Introducing Brian Williams, LCSW

Brian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with advanced Gottman training.

Couples Retreat location: Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Credentials

Education

M.S.W, Barry University

B.A, Princeton University

Licenses

Licensed Clinical Social Worker:
Texas: #67299
Florida:  #SW7844


Over the last 16 years I have spent over 8000 hours sitting with couples helping them find ways to deal with issues that may have drained them of hope and have them questioning whether they even want to continue in the relationship.

I have discovered how interesting and unique couple’s stories can be; how they met, first impressions, obstacles they face, and challenges they have overcome. Underneath it all is the beauty they find in each other.   

Evidence-based Models

Externship

Advanced Training in the Gottman Method


Practice Values

Sadly, most of us have had more drivers education than training in having good relationships. With divorce and marital discord so prevalent, few of us have had the opportunity to witness first hand loving, successful relationships. In this day and age of isolated nuclear families we come into marriage with a limited data base of solid relationships.  

What I love about what I do is that I can help couples learn the skills they need to handle the tough times, when we just aren’t getting along, when everything turns into an argument, and most of the time we don’t even know what we are fighting about.  

My job is to help couples get the train back on the tracks and then teach them how they can do this themselves without me.  If I do my job well I make myself obsolete.  

New couples are worried that they are beyond help.  They are usually high functioning people who are successful in every aspect of their life and are flummoxed that they can’t make this marriage thing work. They are not used to failing and embarrassed and ashamed that they fight or are distant. They see all the happy couples of Instagram or Facebook and wonder “What’s wrong with us?  What’s wrong with me?” 

One thing I am not is Judge Judy or an assistant principal waving my finger and criticizing them. What they are doing is not working. My job is to help them find what will work.  

What I love about couples work is that it’s not about saying: “O poor baby!” although empathy is important. I can’t sit there and nod. Sometimes, you need a referee and you need a safe space where you can really talk about what the marriage is like for you without fear of getting yelled at or your partner shutting down or walking out.  Sometimes I am a guide showing you a better way to cross the river. Sometimes I am a cheerleader encouraging you as you try out new behavior. Sometimes I am a teacher working with you to develop skills that you didn’t learn growing up. 

It’s about skill and effectiveness, not moral judgment.  Oftentimes couples will ask me “Are we the worst couple you’ve ever seen?” I can tell them two things. I have yet to meet somebody as bad as I was in therapy (as a client I stormed out more than once).  And probably no one compares to the man that picked up one end of my eight foot couch and slammed it down on the ground yelling “This is how mad I was.”

 So if the couches stay on the ground, it’s a good session.

Work Summary

I attended a private Catholic high school earning my own tuition money by cutting grass, delivering newspapers, shoveling snow (a good business in chilly Minnesota) and working as a cart-boy in the newly started Target Stores (store number six).  Awarded a scholarship to attend Princeton University I worked various campus jobs to pay my part of the tuition. I learned the value of an education and the benefits of hard work. I graduated in 1972 eager to save the world.  

I taught high school and coached football and debate. I neglected to figure out how in the process of saving the world I could earn enough money to support our new baby girl. And found myself also working night shifts at a grocery warehouse and a cloth dyeing factory.  

Starting as a part time telephone salesperson I built and managed a sales and marketing office that was consistently the most successful of the 35 such offices in the country from tiny Scranton, Pennsylvania.  My income was strictly on the profit/loss of the operation. At 26 I had 20 employees and out of my own pocket I provided health insurance even for part timers.  

I learned that if you treated people well they would respond.  

I had always enjoyed writing as a hobby and even had a few pieces published. So at almost 40 years old I started as a celebrity reporter for American Media. It was a fascinating job following the ups and downs of Oprah, Roseanne, even then a little Donald Trump. I was threatened by Mike Tyson, Roseanne called my home and spoke to my kids, and ironically I reported on the never-ending discord in various Hollywood marriages. 

Later as editor-in-chief of the Examiner and then the Globe I was responsible for an $80 million a year enterprise. Time was always an issue. Deadlines had to be met because the paper had to be on the newsstand by Monday morning.  

I tell people that in those days I revealed secrets and these days, as a couples counselor, I keep secrets (at which I am very, very good.) 

Two things I take away from those twelve years. One is that wealth and fame don’t bring happiness. Life is hard for everyone and building a meaningful relationship is hard work even if you are rich and famous. I also learned the value of deadlines, urgency and how to do good work when the pressure is on. 

Now I am a couples therapist in private practice. I have recently relocated my practice from Florida to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to be closer to my grandchildren.

In the last 16 years I have spent over 8000 hours sitting with couples helping them find ways to deal with issues that may have drained them of hope and have them questioning whether they even want to continue in the relationship.  

One thing that attracts me to couples work is the urgency to make things better quickly. 

We don’t have the luxury of taking a leisurely psychoanalytic approach and spend months talking about how your mother didn’t breastfeed you. These explorations may be helpful in individual therapy but couples need things to work now.  

I have discovered how interesting and unique couple’s stories can be; how they met, first impressions, obstacles they face, and challenges they have overcome. Underneath it all is the beauty they find in each other.   

I never point fingers or name call. Rather I like to explore how behavior: drinking, smoking, yelling, or working is helpful for the client.  If it’s helping (which is rarely the case) what are the side effects and can something be found that has less negative effects. If it’s not helping, can we find some tools that will work?

I also love working with people in recovery. I am very familiar with 12 Step programs and like to help couples use those principles to improve their relationship. A healthier relationship can be another step in their recovery.

A family tradition, FSU football.

Hobbies

On a simple level my wife and I love to redecorate and renovate our homes. We just moved from a lovely mid century modern home that we redid a kitchen and renewed the terrazzo floors and planted two dozen bamboo trees and another dozen palms and half dozen banana trees and a mango and avocado tree.  

We just purchased a thirty year old house in a Dallas/Fort Worth suburb. As we schedule the repairs and deliveries we begin our almost ritual disagreements on how to decorate. The routine goes I suggest something (which we will eventually come to agree is not a good idea) and my wife disagrees and suggests something else.  We work for a while trying to convince the other. We give it a rest and in a few days come back to it. Luckily, in the meantime we have usually found a few things that we do agree on! 

I share most of my hobbies with my wife, gardening is another one that we share. One important lesson I have learned in gardening is patience. I tend to be very driven towards completing a task. When I began gardening seriously, about 15 years ago, I would work from dawn to dusk to complete a project. Eventually I learned to allot a certain amount of time weekly to the task and what I got done was what I got done. I learned to accept that the gardening would never end.  The weeds would return. The leaves would fall.  

I like to stay active with hot yoga and daily walks. Yoga helps me to accept the areas where my inflexibility is greatest, I struggle with simple standing postures, while also slowly day by day increasing my flexibility.  

I like to read and we generally watch a little tv in the evening. We are also exploring strategies to get involved in our new neighborhood.

We are rabid Dallas Cowboy and FSU football fans.

We moved to Dallas 40 years ago from Pennsylvania. It’s almost the law that you have to be a Cowboy fan. Then we moved to Florida but stayed true to the Cowboys even if we were fans in exile. Now moving back to Dallas Fort Worth we are having trouble getting used to not being the only Cowboy fans around. We are such fans that tensions were high when my youngest daughter married a young man who cheered for the NY Giants (we love him anyway.) 

Office

Our hometown of Keller is friendly and cozy.  It is dynamic and it has everything you could want within a ten miles radius but is close to the big urban centers of Dallas and Fort Worth. 

I want my office to be a safe refuge for my client and not look like a college dorm room or my garage, in this regard my wife has been a big help. It’s not too feminine. No lacey curtains.  Not too masculine. No moose heads. Two comfortable chairs that swivel so that partners can face each other. A chair for me on rollers so I can sit close enough but not too close. Book cases contain books I have actually read and consult with often to get new ideas especially if I am struggling to help a couple. It feels like a safe haven from the busy frazzled world outside.

I have two watercolors of boats docked that we bought 45 years ago at a house sale. In an “Antiques Roadshow” kind of moment, my wife checked the artist who signed them and the pictures are worth a few thousand each.  They are attractive pictures but also souvenirs of a time in our life when the $25 we paid for them was a lot of money. We got them to hang in our first house and so they will always have a special sentimental value.

Personally Speaking

I have a good sense of humor.  It helps me get through rush hour traffic! It keeps my marriage fresh (luckily, she likes my jokes). Humor can also help new clients feel connected. I’m not some straight laced academic, and I relate to my clients.  

I am curious. I love to learn about stuff and I was a reporter so I like stories. As a result I ask questions. It’s important to understand the world that my clients live in. What’s it like in your job? What are the pressures of having your own successful business? Why do you like fishing or boating or skiing? What’s it like for your marriage to have two sets of twins? What’s it like marrying into a more traditional Mexican family? How does your faith in Jesus affect your relationship? 

My curiosity leads to better and more skillful ways of responding to a client’s challenges. 

My parents divorced after 25 years of marriage. From the wedding pictures I saw they looked happy and in love. From the anger, addiction and violence me and my siblings witnessed there was little love and no happiness. Underneath it all I believe and always have that they loved each other. What they taught me was that love alone was not enough. If I had one wish for my parents (both deceased) is that there is a Gottman therapist in the afterlife and they can learn up there what they didn’t learn down here. The gift they did give me was the knowledge in my core that they loved me. Hopefully, in my work I can provide those tools to other couples. 

As therapists, part of what we try to give our clients is something that we wanted for ourselves. The joy of my work is helping couples heal the wounds that create the struggling unhappy homes that I grew up in. If I can help a couple learn to find ways to deal with their anger so that their kids won’t have to put pillows over their ears to block out their parents screaming at each other, I feel successful.  

Another reason I love working with couples is a chance to pay forward the help that our therapists have given my wife and myself over our 48 years of marriage. My wife’s family was a different kind of screwy than mine, they rarely yelled, they looked good on the outside but that was a false impression.  

So between the two of us we didn’t know what the hell we were doing.  We look at our wedding pictures and wonder why somebody didn’t try and stop it! We were so young and so ignorant of what it took to make a marriage work. In working with couples I often share about our struggles and how therapy helped.  Our therapists were able to help us break free and find some tools that helped us learn to solve our own problems. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for us, extending the same help to other struggling couples is my way of returning the favor.  

As I look back I think the most important thing our therapist gave my wife and I was acceptance. Her name was Anne.  And Anne liked us. She knew most of our faults and worts. She was confident that we were going to make it, even when we weren’t.  

When we started going to therapy, I was the worst client ever. I realize now I was scared but then I was just “pissed off” at my wife, at having to go to therapy “it’s a waste of time and money.  What the hell are they going to teach me that I already know. Be nice to each other and don’t fight—total BS.” I would wear a suit and sit with my arms folded and a finger pointed at my wife and literally tell the therapist “Fix her.  She’s the problem.” 

Looking back I wonder if our therapist dreaded seeing me come into the office. Frankly in all the sessions over the years, I have yet to run into anybody as obnoxious and defiant as me. So in my mind my clients have the right to be suspicious. If all I offer is some Hallmark sappy junk about “loving each other” they are right. They are wasting their money. I need to quickly help them diagnose the problem and come up with effective steps to correct it, otherwise they won’t return and they shouldn’t.  

We have four adult children. We joke that they are so old we lie about their ages (36-46 two boys, two girls). Right now we are living with our youngest daughter, her husband and boys seven and nine while we ready our recently purchased house. They all use me as a sounding board for job issues for which I am flattered and strive to not give advice (often falling short) but just listening and asking good questions. 

I adore, love, cherish, celebrate, enjoy being a Grandfather. The kids have renamed me: no longer Brian or Dad: I am Poppa, sometimes Pop.  A role I love…have I mentioned that? I had the joy of introducing two of my grandson’s to The Three Stooges. I don’t know whether I laughed harder at them laughing or at the Stooges. Soccer matches, baseball games, trumpet recitals, chorus performances.  We are there.  

Every few years my wife and I get the itch to move again. I remember when I attended my first Gottman training in Seattle I was talking to a fellow attendee about us “never finding a place to settle down.” He said softly “Maybe your marriage is your home.” The thought still brings tears to my eyes. Our relationship really has been our home. I am reasonably sure that over the years I have helped some couples. I am undoubtedly sure that working with couples and hearing their struggles has made me a much better husband and partner to my wife.

Judy playfully models how frustrating it can be to be married to a marriage therapist.