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couples counseling los angeles

Couples THERAPY& Marriage COUNSELING Los Angeles CA 

The stress of living in any big city, even Los Angeles, and general life transitions can strain even the strongest relationships. I've provided couples and marriage counseling in Los Angeles for nearly a decade, and my approach to psychotherapy is a more unique and effective approach to marital counseling that is based on sixty years of research and studies from Family Systems. Originating from the insightful work of psychiatrist Murray Bowen, this therapy focuses on understanding and improving the individual within the context of their relationships.

Distinct from other therapy models, Bowenian therapy delves into the intricate dynamics of emotional systems within couples and teaches how to create a healthy relationship.

Oliver Drakeford, a seasoned Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, brings over a decade of specialized experience in couples therapy and family counseling. As a Certified Group Psychotherapist accredited by the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), he combines cutting-edge group dynamics with intimate relationship counseling. Oliver holds a certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a proven approach for deepening emotional and physical connections in relationships, and has received training in the Gottman Method. He offers both in-person counseling in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, as well as online sessions across California. Oliver's approach to marriage counseling is tailored to address each couple's unique challenges, striving to rejuvenate and strengthen emotional bonds. For couples seeking to enhance their relationship's emotional depth or facing challenges, Oliver's expertise offers a compassionate and transformative experience in marriage counseling in Los Angeles.

Emotional Intimacy & Relationship Struggles

An essential aspect of my work is helping couples in the process of differentiation of self - this refers to the ability of an individual to maintain their sense of self while in close emotional relationships. In the context of relationship and marriage counseling, this means helping partners articulate their thoughts and feelings independently without losing their emotional connection. It's the essence of emotional intimacy to tolerate your partner having feelings without becoming reactive or defensive.

The other cornerstone of Bowenian family therapy suggests that individuals cannot be fully understood in isolation from their family unit. This perspective is crucial in therapy as it helps couples understand how their family of origin impacts their current relationship dynamics. By exploring these family influences and their impact on our mental health,  couples in Los Angeles can uncover the root causes of their conflicts and the emotional barriers that prevent them from living a fulfilling life.  

The ultimate goal of Bowenian Relationship Counseling is to foster a relationship environment where both partners feel understood, respected, and valued. By focusing on developing a stronger sense of self within each partner and understanding the underlying family dynamics, couples can achieve more harmonious and satisfying long-term relationships.

Discover THESE Empowering Relationship Counseling Resources to Revitalize Your Relationship Today.

Embark on a personalized journey of self-discovery and healing or just explore more ideas of what couples therapy in Los Angeles might look like. Delve into our thoughtfully selected resources, which feature exclusive, complimentary worksheets born from my wealth of expertise in couples counseling. These tools are thoughtfully tailored to offer invaluable insights and actionable strategies for fortifying your relationship. Whether you're taking your first steps into therapy or seeking further guidance, these resources reflect my unwavering dedication to assisting couples in their quest for a more profound bond and enhanced comprehension.

unmet needs in a relationship


Discover the positive side of conflicts and learn how to leverage them to strengthen your relationship. As a couples therapist Los Angeles, I use the Relationship Repair Wheel to provide a step-by-step approach to resolving conflicts constructively, enhancing trust, and deepening your emotional connection.

Unresolved conflicts can lead to resentment, communication gaps, and strained trust, driving emotional distance between partners. The Relationship Repair Wheel offers a systematic process to mend relationships, starting with outlining the facts, sharing thoughts and feelings, and expressing future needs.

unmet needs in a relationship worksheet


Boundaries form the bedrock of respect, individuality, and personal well-being in any marriage or relationship. This PDF resource assists you in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, ensuring that both partners feel respected, heard, and valued.

Learn to set and honor boundaries that preserve individuality and mutual respect in your relationship.


Our resource guides you in defining personal space, safeguarding your emotional well-being, and balancing priorities, all of which are crucial for a harmonious and respectful partnership.



Learn how to identify and fulfill six essential emotional needs for healthier relationships. Our worksheet simplifies these concepts, explaining the role of each need, from stability to growth. It's designed to enhance your understanding of how you and your partner interact and support one another.


Discover the meaning of each of the six emotional needs and their impact on your relationships. This worksheet will facilitate conversations with your partner, helping you gain valuable insights into the motivations and behaviors that drive both of you in the relationship.

The Role of Empathy in Strengthening Relationships

couples counseling in los angeles

Empathy plays a crucial role in both individual and group counseling, and its significance is magnified in the context of couples counseling and with relationship counselors like myself. In the Bowenian approach to marital therapy, empathy is regarded as the highest form of emotional intelligence, vital for deepening connections between partners. Empathy encourages each romantic partner to engage in 'sustained empathic focus,' allowing them to comprehend better and respond to each other's emotional states without becoming reactive and dysregulated. A lot of relationship issues I see come from both partners in an intimate relationship becoming upset or defensive when the other partner is distressed. 

Implementing Empathic Techniques in Therapy

In therapy sessions with a couple, I create a safe environment to guide couples to their experiences and feelings, including the 'baggage' they bring from their family of origin. This process not only promotes mutual understanding but also helps in avoiding the blame game. By embracing empathy, couples learn to own their emotions and sensitively acknowledge their partner's pain, leading to a healthier and more supportive relationship dynamic.

Empathy, therefore, is not just a therapeutic tool but a transformative process that enhances the emotional fabric of a relationship, making it a cornerstone of successful couples counseling in the Bowenian framework.

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Differentiation of Self in Marital Relationships

Differentiation of self is a central concept in Bowenian Couples Therapy and comes up regularly in counseling. It's a pivotal concept for healthy marital relationships. It refers to an individual's ability to maintain their sense of 'Self' and emotional stability while intimately connecting with their partner. This is surprisingly challenging as we are all caught in a conflict of two opposing forces - one pulling us to be together and connected - and the other wanting us to be autonomous and independent. Understanding, talking about, and finding that balance between autonomy and togetherness with your relationship therapist is crucial for a thriving relationship.

Achieving Emotional Balance


As a couples and family therapist located in Los Angeles, my approach to therapy is to help couples achieve a level of differentiation in which they can express their own thoughts, feelings and emotional experiences without losing their emotional connection to each other. This process involves moving away from reactive dysfunctional communication patterns and towards a more thoughtful, self-aware approach to the relationship. As partners learn to articulate their needs and emotions clearly, they enhance their mutual understanding and respect.

Navigating Marital Conflict and Communication Issues.

conflict and couples counseling los angeles

Effective Conflict Resolution in Relationships

Conflict resolution is a critical aspect of marital therapy, especially within the Bowenian framework. The approach recognizes that avoiding conflict by withdrawing or escalating can be as damaging to our mental health as the conflict itself, and that dysfunctional communication patterns can sometimes be a way to regulate the intensity of being in a relationship. In Bowenian Couples Therapy, partners are taught the importance of healthy communication to confront and resolve conflicts especially those around love and trust.

Communication: The Foundation of Understanding

Effective communication is fundamental for a couple to resolve marital conflicts, and an important skill to have in a city like Los Angeles. Marriage counseling is a safe space to learn how to use healthy communication skills, such as using "I" statements and promoting clarity and ownership of their feelings. These techniques have decades of research behind them, and we can see how encouraging partners to speak and listen more effectively ensures that both parties feel heard and understood. This, in turn, leads to deeper connection, which has a dramatic impact on relationship or marriage satisfaction. 

The Therapeutic Approach to Communication

The Bowenian model emphasizes the importance of being responsive rather than reactive. This shift in communication style allows couples to engage in discussions without triggering defensive or hostile reactions. By learning to respond thoughtfully to their partner’s needs and emotions while regulating our own feelings, we can navigate conflicts more effectively, leading to a stronger and more harmonious relationship.

The Influence of Family of Origin on Marital Dynamics

Exploring the Impact of Family Background on Relationships

The family of origin plays a significant role in shaping an individual's approach to marital relationships. Many couples move to Los Angeles away from family leaving them without local support. Bowenian Couples Therapy emphasizes understanding the influence of one's family background on current relationship dynamics and harmful patterns that might be part of any current challenges. This approach recognizes that patterns of interaction, communication styles, and emotional responses in a marriage often have deep roots in the family upbringing.

Uncovering Multigenerational Patterns

In marriage therapy, there is often a focus is on exploring multigenerational transmission processes, where behaviors and emotional patterns are passed down from one generation to the next. This understanding helps couples recognize the origin of certain conflict patterns and emotional responses within their relationship. By identifying these patterns, couples counselors such as myself can facilitate a deeper understanding and bring about a change in the current marital dynamics.

Therapeutic Interventions: Addressing Family Influences

Couples therapists may use tools like genograms to map out family histories, helping couples to visualize and understand the influence of their family of origin. This exploration allows couples to break free from unhelpful inherited patterns and build healthier ways of relating to each other. The therapy aims to resolve conflicts rooted in family backgrounds, leading to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Marriage Counseling Top Ten Tips: Essential Advice for Navigating Relationship Challenges

  • Don't Put It Off:  Taking proactive steps to address issues can prevent them from escalating. Call a couples therapist or marriage counselor as soon as concerns arise to avoid deep-seated patterns and irreversible damage.

  • Have Realistic Expectations: Understand that relationship counseling requires consistent effort over time. It's not a quick fix, and therapists won't take sides. Instead, expect a collaborative process focused on mutual growth. I'd also add that going to couples therapy and expecting your partner to change might not be a helpful perspective; you're both in this together, and you both have some things to look at. 

  • Be Willing: Effective counseling requires mutual consent and willingness from both partners. Trying to coerce your partner into therapy rarely yields positive results. Embrace the discomfort as part of the journey toward improvement.

  • Self-Reflect: Resist the urge to blame. Each person must acknowledge their role in the relationship dynamics and commit to personal growth.

  • Actively Participate: Beyond therapy sessions, actively engage in activities that strengthen your bond. Consistent effort is key to progress.

  • Communicate In Different Ways: Practice new communication skills regularly to reinforce positive habits. Like any skill, effective communication requires ongoing practice.

  • Change The Rules Of Fighting: Conflict resolution is vital. Establishing and honoring relationship agreements can foster a healthier dynamic and reduce hostility.

  • Prioritize Your Relationship: Dedicate time and effort to couples counseling for at least 3-6 months. Even if the relationship doesn't improve, you'll gain valuable insights and skills beneficial for all relationships.

  • Respect No-Secrets Policy: Transparency is crucial for effective therapy. Avoid withholding information from your partner, as it hinders collaborative progress.

  • Get Your Own Therapist: Personal growth enhances the relationship. Engage in activities such as meditation, mindfulness, or therapy to deepen self-awareness and compassion, benefiting both you and your partner in the long term.

Breaking the Cycle: Addressing Multigenerational Issues IN COUPLES THERAPY LOS ANGELES.

Understanding Multigenerational Patterns in Relationships

Breaking the cycle of multigenerational issues is a key aspect of Bowenian Couples Therapy. This approach acknowledges that behavior patterns, relationship dynamics, and emotional responses often stem from deeper, multigenerational roots. Couples are encouraged to explore how their family of origin has shaped their current relationship's beliefs, behaviors, and expectations.

Identifying and Resolving Deep-rooted Patterns

As a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, I aim to uncover and address these inherited patterns. By recognizing multigenerational transmission processes, couples can identify the source of certain conflicts or emotional responses. This insight allows them to understand their own and their partner's behaviors in a broader family context.

Therapeutic Strategies for Change

A critical step in relationship therapy involves returning to the generational line to resolve conflicts and prevent their repetition in the current and future generations. This may include interventions with family members from previous generations or discussing these relationships in therapy. The goal is to halt the transmission of unhelpful patterns and foster healthier relationship dynamics.



I'm a licensed psychotherapist, and I specialize in family systems and help couples with all types of problems, from anxiety, depression, trauma, and gender or sexual problems. I offer couples counseling, family therapy and individual therapy in person in my private practice in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles. 


I have married clients and couples in relationships visiting from all over Los Angeles, from Culver City. Alternatively, I offer sessions online over telehealth and can discuss your relationship concerns, and answer any questions in our consultation call. 


Six Awesome Resources for
couples counseling


1. "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by John Gottman:

John Gottman, a renowned therapist, offers practical advice and insights to enhance relationships and marriages. This book is highly recommended by couples therapists in Los Angeles.

2. "Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love" by Dr. Sue Johnson:

In her book, Dr. Sue Johnson explores the science of attachment and provides guidance for strengthening emotional bonds in couples. It serves as a valuable resource for emotionally focused couples therapy.

3. "Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence" by Esther Perel:

Esther Perel, a renowned couples therapist, delves into the intricate dynamics of intimacy and desire within long-term relationships. This book is also recommended for premarital counseling.


1. Gottman Institute:


The Gottman Institute, founded by relationship experts John and Julie Gottman, offers research-based articles, tools, and resources to enhance relationships. Their research centers on the science of love and relationships.

2. Intimacy Love Language Assessment Quiz:


Gary Chapman introduced the concept of the 5 Love Languages, helping us understand our preferences for giving and receiving love. Similarly, we have unique preferences for emotional, physical, and intellectual intimacy.

3. Conflict Style Quiz:


Understanding your conflict style is the first step in transforming your relationship. Recognizing the automatic patterns of interaction in your relationship makes it easier to break them.

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