“In fact”, the couples therapy service for MBAs

Love conquers all? In fact, it often needs help – and for MBAs and MBA students, this is where it really comes in.

There are bumps in the road in any relationship. But adding the intensity of an MBA program to the dynamic between two people can turn those bumps into craters. Seeing how the rigors of an elite program can negatively impact intimacy bonds, two MBAs and a therapist co-founded Really, a “prenuptial counseling and couples therapy-inspired” service that helps MBA couples to “create time, space and balance.” for their relationship.

With a range of offerings that include private therapy sessions and personalized advice and ideas, Effectively has already made a difference for couples at Stanford GSB, Northwestern Kellogg, Dartmouth Tuck, Chicago Booth, Harvard Business School and The Wharton School. since the beginning of its founders. working in the therapy space a few years ago. “Sometimes,” said one client, “it feels like a zero-sum game where I negotiate between maximizing my time in school and being with my significant other. I loved that this program helped me find a balance between the two that was right for me.


Adam Putterman, Kellogg MBA and co-founder of Actually

“I think it’s a unique idea that’s very commonly experienced, but very rarely talked about,” says Adam Putterman, a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University’s double-degree MMM program, who, along with co-founders Jessern University, Holton, a 2018 Stanford GSB graduate, and Elizabeth Arneshaw, a Philadelphia-based couples therapist, will officially launch Indeed this fall.

The idea: A full-time MBA program is a difficult two-year period in which time is limited, often at the expense of personal needs, especially marital, prenuptial, or other intimate relationships. When both people in a relationship are MBA students, the intensity doubles and the chasm of unmet need can widen further.

Named for the idea that couples counseling should be something you Actually want to do, in fact offers up to 50 couples per month a private 60-minute session with a therapist, four weeks of “engaging exercises and dynamic content,” ideas, expert recommendations and techniques for the to come up. With a 100% virtual approach that has a clear start and end, Really focuses on strengths and skills, with topics based on the client’s goals: communication, prioritizing time spent together, joint spending and budgeting, etc. . From the initial meetings, a personalized roadmap with guided exercises, dates, etc.

In short, if you are in an MBA program with your partner and are seeing signs of trouble, Really can help save your relationship. And the research of its founders shows that there are many relationships at School B that must be saved.

When we started doing research for Actually, we interviewed a few hundred MBA students who were in a relationship, just to hear about the relationship – what was working, what was difficult, ”Putterman said. Poets and Quants. “The most surprising thing we found was that about 40% of them were either in couples therapy or looking for couples therapy.

“It blew us away. One, it’s just a lot of people. Second, it was something we absolutely never expected, because it’s so ignored. It was kind of like the first fundamental thing that led to this. The second is that at Really we don’t focus on MBA students. We only do pre-marital counseling and couples counseling in general. We just found out that a very large percentage of the couples who came to see us were in a business school and that they shared challenges, topics and opportunities. We just kept seeing the same reasons over and over again.


Many of those reasons weren’t even negative, Putterman adds. “A lot of it, it’s a very intense and special time, and couples want to be intentional in their relationships.” But there are looming concerns for every MBA couple – among them, the dreaded “turkey drop” of divorce or breakup coinciding with the first days of freshman year of business school, around Thanksgiving.

“I think business school has a reputation for being very difficult in your relationship for a bunch of reasons, be it the weather, the different contexts, all the changes that are happening,” Putterman said. “I know that we personally, my co-founder and others, of course had some ups and downs during the experience. So there was definitely a little building that we would have liked to have had while we were at school.

“There’s also the element of people meeting or starting dating during school, which is a whole different set of challenges.”


Jess Holton, Stanford MBA and co-founder of Actually

The founders of Actually see their main role as pre-nuptial counselors and couples counselors. “But the way we’ve always thought of what we do is to help couples during the great times in life,” says Putterman, “whether it’s getting engaged, having a child or having a baby. ‘go to college. The origin of this MBA program has probably developed over the last eight to ten months, one way or another. I think it started with a bunch of content that we were In the process of setting up, then we made partnerships with one school in particular that was very interested in supporting it.

“There’s the element of working with our team of therapists to really weave in research and expertise throughout. It’s really about marrying the experience of real students and the challenges and opportunities that come with it, with what therapists know that works. There are a lot of elements in it. There’s also the aspect of people who are so busy and find a way to take what works and design it in a way that people actually want to do. There is always a reason to not do that stuff.

Putterman and co-founder Holton have no experience in therapy. But they bring in-depth knowledge of the realities and demands of business school.

“Everything is developed by therapists, not me or Jess,” says Putterman. “Honestly, it’s a lot of fun for us because our job is sort of sharing. We hear all these great stories from couples and help make these little magical moments between them. It was really fun because we get all these notes from the couples who are there on conversations they are having or how it really changed a recurring situation, or helped them get through a recurring challenge or argument, and just the kind of normalizing of hearing “Wow, we’re not the only couple who have scheduling issues or don’t feel like a priority and stuff like that.” “

As one client put it, “It was the perfect way to set aside space for the big conversations and adjustments we needed to make. I highly recommend it to all students! It’s also a lot of fun and we learned a lot of tactical tips and tools.


Elizabeth arneshaw

On a recent Thursday evening, Really hosted a group workshop through Zoom. For Putterman, this was a sign of a huge need for the services offered by the new company.

“We did a two-hour virtual retreat on a Thursday night and I think we had about 100 people, or 50 couples,” he says. “At the end of the two hours, we still had 49 couples on the Zoom, having their conversations, doing it. When I was in school, you never stayed all the time on a Thursday night! It was really, really fun to watch.

Workshops “contain about 10% content, research, ideas and techniques,” he continues, “20% Q&A, and the other 70% are guided conversations and journals between you and your partner. . For example, we can spend a few minutes talking about the challenge of having such a different schedule and a specific therapy technique you can use to deal with it. Then we’ll give couples dynamic prompts to have muted conversations, live there, and sort of spend there. That’s why people stay, because it’s just a really cool date or conversation between the two of them.

“I can’t share names yet because we haven’t announced it, but we are seeing schools sponsoring this in one way or another for their students.”

While he cannot divulge details, Putterman says the response from schools has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Hopefully that becomes something that we can partner with them to be a part of the experience with, the same way they have a lot of relationship clubs and stuff like that,” he says. “Peer support is really valuable and useful, but we think having a little more programmatic and expert-delivered stuff can take it to the next level.

“I can’t tell you how much stigma we run into or those kinds of issues. But people are starting to recognize that this is only life. It’s real, and that’s how you have a great relationship. It’s something to celebrate.

Learn more about Really by clicking here.


1. Bring your work structure home.

It might sound cheesy, but bring some professionalism and order to your relationship: weekly feedback meetings, vacation weekends to craft a family culture, Excel for travel planning, and more. Everything to create predictability and control in an uncontrollable environment.

2. Two words: couples therapy.

We’re obviously biased, but a surprisingly large number of people we interviewed have gone through proactive couples therapy during school to anticipate any potential problems.

3. Go all out.

Don’t treat this time as something temporary that you “just went through”. Invest in your MBA community together and really work on things as they arise. It’s too easy to think of these two years of your life as just one step on the way to another place.

On the flip side, the fastest way to make sure you * don’t * maximize your time in school is to de-prioritize the person most important to you. With a little planning and honest communication, this can be an amazing time for both of you.


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