Relationship Counselling can be daunting – especially for couples. Partners are often afraid that the counsellor will take sides, and the blaming that may be happening in your relationship will happen in counselling. Or you may be worried that your partner may talk about things you are not ready for.
I am here to support both of you. To help you talk honestly and get to those things that are meaningful between you.
Couples report that in counselling:
- they have been able to talk more intimately
- that they feel safer to discuss what is important to them
- that they have changed destructive patterns.
Learning about your patterns is an important part of relationship counselling. Patterns begin in relationships when we begin to encounter more conflict after the ‘honeymoon’ phase. We can learn a lot about the underlying difficulties as we explore these patterns.
Focus of relationship counselling
What to consider in doing couples therapy
You will get the most out of therapy if you
- Develop clear objectives for therapy and the kind of life you want to build together
- Work on your blocks to becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be
- Have the motivation to persist
- Develop the perspective that you are allies.
- Respect what your partner identifies as their blocks. Learn to be curious about their experience.
- Accept that conflict produces growth and learning to manage inevitable disagreements is the key to more harmonious relationships.
- Time to review progress and identify the next step.
Things that impede progress
Not giving it time
Change is hard for you and your partner. Change occurs in small increments. Understanding that you both have difficult habits to change will go a long way. It takes effort to stay conscious and improve your reactions to each other. In other words a couple of sessions is unlikely going to make long lasting changes.
Only Focusing on your partner as the problem
When we are in conflict we respond from the fight or flight part of our nervous system. It causes us to look outwards, to prepare for danger and to look for danger. So we look to our environment for the problem which includes our partner.
Even though there may be things we need to express to our partner that bother us it is important to look inwards. Each of you will only become a more effective partner if you can change your reactions and your patterns. When we focus on waiting for our partner to do something it creates a stalemate.
Focusing on solutions
This is not to say that working on ways you can do things differently is not useful. However, it is more productive to change how you think and feel (your reactions). This will have more effect on changing how you respond than identifying what to do. We tend to have a clear idea about what we need to do differently. The hard question is why don’t we do it ? .
Avoiding emotional discomfort
Maintaining emotionally safety can cause your relationship to become dull and lack life. No-one feels comfortable about facing their fears, or taking the risk to speak from the heart when the stakes are high, but it is the time we learn the most.
Being unprepared for sessions
This is typically in the form of not knowing what you want to work on and being unclear about your goals both individually and together. This can lead to talking about what is most on someone’s mind or going over the last fight you had. Both of these are unproductive. At the beginning of counselling we spend some time identifying your goals. It is useful before each session to reflect on these objectives and the next step.
So in therapy we
- Develop a clear picture of each person’s experience and position to the problem
A large part of the difficulties in relationships is communication. Being able to get your message across and to hear each other. A good deal of time in relationship counselling is becoming clear about what you are trying to say to each other. This can sometimes make all the difference. As each partner’s experience is explored you become clearer to yourself as well as your partner. A second problem in communication is the emotional reactions that get in the way of expressing ourselves. So a large part of therapy is exploring and helping to manage these reactions.
- Explore the patterns and sensitivities you have to each other
Sensitivities develop as a result of the emotional pain you are carrying from past experiences. The hurt and betrayal you feel from these experiences make you ‘sensitive’ to the possibility this could happen again. Couples will often go into blaming each other when these sensitive feelings arise. Learning to deal with your own feelings, sensations and reactions is an important part of therapy.
- Challenge our assumptions and expectations of one another
It is likely you have faulty assumptions about your partner and they do you. As long as we are able to stay open and curious with each other these assumptions are simply projections we face as our understanding deepens. However, if we continue to get mired in our reactions and judgements we will maintain the stuck positions in relation to each other. These positions are often based on needing everything to be perfect and avoid conflict, or that there is someone who is right and someone who is wrong. Learning to repair breaches in the relationship is more important than trying to prevent it from happening.
What you Can Expect from Me
- To Listen to both of you. I will take time to hear each of your perspectives and help you understand each other.
- Teach techniques to help you take control of your emotional reactions and communicate effectively.
- Keep you on track with your goals for the work.
- Provide feedback that will challenge you to address what may be going on at a deeper level.