Dr. Christine Carpenter on Jan 27, 2019
Working in the mental health field, it doesn't take long to realize that so much of what brings people into therapy boils down to relationships. If you've had good ones from the start, you are fairly well-equipped to deal with most of what life can throw at you. If not, well...
Granted, this is a bit simplistic. But even if early relational dysfunction isn't solely to blame for the issues that bring people into therapy, it is often a significant contributing factor. And one that tends to self-perpetuate. We learn how to "do" relationships by being in relationships. If our role models were sub-par, our interpersonal patterns are going to reflect that. Those patterns tend to follow us into adulthood leading to discontent in our adult relationship experiences.
I've been a practicing psychologist for 18 years. I have spent countless hours helping people unlearn and relearn how to do relationships in a way that leads to symptom-reduction and life satisfaction. About ten years ago, I noticed patterns emerging in my work with single clients who felt stalled out on the dating scene. They just couldn't seem to get their relationship life off the ground and they all seemed to be telling the same story. From difficulty “selling” themselves on dating profiles to over-personalizing unsuccessful dating encounters, I heard the same frustrations, questions and insecurities coming up over and over again. I could see how the structure of modern dating was influencing dating behaviors and belief systems and leading people away from their authentic selves. "Dating-By-Drop-Down-Menu" and an abundance of simplistic, all-purpose online advice was shaping (or more accurately misshaping) people's perceptions of what goes into finding a good partner.
As a psychologist who understands how deeply complex and nuanced humans and human behavior can be, I wanted to pull my hair out at how dating culture was reducing beautifully rich and complicated individuals into one-dimensional categories for easy consumption. It occurred to me that something more reality-based and human-driven was needed to help this subset of clients keep their perspective and date more authentically. The seeds of an idea started to sprout about how I might fill the need for that something more.
In addition to offering individual therapy, I am also a group therapist. The group setting is an enormously powerful tool in bringing about change. So naturally, I began to wonder what would happen if I got a handful of singles in a room together to share their experiences and possibly gain a new perspective. One fall day in 2012, I sat down and outlined the format of a five-week workshop that was a balance of organic interpersonal interaction, structured feedback and experiential exercises that would bring heady concepts to life. The following February, the first Dating Boot Camp (DBC) was held.
Over the next 5 years, I ran many DBC workshops and I loved it! I loved watching my clients take in peer feedback that allowed them to see themselves in a new light. I loved watching the "aha!" moments as group members would recognize a limiting pattern in their behavior. I loved watching the members support each other in taking risks that opened up whole new possibilities in their relationship lives. And I learned so much about the "front line" experience of dating that, as someone who has been married for nearly 20 years, I could not have known otherwise.
Through my continued work with individual clients along with DBC, I developed a clear point of view about what I believe is most and least helpful on the dating scene. Each time I shared my ideas with people, I could see the light bulbs of new awareness going off. I realized I might just have something here and I wanted to share it with more people. That was my inspiration to become a dating coach and just before Valentine's Day of 2018, Evolve Dating launched.
Evolve Dating is a coaching program offering packages that are short-term, focused on highly personalized goals and geared toward changing-by-doing. In addition to individual coaching, I kept the group concept as well as added complimentary services. Dating Boot Camp has gained an additional week and is now called Engage Dating Workshop. I created a private Facebook page called The Dating Loop as an extension of the workshop idea so even more daters can get support and ask for feedback. I send out a weekly newsletter called Dating Matters with helpful insights, tips and encouragement. And I'm a regular poster on social media (what??). My favorite thing in all of this, is that I get to help people date more effectively using an approach that is informed by each client's own personal history and the psychology of attraction and attachment; not appearance, commonality and generic data sets. Watching people evolve their interpersonal patterns to create less stressful, more effective and joyful dating experiences is the highlight of my week.
Evolve Dating has a lot of exciting things in store for 2019. I will be putting together a webinar for therapists working with single clients, collaborating to create makeover packages for those getting back into dating after a divorce, expanding my social media presence, offering video courses on all things dating and completing my book. Well, two books. No aiming low here. Dating culture isn't going to revolutionize itself!
Dr. Christine Carpenter
Through my own experience and the nearly 20 years I have spent helping clients navigate this tricky territory, I have learned volumes about relational behavior; what works and what doesn't. Luckily for us, human behavior is pretty predictable. From this I have devised a schema that breaks down the complexities of courtship and mating into bite-sized, understandable themes.