For the second time, The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology will be offering Special Topics: Marriage Counseling (CSL 575B) during the upcoming Fall term, led by Dr. Steve Call. Dr. Call, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology and Practicum Leader, has been a faculty member at The Seattle School for more than 10 years. He teaches Counseling Children and Adolescents, Marriage and Family, and Family Systems. He is a licensed psychologist and has a private practice specializing in adolescents, couples, and families. We talked with Dr. Call about the upcoming Marriage Counseling class and why he looks forward to teaching it.
Can you give a 30,000-foot overview of this class? What’s it all about?
I’m really excited to be teaching this class again this year after offering it for the first time last year. It essentially is a class that builds upon the principles taught in Marriage and Family. The hope is that it provides students a deeper understanding of what it means to work with married couples in a therapeutic setting. We cover topics such as shame, conflict, intimacy, need, evil, and play—to name a few.
How are you hoping students will be changed after taking this course?
For one, students are invited to explore their family of origin with regards to their parents’ relationship. By doing so, they gain a deeper insight into how the marriage relationship impacts family relationships. We also work with specific case studies of couples that I have worked with therapeutically, which offers a hands-on experience of what this work may entail. By becoming aware of the common cycles for married couples, my hope is that students truly will be prepared to work with couples therapeutically. Part of what can be overwhelming, and perhaps even daunting, is feeling unprepared. So, my goal is that students will walk away with some tools and techniques that will allow them to offer hope and healing to couples in distress.
Working with couples seems like a daunting task. So many of us have seen the fallout of broken marriages up close and personal. What gives you hope?
That is a frequent question that students ask. I believe hope is contagious and we really are in this work to offer healing to those who are suffering. When a couple I am working with experiences a new insight, a new awareness, or a new understanding, a new relational pattern is established between them, which can lead to healing. Often for couples it can be a small shift that leads to significant change. I think the hope for couples in the present comes from those couples in the past that have experienced healing in their marriage.
It’s clear when you teach how passionate you are about this work, about helping couples build and restore more healthy relationships. Can you give a little background about how you got into this field? And why do you think it’s so important?
Honestly, I stumbled into this field. But I would rather believe it is a call—which began as a child struggling with my own parents’ marriage. I saw the heartache and despair with my own eyes. I would like to hope that God invites each of us to offer an experience of reconciliation for those we live with, play with, and work with. I do believe that our work truly is the work of reconciliation.
You talk about this some in Marriage and Family, but what would you say to future therapists who are worried that, because they’re not married, they won’t have anything to offer to couples?
You know, some of the best marriage therapists I know are actually single. Single people have suffered relational pain and heartache and often know it well. It is because of their own experiences with loss and grief that they can offer a deep well of empathy for those couples they sit with. Just because one may not have experienced marriage, does not imply that the gift of presence, kindness, and empathy can’t be offered.
On a personal note, what have you been up to this summer?
Summer is certainly one of my favorite times of the year. It is filled with play—something that I believe is vital for therapists to maintain a capacity to do this work. Every summer our family spends two weeks on the Oregon coast. What a treat. Nothing beats playing in the sand and flying kites with my family. Fly-fishing is also a highlight this summer. My fly-fishing buddy, Dan Allender, and I will be traveling soon to fish one of the most beautiful rivers in Montana. Such a gift to be able to play in the river with a fish on my line.
And what are you most looking forward to about coming back in the fall?
Fall represents a new season, and one of the gifts in teaching at The Seattle School is meeting a new cohort each year. Students come to our school with such beautiful and tragic stories, and it is such a privilege to journey alongside them for these next few years.