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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Creating Wellness for the Whole Family

Jul 24, 2012 12:29PM ● By Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian and Rev. Jean Kadkhodaian

The family is a system very much like the human body. If one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body attempts to compensate for it, which weakens the entire system. Similarly, in couples therapy, the condition of each partner often negatively impacts the relationship. This in turn affects the entire family system, and can manifest itself in a multitude of ways—physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Due to these complexities, treatment must be conducted in a holistic manner.

Meet Janet and Dave, who have two sons ages 9 and 11, and have been married for 13 years. Janet is 39, works full-time and is active in a local women’s club. Dave is 42, travels often for work, enjoys restoring vintage cars and coaches their older son’s little league team. They own a house, are financially comfortable and are each growing in their respective careers. They fell in love over their shared interests of water skiing, camping and hiking. Over time, however, their lives seemed to lose balance.

At their first counseling session, Janet looked rundown, confused and sad. She reported that she had obtained what she thought she wanted in her life; a home, a family and friends, so she just couldn’t understand why she wasn’t happy. She apologized as she wept openly during the first session. Dave reported that he was there to support his wife and that he would do what he could to help her feel better, but that he felt everything was fine. He was proud of the fact that they hardly ever fought, but admitted they could work on communication.

They each began the individual discovery portion of our couples program to learn what was out of balance in their individual lives and how that was negatively impacting the relationship. Janet had a very difficult second pregnancy and almost died in childbirth. Dave was told by the doctors to prepare that she was not going to make it, and was terrified to think of raising two boys all alone. He realized it was then when he put up his “walls” to try and protect himself from being hurt. He leaned too heavily on their older son during his wife’s long recovery and never really bonded with their second son. Janet felt very isolated and alone, almost like a single parent. Dave often overruled her attempts at disciplining the older son, and he rarely spent time with their younger son. Janet became fearful of her body and stopped hiking and camping, which had been the glue for the relationship. After a knee injury, Dave no longer cared about outdoor activities. Neither Janet nor Dave had support during that very difficult time. They had never really talked about the situation and it was obviously still heavily impacting them individually, as a couple and as a family, nine years later.

Traumas can have a devastating impact on the marital relationship and subsequently negatively impact every relationship within the family system. Couples may notice a decline in physical intimacy, which becomes relative to the time they spend together without the children. Arguments can become cyclical and volatile. Often, extended family and friends get involved in the negativity and cause more of a divide. Children can also serve as daily reminders of the difficult time that the couple endured, which can result in the parents inadvertently distancing themselves from the child. In addition, traumas can manifest not only as strained familial relationships, but can also appear as medical issues, mental and emotional abnormalities, and/or spiritual crises over the course of time. Because of these complex factors, which span all areas of life, a comprehensive holistic approach to healing is often necessary.

In addition to counseling, Janet utilized multiple integrative therapies to advance healing due to the trauma that was stored deep in her cellular memory. She learned and practiced meditation and yoga to manage her stress and learned to listen and trust her body again. Dave worked on repairing his relationship with his youngest son by having combined counseling sessions with him and investing more time with him overall. During couples counseling, they learned how to create a space where they could share difficult feelings with respect and create a strong co-parenting team together.

By working on all areas affected by the trauma, Janet and Dave were able to bring harmony and whole wellness back into their relationship and family life.

Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian and Rev. Jean Kadkhodaian, founders of The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center, in Arlington Heights, focus on the health and wellness of marriage and families, and provide services to illuminate possibilities in all aspects of living a powerful healthy life and in creating synergistic relationships. For more information, call 847-253-9769 or visit