM-5 further describes Spouse or Partner Psychological Abuse as acts of berating or humiliating the victim, interrogating the victim, restricting the victim’s ability to come and go freely, obstructing the victim’s access to assistance, threatening the victim with physical harm or sexual assault, harming or threatening to harm the victim, unwarranted restriction of the victim’s access to or use of economic resources, isolating the victim from family, friends, or social support, stalking the victim, and/or trying to make the victim think that he or she is crazy.

Psychotherapy for relationship issues focuses on identifying maladaptive and destructive behaviors and cognitions; then works to eliminate or change those actions and thoughts.  Families, couples, and individuals are first challenged to identify what factors about the relationship are causing distress, then are guided to identify how these factors (behaviors and interpretations of these behaviors) affect each member of the relationship (psychologically), and then are asked to change these target behaviors and cognitions.  Several key ingredients in Relationship Counseling are honesty (both with one’s self and others), learning to compromise, learning how your behavior affects others, learning how other’s behavior affects you, trust, integrity, respect,  learning how to replace maladaptive cognitions and behaviors with healthy thoughts and actions, problems solving skills, and learning effective communication skills.

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