Our Mission At NIRE – and our sister organization IDEALS of Kentucky – we are Relationship Specialists. Whether we are working with an individual, couple, child or family, our goal is to “educate hearts and transform relationships” – this is our mission. We are a private non-profit organization. What do we do? • We provide counseling to couples, children, families, and individuals • We teach relationship skills classes for couples, stepfamilies and singles • We provide coaching to singles and couples by telephone • We teach mental health professionals and lay volunteers how to help others have better relationships • We supervise people across the US who wish to strengthen relationships through our core methods of Child-Centered Play Therapy, Filial Family Therapy and Relationship Enhancement® (RE) Therapy and the RE Program • We publish relationship strengthening materials Each one of us at NIRE brings personal and professional strengths to our work. However, what we have in common is our experience with Relationship Enhancement® (RE) and Filial skills to transform relationships. These skills have transformed our own relationships, and we have watched them work again and again with those who come to us for relationship classes, counseling or coaching. In everything we do, we teach skills while we help people work through issues and build bonds. We all want love – we don’t always know how to give or receive it. We teach people how to effectively give and receive love through Relationship Enhancement® (RE). RE has forty years and 27 research studies to demonstrate its effectiveness. Its sister intervention, Filial Therapy, applies the same concepts to relationships between parents and young children. Our Mastering the Mysteries of Love (MML) workshops for couples are offered almost every month of the year. Sometimes they are offered in a two-day weekend format; other times they are offered in a format of two separate 1-day workshops. The Relationship Enhancement® skills taught in these workshops will help you transform your relationships through more respectful self-expression, increased mutual understanding, cooperative problem solving, successful behavior change, and effective management of emotionally charged conflict situations. Further information about the workshops and dates can be found at www.nire.org. Our therapy work with couples combines Relationship Enhancement® skills with proven strategies that resolve such problems as infidelity, lack of trust, out of control anger, loss of emotional connection, decreased sexual satisfaction or stepfamily dynamics. Sometimes only one person is ready for change in a relationship. We believe that one person, when well coached, can change a relationship. It’s harder – but we have helped many people do it. When one person begins to do things differently, others respond differently, and the relationship changes. Often the relationship issues of adults create problems for children. Or children create relationship problems for adults. Our work with children and adolescents focuses on strengthening family ties. We help families work and play together in special ways that teach everyone the skills of good relationships while helping children learn how to manage their emotions and behavior. Individuals not currently in a relationship, or in the early stages of a relationship, may benefit from relationship coaching to assist them with good relationship skills while also helping them gain clarity about what is important to them in a relationship and how to assess whether a particular person represents a good relationship partner. At later stages, this relationship coaching may become couple coaching to assist the new couple in how to have a better relationship together. Our Staff Rob Scuka, Ph.D., M.S.W., LCSW-C, is Executive Director of NIRE and a member of NIRE's training faculty. Rob is author of Relationship Enhancement Therapy: Healing Through Deep Empathy and Intimate Dialogue (Routledge, 2005), co-author of several Relationship Enhancement® Program manuals and has produced several DVDs. Rob specializes in couple therapy, including infidelity and other difficult relationship issues. Rob also brings RE skill workshops to business, non-profit and governmental organizations, and leads church retreats for couples. Rob has a doctorate in religious studies and taught philosophy and religion at American University and Georgetown University for nine years Joan Dyer Liversidge, M.S., LCMFT, is a therapist, educator, and trainer for NIRE. Joan is a certified leader and trainer for the Mastering the Mysteries of Love RE Program and provides training in Relationship Enhancement® skills in workplace and community settings. As a Marriage and Family therapist for 28 years, she has worked with individuals, couples and families in a variety of private and community based settings. Carrie Hansen, M.S.W., LCSW-C, is a licensed clinical social worker and Director of Stepfamily Programs at NIRE. Carrie is certified as a Relationship Enhancement® Marital/Couples Therapist and a Mastering the Mysteries of Love Program Leader and specializes in working with couples, remarriage issues, and parenting and stepfamily issues. Ms. Hansen also works with children in play therapy and consults at a private school in Prince George's County, Maryland. Mary Scuka, CPC, is a certified Relationship Enhancement® (RE) Program Leader through NIRE and a Certified Professional Life Coach through Relationship Coaching Institute. Mary has brought her RE and life coaching skills into corporate, professional and women’s organizations for more than 15 years. Mary has led women's empowerment workshops and support groups, trained group leaders, led RE workshops for couples and facilitated team building sessions within corporate settings. Mary is extremely passionate about coaching singles and couples in relationship skills. Mary works with couples to apply RE skills to create more loving, satisfying and fulfilling relationships. Through her coaching with singles, Mary helps individuals gain clarity about themselves, what is important to them in a relationship, and how to attract and evaluate prospective life partners during the dating process. Our main office is in Bethesda, MD. We have satellite offices in Kensington, MD, Sandy Spring, MD and North Beach, MD. We also work with people remotely via telephone. For more information please visit www.nire.org.
The Reason I Became A Helping ProfessionalIDEALS began in 1973 because Dr. Bernard Guerney, our founder, wanted to “give psychology away” by teaching interpersonal skills. Its goal is to “teach people methods of communicating with others, of dealing with emotions, and of solving problems.” NIRE began in 1993 to bring this work to the Washington, DC metropolitan area through counseling and workshops and across the US through training, supervision, and publication of easy to read and use relationship books, videos, and programs. At IDEALS we all believe that when people communicate and understand each other on a deep level, love is grounded. It grows. Everything we do is founded on Dr. Guerney's concept of "deep empathy." This is not repeating back what someone has said, but rather spending time walking around in the other's heart and soul. We help people communicate at that deep level. When they do, wonderful things happen. That is our motivation for the work we do.
Ben and Stacy had been married for less than a year. They were struggling with conflict – conflict that made them question whether they had made the right choice to marry. They were both worried and anxious about their future together. What if their conflicts only got worse? What kind of life would this mean between them? How could they bring children into this situation?
Ben and Stacy didn’t know how to manage conflict effectively and in a manner that would allow them to experience working together successfully as a team. Family experiences contributed to their individual patterns of handling conflict, which typically resulted in intense arguments and a profound sense of disconnection. They needed to learn new, more effective patterns of handling conflict.
In the process of getting to know each of them and their relationship, I found out that they had no premarital preparation and had had a very short courtship. They were in their mid to late 20s and were members of a faith community which guided them through their courtship, engagement and marriage. However, the guidance did not include training in relationship skills that would help them with both the short-term preparation for marriage as well as the longer term adjustments necessary for a satisfying, life-long marriage.
Following the Relationship Enhancement® skills training approach used at National Institute of Relationship Enhancement® and its Center for Couples, Families and Children, we first worked on interrupting Ben and Stacy’s destructive patterns of conflict. They learned how to stop their negative conflict patterns and how to take a time-out to regain their composure. Ben and Stacy then learned how to talk about their issues in a skillful and respectful manner that allowed them to stay engaged with each other so that they could address and resolve their issues in a more cooperative manner. This involved learning how to express themselves more fully to each other and how to really listen so that they would understand each other at a deeper level.
Ben and Stacy immediately found that they had fewer out-of-control conflicts and they felt more connected and optimistic about their future. They also found that they didn’t have as many differences as they thought and the ones they did have could be worked through together in a spirit of cooperation to find solutions that could work for both of them and their relationship.
Learning to manage their emotions and conflicts more effectively and learning how to stay connected while dealing with their differences were essential to re-establishing the positive outlook Ben and Stacy had when they married. They left NIRE’s Center for Couples, Families and Children with renewed hope for their future and working on their next project – buying a house and then filling it with children!
Tim and Barbara came to see me in therapy a few weeks after Barbara discovered Tim’s affair. The affair had been going on for several months, and Barbara was devastated. Her world had been turned upside down, she was scared of having gotten a sexually transmitted disease, and she didn’t know what to believe or whether she even knew who Tim was anymore.
The first few months of therapy were an emotional roller coaster for both of them. Tim struggled with intense feelings of guilt and shame, and his pre-existing depression only got worse. He was profoundly grief stricken over the pain that his affair had afflicted upon Barbara, and was scared that Barbara would choose to end the marriage, which he did not want to see happen because he did love her. For her part, Barbara lost all trust in Tim, was preoccupied with learning the details of the affair, and was fearful that Tim was no longer committed to her and would eventually go back to the other woman.
Tim and Barbara made some progress in the first 4-6 weeks, including Tim’s effort at coming to understand his own vulnerabilities that rendered him susceptible to engaging in the affair, his unconditional acceptance of his own responsibility for the affair as well as Tim’s genuine expressions of regret and remorse for having had the affair. Barbara was attempting to deal with her own anger and grief at the same time that she was trying to understand what Tim had done and his seemingly genuine remorse. This progress was facilitated by them learning and beginning to use the Relationship Enhancement® skills of empathy and respectful self-expression in the context of a structured dialogue process that permitted them to dialogue about the extremely challenging issues they faced.
But when Barbara learned some additional details that she had not previously been aware of regarding the extent of the telephone contact between Tim and the other woman, Barbara went into an emotional tailspin. Increasingly, a tendency that had only fleetingly emerged in the early stage of therapy now burst forth into a firestorm in that Barbara was now convinced that Tim had the affair because he felt the other woman was sexier than she was, was more fun than she was, and that Tim was more in love with the other woman than with her.
This personalizing of Tim’s affair by Barbara whereby she turned it into a judgment and commentary about herself made the relational work between them even more challenging. While it took many months of intensive crisis management on the one hand, and frequent individual sessions combined with weekly couple’s dialogue work on the other, Barbara was gradually able to see that Tim’s affair actually had little to do with her and had everything to do with Tim’s underlying depression and poor self-image that rendered him vulnerable to the attentions of another female in order for him to escape the despair of his own lost self.
Tim’s unwavering commitment to Barbara and remorse over his infidelity also gradually helped Barbara to be able to put the affair in the context of his personal vulnerabilities while also being able to face the aspects of their relationship that made the relationship vulnerable to his infidelity. With Tim’s devotion to Barbara and complete transparency in his behavior, combined with their continued use of the RE skills and dialogue process, Tim and Barbara were able to gradually rebuild trust in the relationship and move toward genuine reconciliation and forgiveness.
Today, with the help of the RE skills and dialogue process, Tim and Barbara have completed therapy and are now planning their future life together, including making plans to fulfill their mutual goal of having a family.