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10 Things to Expect in Your First Counseling Session

Have you ever wondered what happens in the first counseling session? I thought you might, so I wrote this article about it.

The first session is an assessment, not counseling per se. I need to get to know you before jumping into the counseling phase. I ask a lot of questions and listen closely to your answers. I want to understand you as a unique individual. You may also ask me questions to determine if we are a good fit.

1. I’ll review your intake questionnaire with you and get a crystal clear picture of your goals.
2. We’ll discuss where you are now and what past factors are affecting your current life. This will take more than one session, but I want to get an overview in the first session. We won’t have time to go into lots of details.
3. We look at the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
4. We begin to design a plan for moving from “here” to “there.”  Here’s an analogy: If you were going to build a house, you would begin with a blueprint. We start designing the blueprint in the first session. It often takes more than one session to create the blueprint. If the plan is not prepared adequately, the success of the project will be inefficient and more likely to fail. I ask for your patience during this phase. This is the first step to help you achieve your goals.
5. We’ll talk about what has worked and what has not worked in the past so I can help you more efficiently.
6. You’ll tell me how you cope with stressors so I can help you respond more effectively.
7. I’ll begin to learn about your personality and help you understand yourself better.
8. We’ll start to build rapport, the most essential element in the counseling relationship.
9. At the end of the first meeting, we will both determine if we feel like we are a good match. If not, I’ll do my best to give you referrals.
10. If we both choose to proceed, I’ll gather more information in the second session. If we are finished reviewing your intake questionnaire, we’ll develop a treatment plan. We are still in the planning stage so please be patient. After the “blueprint” is completed, we’ll jump into the counseling phase.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to address them. I like to have open communication. No question is too small. I want to serve you in the best way possible so I need to know what you are thinking, feeling and wanting.

These situations are not a good fit for me. I’ll do my best to give you referrals.
• Alcohol and/or drug abuse
• Current domestic violence
• Suicidal or homicidal ideation or attempts
• Severe mental illness
• Borderline personality disorder
• Untreated bipolar disorder

*** I do not work with clients who are involved with legal cases where I may be asked to submit my records or to testify in court. I do not write reports to justify absence from work, nor do I write disability reports, workman’s compensation reports or legal reports of any kind. I do not work with child custody cases.

Click here to read about my ideal clients for individual counseling.

Click here to read about couples counseling.

I hope this article has answered most of your questions about what to expect in the first session. I’m here to help you create the most meaningful and fulfilling life possible.

If you’d like a complimentary 10-minute phone call to see if we are a good fit, please click here to complete the Contact Form.

Benita A. Esposito, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Blairsville and Atlanta, Georgia. She is also a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina, and she offers life coaching and spiritual counseling around the globe. She counsels adults who experience anxiety, stress, trauma, PTSD and grief. Specializations include highly sensitive people and couples counseling.

Click here for credentials.

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Covid-19 Zoom Support Group 4/9/20

I hope you and your family are well during this Covid-19 pandemic. If you’re experiencing difficulty, know that you are in my prayers.
Even if you aren’t experiencing distress personally, you may be feeling the collective free-floating anxiety. If you’d like some emotional and spiritual support, please join us for a free Zoom support group this Thursday 4/9/20 at 7pm Eastern.
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Purpose of the Zoom Group
This is a gathering place to receive support during our time of social distancing. By coming together, we’ll get through this crisis with more resilience and less anxiety. We heal best in community.
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Activities
  • We’ll share struggles and concerns.
  • You’ll receive emotional support and empathy from listening ears.
  • You’ll learn tools to help you grow emotionally and spiritually.
  • We’ll pray for each other and the world as we seek God’s guidance.
  • We’ll share blessings in disguise.
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Who’s Invited: You, your friends, family and acquaintances.
Please invite your friends and post on social media.
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When: Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 7pm-8pm Eastern
There’s a maximum of 100 seats available. Sign up now to save your seat.

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How Join this Free Zoom Meeting

***Advance registration is required.***
3) Click here to Send me an email and say, “I’d like to join the Covid Zoom support group on 4/9/20.” I’ll email you instructions.
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Facilitators
Benita A. Esposito, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Blairsville and Atlanta, Georgia. She counsels adults who experience anxiety, stress, trauma, PTSD and grief. She specializes in highly sensitive people and couples counseling.
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George Heilner, MA, LPA is a psychologist in North Carolina. He worked for many years in community mental health. He does psychological consults for Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital and has been leading a program for veterans with combat-related PTSD for 14 years.
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Special thanks to:
Coordinator of Pastoral Care Ministries at Good Shepherd Church, Rev. Delmer Chilton, who will lead us in the opening and closing prayer. This event is sponsored by Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Hayesville, North Carolina.
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Expanded Counseling Services During Covid-19

The federal government allows me to offer psychotherapy to people outside of Georgia during this national emergency. If your state licensing board approves it, we can meet via Zoom. If you have Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, I can process it for you. It’s easy to get started. Contact me for a free 10-minute get-acquainted phone call to see if we are a good fit.
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Reduce Your Stress During Covid-19

Covid-19 Support Series #1

I am sending you my love and blessings during this world crisis due to the coronavirus Covid-19.  I bless you with the wisdom to make healthy choices and to keep you and your loved ones safe from harm. Read more

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Deep Emotional Healing Retreat Fall 2020

This is a semi-private intensive retreat. October 3-4, 2020

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Early bird discount: Save $25 by August 3, 2020.

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Excavate and express your radiant Authentic Self …

the person God meant you to be.

Maximum of 6 participants. Register now to insure your seat.

Venue: Young Harris, Georgia USA

Unresolved emotional wounds decrease our ability to create fulfilling relationships and a meaningful career. They contribute to stress, dis-ease, anxiety and depression. But the good news is, you can heal.

Who Should Attend? Adults. Singles and couples are welcome.

Prerequisites: 3 private sessions for new clients must be completed at least one month before the retreat. Please apply now to get started with your private sessions if you are a new client. Complete the Contact Page for a complimentary10-minute get-acquainted phone chat to see if we are a good fit.

Why Attend this Retreat?

Relationship issues: Do you get emotionally triggered when you have conflicts and it takes a long time to recover? Wish your relationships were more fulfilling? Do you find yourself repeating unwanted patterns?

Spirituality: Do you get thrown off-center when things don’t go your way? Do you want to feel whole all the time, no matter what people do?

Mindset and Mood: Do limiting thoughts and “monkey-mind chatter” generate anxiety or depression? Do you procrastinate, hoping conflicts will just go away?

Health: Do you experience physical illness or pain? Do you suspect that unhealed emotional wounds may be a contributing factor?

Career: Do you want to create a meaningful career where you can be your Authentic Self? Do you sense the creative reservoir within, but you don’t fully express your gifts in the world?

Work-Life Balance: Do you find yourself being so busy that you have trouble finding enough time for your loved ones and down-time for yourself?

If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, I want you to know that you don’t have to continue to suffer. This retreat can help you make deep core changes … more than you think is possible in one weekend.

Retreat venue. Photo credit: Benita A Esposito

Retreat venue. Photo credit: Benita A Esposito

“I just wanted to thank you again for hosting such a wonderful and inspirational weekend retreat. I continued to ride the wave all the way home! As I reflected on one of the weekend’s more intense moments I found myself crying tears of despair, but they were instantaneously transformed into tears of joy as I instinctively felt comfort from the Divine. Thanks to your guidance, I now know how to access the healing, the answers, the wisdom and the love.” ~B.M., Computer Programmer

This retreat will help you …

Raise your relationships, career, health and spirituality to a whole new level of fulfillment.

Receive insights so compelling that you naturally flow into effective action instead of getting bogged down in self-defeating patterns.

Experience rigorous yet gentle leadership so you stop procrastinating and effectively reach your goals.

Allow God’s love to heal you and release wave after wave of creativity. Bask in the sweetness of spiritual intimacy, drawing ever closer to God. Enjoy accelerated healing in the beauty of our mountain lake.

  1. You’ll transform life patterns that no longer serve you.
  2. You’ll heal emotional wounds so you can create what is most meaningful in your life.
  3. You’ll be better equipped to create flourishing relationships.
  4. You’ll connect with your Authentic Self and God so you can feel whole all the time.
  5. You’ll develop self-compassion so you accept yourself right where you are, flaws and all.
  6. You’ll learn skills to reduce physical and emotional pain. Your body will feel safer to unwind and relax. You’ll heal faster.
  7. You’ll experience the sweetness of spiritual intimacy and unconditional love in a group of like-hearted companions. Feeling safe helps you open up.

Last night while soaking in the hot tub, I had a mental slideshow of past retreats and how transformative they’ve been for me.  For many years there’s been a deep ache inside of me because my father didn’t affirm me. This unresolved pain caused great difficulty with my romantic relationships. During the breathwork session at the last retreat, while I was in a dreamy state, I appeared as a radiant bride and my Dad finally gave me the adoration I have wanted all my life. Now six months later, I still feel the love that was planted in me during that retreat. What a priceless journey, worth more than gold!  – T.H, Entrepreneur

What Makes This Retreat So Powerful?

This retreat is a safe place for you to dive deep into emotional healing so you can experience major transformation in a compressed time.

Private counseling sessions of 50 minutes don’t allow for this kind of deep healing. You have an entire weekend to heal layer after layer. Your Authentic Self will shine so much more brightly.

You will benefit from my four decades of professional counseling expertise, but the most powerful healer is the Holy Spirit.

This retreat is custom-tailored to the small group of 4-6 participants.

–>If you’d like to see if this retreat is a good fit for you, please complete the Contact Form for a complimentary 10-minute get-acquainted phone chat. I look forward to hearing from you.

Location: A home overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Chatuge. Bordered by the Chattahoochee National Forest. Young Harris, GA. Two hours from Atlanta, Chattanooga and Asheville.

*** If you are allergic to cats, tell me know before you apply so we can discuss if this retreat is appropriate for you.

“As we closed the retreat, I felt, probably for the first time in my life, a deep grief that I would be leaving a group of people that meant so much to me. It’s rare for me to have a deep desire to continue to be a part of new people’s lives, and have them be a part of mine. This is one of the gifts that I received this past weekend. My path in life has been a solitary one, and I mostly liked it that way, but at the same time I felt lonely, isolated, and different. I never before realized how much I wanted to share myself with others, and to share their path and their experience.” E.W., Software Development Consultant

Retreat Activities. You will complete a questionnaire two to three weeks before the retreat telling me exactly what you want to experience in this retreat. I will design processes to meet your specific needs. The agenda remains fluid throughout the retreat so that everyone’s goals are met.

There will be several types of experiential learning formats that facilitate deep transformation:

(1) I will coach one person while the group learns vicariously. Group members learn more than they ever thought possible by observing someone else being coached. We have Q&A sessions to answer all your questions.

(2) Several people with similar issues will participate in a transformational process simultaneously.

Photo credit: Benita Esposito

(3) We will have at least one long Breathwork session. Breathwork is my most effective tool for generating deep spiritual-psychological-emotional-physical transformation.

Note: Read all these pages before you apply.  Breathwork is an intense transformational process. That’s why it is important that you read all the following posts before inquiring about the retreat.

Read this description of Breathwork.

Read these client stories on Breathwork.

Read this Breathwork Q&A discussion.

Click to read FAQs – What is it like to attend a Deep Emotional Healing Retreat?

TallulahGorgeFalls BEsposito

Tallulah Gorge by Benita Esposito

(4) Short lectures, written exercises, hand-outs, movement to music, mindfulness, deep breathing, relaxation, body-awareness activities, and didactic conversations.

“I had never really even entertained the idea of doing a retreat. Scared me to death. This time I had some help coaxing me to go, but I knew I would do it anyway. Once my spirit decided it was the place to be, then it was so powerful that I had to surrender. So far it’s been one life changing experience after another. Right now I am flying. Can you tell? I mean high! I feel like running up this path barefooted if I have to. What an amazing life I have!” – V.S., Psychotherapist

Agenda: Saturday and Sunday

Arrive at 9:00-9:15am *

Group 9:30am – 12:30pm

Break  12:30 – 2:30pm

Group  2:30 – 5:30pm

Saturday evening: group dinner

Please be flexible on the ending time Sunday to accommodate the needs of the group.

We will take one long break during the afternoon to walk at the lake, meditate, nap or deepen friendships. It’s your choice.

This semi-private retreat consists of 4-6 people. If we have 4 people, we will meet five hours on Sunday, instead of six hours.

Note: Every retreat is different and is designed to meet the needs of the specific participants. Some people attend retreats for several years, deepening their growth and renewing friendships with other participants.

“My cheek muscles have been sore since I returned from the retreat. Could this be from smiling so much that it hurts? I have to say, when I left the retreat I had some good gut wrenching cries of loss and now…. wow, I do believe that joy is here. I am walking around singing, laughing, and just having fun with myself.  I want to spread this around to everyone.”- M.F., Technical Trainer

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Photo Benita A Esposito

Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC

Benita is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Christian healer with four decades experience. I respect all spiritual paths that advocate love and respect for life.

Benita’s Bio

Want a preview of my work?

Click here to watch my book video: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.

 

“By working with Benita Esposito over the last eight years in one-on-one and in group settings, I have deeply explored the outer reaches of consciousness, and the inner depths of my body-mind-soul-emotions. Via strong empathetic connection with me, Benita has intuitively guided me and coached me through issues so I can create healthy personal and business relationships. I benefit most from group retreats where there is a mixture of people’s energies. The extended time to work on things is crucial to digging deep and making major changes, while the beautiful Nature settings give me the soothing arena I need to process the experiences. Jump at the chance to be involved in a retreat as often as possible – that is my recommendation. If a retreat doesn’t suit you, choose another format. It is an honor and a privilege to have Benita as the co-creator of my true destiny and journey towards my Authentic Self.”  ~ L.S., Software Engineer

 

Tuition includes Saturday night dinner.

$595.00 for two full days.

Early Bird Discount: Save $25.00 by August 3, 2020.

Space is limited to 6 people. Register now to save your seat. Tickets will sell out quickly. Meals and lodging are on your own.

Contact me to receive payment instructions.

***Register early because you must fulfill the prerequisites. Email me via the Contact Page and tell me you want to apply for this retreat.

Remember this Prerequisite:

New clients must have at least 3 private sessions. This can be in-person, on the phone or video-conference. Retreats are profound and intense. I need to make sure you are prepared and that the retreat will be a good fit for you. Please inquire about the fee for these private sessions. Contact me.

List of hotels and restaurants. Book your hotel early. Space fills up quickly because of the Fall leaf season in the mountains.

Photo credit: Benita Esposito

Refund Policy

All refund requests must be made via email. Complete the contact form.
• 30 or more days before the retreat, there will be a full refund minus a $50 processing fee.
• No refunds 0 – 29 days before the retreat, but you may apply your fee to private sessions or another retreat within 1 year, minus a $50 fee.

 

Facilitator’s Cancellation Policy

If an event must be cancelled due to unforeseen events (such as the weather or illness of the facilitator) the event will be rescheduled. Every attempt will be made to accommodate a new date that will suit your needs. If that is not possible, you may apply your tuition to another event of your choice within one year or apply your fee to private sessions.

“When you polish your facet of the diamond, the whole diamond glows more brilliantly.” ~ Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor

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Breathwork Healing Stories – Laura

Story #1. Laura’s Chronic Shoulder Pain

Laura didn’t think the pain in her right shoulder would ever go away since the injury in 1994, so she didn’t even try to heal it. That was not the intended focus of this breathwork session that took place in 2002. Read more

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Why Breathwork Creates Rapid Changes

Visit the Events Page for all the retreat updates.

While weekly therapy sessions help sustain steady growth, sometimes this may be too slow for you. If you are eager to make faster progress, I’d like to tell you about a technique that creates breakthroughs better than any method I know.

Read more

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Your Authentic Life Personal Growth Retreat

One day, Saturday, September 16, 2017

Register by August 26, 2017.

 

What if you don’t take the risk to be your Authentic Self?

The thought of showing up as your Authentic Self can be exciting and scary. It requires you to take risks, and sometimes you don’t know the outcome before you jump off the proverbial cliff.

Will your marriage weather the transition? Will you still be employed? Will you be embraced by your family and friends … if you dare to be your Authentic Self and tell the truth about who you are?

But …

If you don’t show up as your Authentic Self, love is never fulfilling because your true self hides behind a mask. People can’t reach you and you can’t reach them. You change your behavior to manage people’s impressions, hoping they’ll love you. Or you withdraw to protect yourself, or you fight with your loved ones.
If you don’t show up as your Authentic Self, work is never fulfilling. Even if you get promoted because you’re conscientious, you’re unhappy. You’re not as creative as you could be. You’re not tapped into your sweet spot, shining from your God-given gifts. Without the passion of being fully alive, you feel drained, depressed or anxious.

So why take the risks to show up as Your Authentic Self?

Even when you’re afraid to fully show up, there’s a part of you who still yearns to unfold the truth of your being.

You want to be loved and respected for who you truly are. You want genuine emotional connection. You want to express your unique voice. You feel compelled to share your gifts with the world and leave your legacy.

The truth is: When you take a stand to show up as your Authentic Self, then you will find the people who truly support you. Others may fall away. You have to risk letting go. You must get good at grieving … saying good-bye … so you can say hello to your Authentic Self and the new people who will come into your life.

You must challenge the idea that being true to your self is selfish. Many of us grew up with the idea that it is bad to be self-centered … as if we couldn’t think about ourselves and be kind to others.

Some people will understand you and like you; some people won’t. When you define your true North, and summon the courage to be real, you glisten like a diamond, just as God intended you to shine in the world.

When you pay more attention to your divine blueprint than the opinions of others, only then will you experience true fulfillment.

In this Retreat …

  • You’ll clarify your core values and develop skills to craft the most meaningful life possible for you.
  • You’ll explore the limiting beliefs that hold you back.
  • You’ll learn why thinking positively doesn’t transform entrenched coping patterns.
  • You’ll examine childhood core decisions that have unconsciously thwarted your success.
  • You’ll learn skills to heal difficult emotional experiences that have shaped your life.
  • You’ll increase courage to show up as your Authentic Self, and share your most precious gifts.
  • As a result, you’ll enjoy greater health, happiness and work-life balance.

Who Should Attend?

Singles and Couples: Adults who want to express their Authentic Self, do deep emotional healing so they can successfully reach their life goals. Appropriate for Highly Sensitive People and others.

Retreat View, Young Harris, GA

Retreat View, Young Harris, GA

Why Attend a Retreat?

One-hour therapy sessions are great, but you can make much faster progress with an entire day spent with like-hearted people joined together to help you heal and tap into your full potential.

I will help you connect with your Authentic Self, your Spirit, and the Holy Spirit where healing, wisdom and creativity naturally flow.

This retreat will be tailored to the specific needs of those present.

This retreat unfolds organically to meet each participant’s needs. You will each define your goals, and I will draw on my 40 years of experience to choose specific skills to help you attain your goals. My task is to be present with you, and help you be present each moment, even in your vulnerable emotions. You’ll tell the deepest truth, and connect with your highest wisdom. We’ll mine the gold in the darkness.

When you develop the ability to feel your emotions while staying grounded in your body, you’ll experience an incredible freedom and peace, even in the midst of chaos. You will learn how to remain calm in the peaceful eye of the hurricane while the winds whip all around you. Instead of shrinking back from your fears, you will find your way through the storm, and flourish in the freedom of pure love. You’ll connect with your Authentic Self, just the way God made you.

Like to swim? Bring your suit.

Topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Increase self-confidence, and self-esteem.
  • Create healthy relationships.
  • Improve communication and assertiveness skills.
  • Deepen emotional healing.
  • Eliminate emotional reactivity.
  • Enjoy sweeter spiritual intimacy.
  • Heal family of origin wounds.
  • Achieve work-life balance.
  • Improve self-care and overall health.

Date: One day. Saturday, September 16,  9:30a.m.-5:30 p.m. Please arrive 9:00-9:15a.m.

We’ll have a lunch break for 2 hours so you can go swimming, walk by the lake, meditate or visit with group members. Bring a picnic lunch or go out to eat.

money-visa-blue-morguefile-freeTuition: $240.00. Lunch on your own.

Register early to reserve your seat. Space is limited to 7 participants. Please register by August 26, 2017.

If you have had three or more private therapy sessions with me, you may go ahead and pay with PayPal. Ask me for instructions. Or mail a check to The Esposito Institute, PO Box 1074, Young Harris, GA 30582.

If you are a new client: To apply for participation in this event, complete the Contact form. Give me 3 good times to call you. You’ll receive a complimentary 10-minute phone interview to see how this retreat will benefit you. Prerequisite: 2 private therapy sessions, in-person or videoconference.

HiawasseeLocation: Young Harris, Georgia. Enjoy the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Two hours from Atlanta, Asheville or Chattanooga.

The Old Paradigm

When we judge and suppress or repress our emotional experiences, we get stuck. We learn to wear a mask, protecting our soft under-belly from being hurt. We hide from ourselves and our loved ones. We can’t truly flourish. We may try hard, and we may be very successful in ways defined by the world. But our relationship with our Authentic Self, with our body, with God, and with others becomes compromised. This separation creates dis-ease and unrest on many levels.

The New Paradigm

Contrary to popular opinion, fear, anger, or anguish are not the problem. Emotions are not our enemies and we do not have to get rid of them or release them. This thinking  keeps us stuck in a vicious cycle: feeling good for a while and then feeling bad and ashamed, and then suffering once again.

We need to accept difficult emotions as part of our human experience and stay fully present in our bodies, receiving unconditional love. Then we heal. Health and vitality flow. Relationships flourish. Self-esteem rises.

Retreat Testimonials

Suggested reading: The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz.

Pre-requisite: A minimum of two private sessions with Benita A. Esposito.

 BE July2016Credentials:  Benita A. Esposito, M.A. earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology in 1976. She is a licensed professional counselor, life coach and ordained minister with “The Association for the Integration of the Whole Person.” Benita provides individual and couples private sessions, groups, workshops and weekend retreats.  This retreat is a spiritual healing format, not a psychotherapy format.

—> If you would like a two-day retreat to do more intensive work, join us for the Deep Emotional Healing Retreat October 28-29, 2017.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”  Jesus, quoted in John 14:12

Copyright 2016.  All rights reserved. The Esposito Institute, Inc.

Psychotherapy: www.Flourishing-Lives.com

Life Coaching: www.SensitiveIntrovert.com anywhere in the world via videoconference

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Pre-Marital Counseling

Are you considering pre-marital counseling to get your marriage off to a healthy start? I am happy to help you learn research-based skills so you can become a master of marriage.

Why is pre-marital counseling so important? For marriages that end, half of them occur during the first seven years. Second marriages have an even higher divorce rate than first-time marriages. Third-time marriages have an even higher divorce rate than second-time marriages. You get the picture. The average couples waits six years before seeking marriage counseling. That’s way too long to suffer and let bad habits brew. Bottom line is: when you give yourselves the gift of pre-marital counseling, you will build a strong foundation so you can avoid a lot of potential misery. Read more

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Dr. John Gottman’s Marriage Research FAQs

Is Dr. John Gottman really able to predict whether a couple will get divorced with 94% accuracy?

Statements about the 94% accuracy rate of divorce prediction have become a source of confusion. People hear Dr. Gottman’s prediction rate is 90 or 85 or 94 percent accurate (depending on the study) and find it amazing, unbelievable and downright scary. (He often tells his wife that this is why they don’t get invited to more dinner parties!) Read more

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Dr. John Gottman’s Marriage Research Statistics

Dr. Gottman’s mathematical research on “masters” and “disasters” of marriage predicts divorce with 94% accuracy rate based on 3,000 couples in longitudinal studies.

Here are some key statistics below.

  • Half of all divorces occur in the first 7 years.

Read more

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