Michele Keef, 49
The Couples Center
22 Auburn St., Portland
Born and raised in Maine, Michele Keef has been licensed as a marriage and family therapist for 18 years. Keef said her occupation not only helps those she counsels, but also affords the chance for growth in her own life, as she learns from her clients.
“I work in a group practice at The Couples Center with four others. I see couples with a partner, Darryl Keil, who is a relationship coach. This makes for a unique experience for couples wherein each can hear the perspective of the opposite sex,” said Keef.
She joined the Couples Center in Portland in 2001, where she works with both couples and families. Keef has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Stetson University and is a member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Teachers.
When she is not working, Keef enjoys cooking and eating healthy food, gardening, hiking and traveling.
“When I am not busy with those pleasures, I am happily raising my two boys,” said Keef, who offered to answer a few questions for Maine Women about what drew her to pursuing a career as a therapist and what she has learned through her work.
Q: What inspired you to become a marriage counselor?
A: The dynamics of human relationships have been a fascination of mine my entire life, and where else can one get a private window into human nature than in the therapist’s office? We are all so much more alike than we realize, and being a couples’ therapist has afforded me a very unique opportunity for personal growth. The intricacies of interpersonal relationships are endlessly fascinating. On a practical note, I recognized that practicing therapy in a private practice would give me a flexible schedule, that I could set myself, while giving me a solid income.
Q: How has the marriage/dating scene changed over the last 10 to 20 years with regard to what you see in your practice?
A: Clearly the single most transformative influence has been the Internet. The way people connect, the way people find partners, and the way people collect information about relationships has all been profoundly influenced by the Internet. The Internet is often one of the primary tools that couples use in day to day communication. It is also the way that countless partners find out what their partner is doing that they do not want revealed. Discovering private texts and personal emails have caused the downfall of countless relationships, along with the easy access to pornography, which has had an immense rippling effect on couples’ sexual relationships.
Another observable trend is that gender roles have continued to equalize, which has had an unfortunate effect on sexuality through the neutralization of masculine/feminine dynamics. More and more couples are experiencing flatness in the bedroom. Women in particular are reporting profoundly diminished libido in epidemic proportions.
Q: Do you have any relationship advice for women?
A: Be aware of the historical precedence of the doctrine, “women are to serve men” – particularly in the bedroom. We may have moved outside that paradigm in the business world, but it is alive and well in the area of sexuality. My favorite advice to women is to find ways to be in pleasure. Finding pleasure everywhere in your life is the key to unlocking your sexuality.
Also, although there are countless benefits to being in a long-term relationship, measuring the success of your relationship by longevity and fortitude does not make for meaningful intimacy. Don’t underestimate the importance of compatibility – emotionally, intellectually, physically and sexually. And lastly, stop thinking your partner will change.