An Interview With Cam Burbank

Cam Burbank

What are some of the assumptions or theories that inform how you work with couples?

We are not static beings. We are dynamic. We are constantly changing and evolving. Who we are today is different from who we were yesterday.

Sometimes we struggle to look at our feelings and we fear that sharing our feelings makes us vulnerable, weak. But feelings are not bad. Often, acknowledging what you are feeling and being vulnerable is perceived as a weakness, but is actually a great strength in relationships. It is what allows two people to connect. The fear of being vulnerable with another human being holds us back.

There is also the notion I see sometimes that we have to fix things ourselves, that asking for help is bad. We all need help at certain times in our life. We are not broken, just over-stressed and overwhelmed. So, if someone can help us navigate those pieces it can be more effective than pretending we don’t need help.

In your view, what is it that invites people to change in couples therapy?

A willingness and desire to change. Being open to new perceptions that were not in view before. Being open, flexible and adaptive to the other people’s perceptions. A willingness to look inside oneself and say, “What is my role in this? What is my responsibility? What can I do to positively influence our relationship?” instead of, “You need to change this about your behavior.”

What do you see as your primary tasks as a clinician in working with people to facilitate change?

Looking for patterns that are not consistent with how they want to show up in the relationship. Exploring the obstacles that are getting in the way or preventing them from being their authentic self.

I also try to be curious about why they do the things they do, and to then invite reflection on, “is there a better way to go about this if you are not getting the outcomes you’d hoped for?”

What do you think clients most remember about you after working with you?

That counselling doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. It really is just a conversation. I try not to make it big and bad and scary. I try to simplify the process and break it down. We tend to complicate things. I ask myself, “How can I uncomplicate this and simplify this?” I try to say, “You are not bad for what you do. It is more about what you can learn about yourself and then how you can show up differently.”

What do you want the couples you work with to feel, know and experience in their first session with you?

That its okay to ask for help. It is normal to have problems in a relationship. It is not always rosy. We all have challenges. That there’s hope. There’s an opportunity to learn from your experience and to transform your relationship. It is an ongoing process. Sometimes we need the bad things to appreciate the good things and to give us the perspective that we want to be the kind of person we aspire to be individually and in our relationship.

What has your own experience in a committed relationship taught you personally?

That there are ups and downs. This is normal. That relationships require work and commitment and a willingness to look within at ourselves, while having tolerance for the differences between us. Being accepting. Not having to control. Control is a myth. We can allow things to unfold instead of trying to force them into a mould of “what should be.”

What message do you most want to convey to the couples you work with?

That there is no magic formula. Change is a process that takes time and work. There is no, “If I just do this everything will be better.” Be patient with yourself and with your partner and try not to force expectations or certain outcomes on the other person. Transformation best happens when we are not trying to force it.