Interview With Kristiana Benson, LMFT


Kristiana Benson, LMFT
Kristiana Benson Counseling, LLC

I have been practicing marriage and family therapy for the past 16 years. I opened up my own private practice in November 2021 in Sioux Falls, SD after practicing for 15 years with a group agency. I received my BA in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa in 2002 and my MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Sioux Falls Seminary/North American Baptist Seminary in 2006. For the past 16 years, I have received extensive experience in working with couples, in addition to individuals participating in counseling sessions due to relationship problems.

I truly enjoy working with couples who are married, co-habitating, or as co-parents. Throughout my work with couples and individuals, I try to point out the effect of the person’s behavior on other person(s) in the system/family. I attempt to call attention to unhelpful ways of getting needs, concerns, complaints met through ineffective interactions. Additionally, I also try to highlight the “foundation” or “ground work” in which an individual first learned these unhelpful ways of attempting to get needs met, however which aren’t effective in the present day.

Relationships aren’t easy to say the least and at times it can feel like “trench work.” However, relationships are the core of what make us human so this type of work is vitally important and extremely fulfilling.

What should a man do about a girlfriend who is ignoring him?

The best way to approach this concern (even if a man is hesitant) is to speak concisely regarding his feelings. It is easier to hear the feelings from the man who feels ignored if the concerns are presented in a manner that doesn’t equate a metaphorical “assault rifle” of criticism or passive aggressive comments at the person with whom he is in a relationship.

According to the work of renowned researcher and marital therapist, Dr. John Gottman, it is best to use a “softened start-up” when approaching difficult subject matters. Within this softened start-up, a person is encouraged to use “I feel” statements first, which can help reduce defense from the other party. After identifying how a person feels, the individual states the facts of what has occurred, without using interpretation. Lastly, the individual is encouraged to state what he needs and to be concise about this. Do not leave the recipient “mind guessing” what the speaker needs.

An example of this would be stated in this manner: “I’ve noticed that it has been 10 days since I have received any questions from you on how I am doing or initiation of connection between us. I feel sad that it seems like I am the one putting in the work in this relationship. I am asking if you could check in with me and inquire if we could get together or check in how I am doing.”

What’s the wisest way for a man to tell someone to back off from his girlfriend?

In this situation the boyfriend needs to be direct and concise with the other person who is communicating/flirting with his girlfriend. In most situations that require communication, “in person” communication is best, however there could be times that communicating with the other individual via text or social media might be the option to use (i.e., geographical distance).

When confronting the individual in person, it is best to have a third-party present to be a “buffer,” in the off chance the communication becomes heated. A third party can provide a neutral stance that communicates non-verbally that he or she is a witness to what is exchanged between both parties.

Whether in person or via texting or social media, the boyfriend needs to identify himself as the boyfriend and say to the other person that he knows what the other person’s actions have been towards his girlfriend and that it isn’t okay. The boyfriend needs to have a firm (but not aggressive) approach and state to not communicate with his girlfriend any further. Additionally, it is best to stay away from using threats of violence against the other person. 

What can help a person get over a divorce he/she didn’t want?

It can be extremely disheartening and derailing to go through a divorce that the individual didn’t want. It is necessary to acknowledge the divorce as a grief, much like when someone passes away. Even though this isn’t a physical death, it is the emotional death of a vow that was made in the past. It is helpful to acknowledge grief as the price a person experiences for something that was loved.

It can be helpful to understand the “normalization” process of grief and that a person may experience the stages of grief, but these will not occur in sequential order. A person going through the divorce may experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression in a “figure eight” sequence well before acceptance (if ever) is experienced.

Additionally, it can be beneficial to have a “rally” team who is on the divorced person’s side. It is helpful to have one to a handful of support persons in which the individual can talk to about his/her struggles regarding the adjustments that follow the divorce. It is helpful for the divorced person to differentiate if he/she needs someone to listen to him/her without receiving advice or if the individual would like advice.

During the time of healing from the divorce, it is valuable for the person to engage in activities that bring about self-care. These activities could include finding a new hobby, learning a new language, painting a room in the house, or a do-it-yourself project. Additionally, it is equally important to have the individual make sure he/she is receiving plenty of physical movement during the day. The best way to receive this is through physical exercise, but the exercise doesn’t have to be through the gym. A person can receive exercise through taking a pet on walks, jumping on the trampoline with children, or turning on YouTube and following an “at home” exercise (i.e., yoga, Pilates, jazzercise, etc.).

Of equal importance, it is useful for the divorced individual be willing to reach out to utilize resources for his/her mental health. This could include talking with a licensed mental health provider in order to learn effective coping strategies during and after the divorce. In conjunction, utilizing a support group for divorce can be extremely helpful to learn strategies and coping mechanisms from other individuals who are divorced. One support group is entitled, “Divorce Care,” and information on this support group can be found at 

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