Last October, we hosted the first annual Symposia: An Intersection of Conversation & Innovation, a forum in which alumni of The Seattle School presented the ongoing work they are pursuing at the intersection of text, soul, and culture. Integrative education does not end at graduation, and our alumni are proof of that. Symposia highlighted the ways that Seattle School alumni are continuing to wrestle with big questions and big dreams in theology, psychology, and culture.

This week, we’re featuring a presentation by Zach Brittle (MA in Counseling, ‘01), “Permission, Perspective, and Process: A Framework for Working Therapeutically with Couples.” Zach, a couples therapist in private practice in Seattle, is a Certified Gottman Therapist, which has allowed him to combine the rich narrative work he pursued at The Seattle School with the evidence-based theories and practices he learned through the Gottman Institute.

“When we’re talking about couples work at all, it’s really important to have an idea of what you believe about a marriage,” says Zach. “And I think that is a really fleeting definition, particularly now—a marriage is a lot of different things: it’s a social contract, it’s a political statement, it’s a business agreement, and it’s a sacrament. Working therapeutically with folks, you can’t assume straight up that you know what their marriage is.”

Zach shares three different concepts that frame his therapeutic work with couples: permission, whether it’s permission to hope or to struggle; perspective to see the themes and long-term dynamics in a relationship; and process—real, practical tools that help couples commit to the slow, gradual work of transforming relationships.

“It’s not what happened last Thursday that makes or breaks your relationship. It’s the themes and the patterns that are embedded in the way you relate.”

Throughout his talk, Zach shares engaging examples of how his ideas play out in practice, and he weaves in glimpses of how his theology frames and informs the work that he pursues therapeutically. Zach also briefly refers to the process of publishing a book, challenging the storytellers and thought leaders in The Seattle School community to work at getting their words and ideas out into the world. (For more about Zach’s book, The Relationship Alphabet, you can read excerpts here on the Intersections blog.