Introducing Catherine Pfuntner, LMFT, CSAC, ICADC
I chose CTI because of the BIG BIG Book
"Our relationship was struggling - we both were trying really hard to communicate, but weren't being heard/seen by the other person in the ways that we needed. There was a lot of hurt and defensiveness getting in the way of meaningful connection.
We had tried "standard" couples therapy before - 45 minute sessions once a week - and though there was some minimal value to it, I never felt like we got to the heart of many of our long-standing issues.
I didn't know, of course, if the therapist would be a good fit, and didn't know if my partner would participate at a meaningful level.
We are only two weeks out, but already there has been a shift. I think the most significant shift is that we're practicing daily appreciations and setting aside time for meaningful connection, which is helping to re-train our brains to see the GOOD in each other and to feel more affectionate and loving toward each other. We had both fallen into patterns of seeing mostly the negative in each other, and so this change towards a more positive view of each other has been really wonderful.
Catherine was WONDERFUL. She was warm and kind, but also very neutral and good at containing the conversation and redirecting us when we needed it. I felt very emotionally safe with her.
Would you recommend your couples therapist and Couples Therapy Inc.? If so, why? If not, why not?
Yes - it was an important investment for us in this relationship! But I also recognize how expensive it is and how hard it could be for couples to find time (and childcare) to be able to get away for an intensive.
If you can spend the time and money to do it, you should 100% do it.
What three benefits resulted from working with Couples Therapy Inc.?
- Identification of where we're "missing" each other's cues and how to tune in better.
- Identifying and implementing regular opportunities for appreciation/connection/etc.
- Acknowledgment that we can have hurt from the other person and also feel love and affection towards them - that those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive, and we can be working on both at the same time and keep them compartmentalized, rather than allowing the hurt to impact opportunities for affection.
Attend an intensive retreat in Wilton, New Hampshire
M.A., Chaminade University, Oahu, Hawaii (Counseling Psychology) 2010
B.A, Houghton College, Caneadea, New York (Psychology)
Marriage and Family Therapist:
Substance Abuse Counselor:
Research has demonstrated strong support for the importance of romantic relationships in our lives. Most of us are not well-trained for being in romantic relationships. Couples therapy is essential for some in bridging the gap to better connect in these important relationships.
I have experience working with couples in the addiction setting, and in the military/Veteran population.
I appreciate working with the most challenging couples, e.g., ones that may no longer be living together or are at the brink of ending their relationship, but still come in for therapy.
The disconnect can be profound, but yet some couples I’ve had the privilege of working with repair even the deepest wounds and move forward together.
I also work well with couples who are loudly argumentative and reactive in the session. I have found several strategies that help both work through the intensity and energy that one or both of them have. I help them to contain and direct it. My training in both EFT and Gottman has been essential in keeping the energy in these sessions manageable.
I don't villainize or pathologize partners who become activated in sessions. I help them to feel understood. It helps that I can manage the room compassionately and calmly. This seems to increase the sense of safety allowing partners to become more vulnerable.
My supervisors and mentors were not just marriage and family therapy “smart.” They had the art of therapy down, and they knew how to supervise really well. I think my motivation to become a supervisor stems from being under their guidance and wanting to pass that onto others.
In my 13 years of mental health work, I have worked in substance abuse counseling clinics, both harm reduction and abstinence programs, and in all levels of care.
In my previous position with the VA’s Vet Center program, I was considered the Subject Matter Expert for couples/family therapy, substance abuse counseling, and children with Autism. There I mostly worked with Veterans, Service Members, and their families, primarily trauma-focused care due to either combat and/or military sexual trauma, in addition to bereavement counseling with Gold Star family members.
I worked with children with autism and their families, as well. I have trained and provided individual, group, couples, and family counseling. I also did some part time work with juveniles and at-risk youth/teens in emergency and group foster homes for a few years.
It helps me see the diversity in the world, learn new strategies, stay open-minded and patient with people, and appreciate the different paths people take in life.
Advanced Training in the Gottman Method
Gottman Training: Treating Affairs and Trauma
Externship and Core Skills Training
American Association of Marriage & Family Therapist ---Clinical Fellow
International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally-Focused Therapy
New England Emotionally Focused Therapy -Member
NAADAC, Association for Addiction Professionals - Member
I love cooking and baking. I really like taking on quests to find “the” recipe for something.
My cooking and baking exploits are entire productions. I select a recipe I want to get to know... like when I was learning to make Pad Thai: I researched different recipes, and the culture behind the dish, get to know the different cooking methods involved.
I try to learn what the dish is really about, and then create a recipe reflective of it...even if it includes ingredients I struggle with, like fish sauce! Since that really is a quintessential ingredient, it’s only respectful to include it.
Then I execute, evaluate, and modify if needed.
Sometimes I get it on the first go, but other times, it may take several trials.
My chocolate chip cookie recipe took two years from research to final recipe, but it was worth it.
I've taken a lot of pictures of foods I’ve made. However, I hate doughs. Making most doughs seems to be about knowing the feeling of the dough you’re looking for and I don’t have the experience or guidance with it. Most of my doughs have been failures, so I usually just buy them from the store.
I also love going to places to find the best wings and apple fritters (not usually at the same time). Those are hard to do well, but I’ve found a place for each that does them exactly perfectly. There is a restaurant in my hometown that has the best chicken wings that I’ve ever had, so I’m lucky I get to eat them a few times a year. The place I grew up in is relatively small and mostly in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York.
I'm persistent, empathetic, and someone who appreciates the quiet. Being present in therapy requires these qualities.
I get told I am soft spoken. Sometimes this prompts a person to slow down, focus attention on me, and listen better to what I may be saying at the moment.
I do not fit the “demographic” that a client seems to think s/he needs. Since I have worked with so many different “populations,” I have encountered clients telling me why I would not understand them, e.g., it is because I am not in recovery, I was not in the military, I did not have children, too young, too old (teenagers, right?).
For the brave souls who venture to disclose this objection, I validate that the person may be worried that I will not understand or connect well. I ask the person to allow for a few sessions, and if they come to the same conclusion, I will support the termination and connect the person to another therapist. They never do switch.
I also invite my clients to give me feedback, so if they are concerned, I am not understanding, or maybe a strategy we tried didn't seem to work, or I even say something that didn't land well, we can work to repair this together and move forward in our work.
I could not help but smile when an older female client during our initial session told me she needed someone who looked like they “had more wisdom.”
Maybe it was during one of the times I had just colored my roots to hide all the gray. She was open-minded and gave me the opportunity to connect with her, and she did some impressive work in the process. And I still smile thinking about what she said.
I appreciate the honesty!
It allowed us to talk openly about this barrier to connection and work through it together.
My parents have been married for 45 years and counting. I’m proud of how committed they have been to each other. I remember growing up, watching my mom pack my dad’s lunch every day and putting little notes in his lunch box, or driving down when he worked the graveyard shift to have dinner with him on his break. They have impressive work ethics, love unconditionally, and are deeply committed people. I can see their love through their actions.
From them, I learned that you show your values by what you put your time into. So, for example, when I am in a session, I am present with that person or couple. And personally, I make sure I take the time to be with the people in my life and show them what they mean to me. We eventually lose those opportunities, so it is important to do it in the present.
I lived in Hawaii for nearly 8 years and I miss it every day.
I really do not like decorating or having a lot of collections or knick-knacks in any of my spaces. The items I do keep in my office are either functional or sentimental, occasionally both.
For something to be in my offices, it must have immense value, which is why most of the stuff that falls into the sentimental category comes from my parents.
My dad, a Navy Vietnam War Veteran, loves hard candy, so he would always give me a bag to put in my office for Veterans. My mom likes elephants and now I have one in my office. I am lucky to have my parents on my team, and I appreciate having them present in some form in my office.
Finally, I love dresses. I probably have a few more than any reasonable human should own. I really appreciate vintage style dresses, so anytime I can wear a petticoat and still fit through the door, I do it.