Individual and couples therapist Brandon Srot recently joined the team at the Clinton Power + Associates as a counselling associate.
Brandon Srot has over 7 years of experience working with individuals and couples with relationship issues. He has a passion for helping couples transform their relationship.
So I recently interviewed Brandon to find out more about his approach to working with relationship issues and his philosophy of how people can change their relationship pattens.
If you would like to book a free 15-minute phone consultation with Brandon, click here to book with our online appointment scheduler.
You can read more about Brandon’s training and qualifications here.
So Brandon, how did you come to be interested in working with couples and relationship issues?
I grew up in an environment of complex and at times toxic relationships. Based on what I saw and experienced around me, I assumed that relationships were either awful or awesome. It was that black and white for me. That there could be a myriad of options between these points did not cross my young mind. And I had no idea what determined this seemingly random outcome.
So my initial interest in working with couples and relationships was in part academic; I didn’t understand how relationships worked and I really wanted to. But it was also experiential; I saw the impacts of toxic relationships and wanted to make a change in my personal life and in the relationships of those in my community. And this, if perhaps nothing else, drives my ambition to work in this space.
I want to support people through the complexity of relationships towards more of the awesome and help build their resilience muscle for when things get awful. African wisdom suggests that, “a person is a person through other persons.” For better or for worse, I see this come alive in relationships all the time.
What are some of the most common issues you see couples struggling with?
In a broad sense, there’s the less-desirable side of “losing oneself” in a relationship that I see many couples struggling with. A breakdown in communication most often seems to cause this. Professional, financial, social, family and numerous other stresses often clog the communication lines.
The impact is that couples struggle to express their needs and desires. Moreover, they struggle to express their vulnerability with each other. This dilutes emotional intimacy in the relationship and can cause growing disparities between the partners. And as these gaps grow, I see couples struggling with conflict, sexual intimacy, negotiating differences and feelings of isolation, mistrust and anger.
Ironically, I also work with some couples that, once working through some of the above, struggle too. Their predicament is about integration. That is, how do they integrate new discoveries about themselves and their partners that have been enabled through the relationship? Here, there’s the challenge of unlearning how we’ve previously existed in the world and integrating new ways of being in relationship. This is also exciting work!
What are some of the most common issues you see singles struggling with?
This is easy for me to answer. Loneliness. Loneliness is possibly the single most issue that seems to emerge in my work with singles. There can be much anxiety and fear for singles who are lonely.
Will I ever meet someone? Who can I share a special occasion with? I want to go on a holiday, but I don’t want to go alone. And ultimately, will I age, suffer and/or die alone?
These are some of the common questions and struggles that come out in my work with singles. A challenge is that the gravity of such deep, internal questioning often generates it’s own level of urgency.
So many of my single clients rush into relationships and practices that are often under-nourishing – dare I say, often risky – as a way of escaping loneliness. I have a strong clinical interest in working with loneliness (which can be present in committed relationships too) and I am always humbled to journey with people through this work.
Tell us a little about your approach when you’re working with couples?
One of the first things I like to understand when working with a new couple is how they fight. Conflict is the meeting point of valuable differences.
So my initial enquiry is about understanding who fights, freezes, flees or faints. Who wins? What is lost? What is created? And of course, how – if at all – does the couple heal after conflict?
This bedrock of information illuminates so much for me about how the couple relates with each other. Using this intel, my ultimate objective, in accompanying the couple to their desired outcome, is to create a mature vocabulary within the relationship for communication, whilst building (or rebuilding) trust, respect, empathy and safety.
What do you believe brings about change in a relationship?
Change in relationships is the outcome of ongoing, intentional practice. So whether working through relationship issues with singles or couples, my invitation is the same: dare to do something different.
Of course, the “doing” piece is different for everyone. Maybe it’s about practicing empathy for the other person? Maybe it’s about speaking up for yourself? Or maybe it’s about making the bed in the morning or helping to wash the dishes? Overarching this is a need for honesty, respect and safety so in the first instance, our task is to fortify these foundations within ourselves and within the relationship.
Brandon, can you share with us a brief success story?
A same-sex couple started to work with me about 7 months ago. At that time, one partner had been having numerous affairs and was being GPS-tracked by the other partner. The couple was grappling with financial stresses too and as a result of multiple work and social commitments, was not spending much time together.
Communication was poor, trust was quickly diminishing, and a passive-aggressive sense of anger was gaining momentum. We spent the first part of our work together building a muscle for vulnerability; I encouraged each partner to share their feelings and fears about the relationship.
I would interrupt them from time to time to break unhelpful patterns of communicating as they showed up in the therapy room. At these points, I’d invite them to dare to do something differently; maybe rephrase something, maybe stop interrupting your partner, maybe stop answering the question for your partner, maybe share a feeling at this or that point etc.
Our work ebbed and flowed and I’d sometimes receive out-of-session emails when the proverbial heat was too high between them. But ultimately, through an ongoing, intentional practice of effective and honest communication, the couple rediscovered each other. Existing perceptions of who the other was began to shift and this made room for new adventures together.
The couple recently returned from a holiday. Due to circumstance, they were not sexually intimate during this trip. So instead, they channelled their desire for connectivity through emotional connection. Deep conversations during hikes, laughter and memory sharing during car rides and exciting adventures in new areas all helped to fortify their emotional bonds.
I saw this couple recently and was thrilled to hear they are feeling more connected and held by each other, their sexual intimacy has skyrocketed, and they’re both experimenting with new roles within the relationship. Oh, and the affairs have stopped and the GPS-tracking has ended!