Here are some questions you may be wondering about when you are considering couples counselling. If you don’t see an answer you are looking for you can email me or book a free 1/2hr consultation to meet in person before committing to the process.
Are you going to tell us to stay together or separate ?
This question is often on couples minds when they are in the middle of conflict and this may be on your mind because you are feeling hopeless right now about things improving. I do not tell couples to separate nor do I question whether you should stay together. I am open to discussing any issue you bring into the work including this question. There have been times where a couple have decided to separate at the end of therapy – and that is always their decision. While this is the minority, counselling can help to clarify whether that is what you want to do.
Have you ever told a couple that you could not help them ?
Yes. That has been very very rare however. No matter how much conflict and hurt feelings may be going on right now I hold a belief that if you are in counselling you want to work on your relationship and that I am there to help you do that. I know from my own experience that most of us want to develop a loving relationship and that it is possible. If for some reason I do not think I can be of service to you I will suggest other resources or counsellors.
We constantly attack each other – how is counselling going to be any different?
Having a third person there often helps partners to speak more respectfully to each other just by someone being there. In addition, I make it clear that I will intervene and help each partner to work on keeping calm and listen. This is going to be harder at first until you become more practiced at it. Working on communication, emotional reactions and changing perspectives takes time and effort. If I think we need to pause and take a breath I have no hesitation in interrupting and giving instructions.
We went to counselling before and kept rehashing old arguments – is this what counselling is about?
No I do not think that is what we need to be doing. Sometimes it is important to get an idea about what happens for both of you in discussion or conflict. From there we; focus on what you each want to change and work on, how you are going to do that, practice talking in sessions in a different way that facilitates understanding, take in what the other is saying, and learn to deal with your reactions to one another.
Do you meet with us separately ?
There are many reasons why partners want to meet with the counsellor on their own. They don’t want their partner to interrupt them or are afraid to express what they think to their partner. They want the counsellor to speak on their behalf and somehow ‘get through to their partner’ when they can’t. Even though these reasons might seem reasonable they can create more distance between partners. I do meet with partners if there is an individual issue that may benefit from one on one time, or it is clear one or both are having a lot of difficulty speaking in front of each other. It is important to understand that any individual session is confidential and up to each partner to disclose anything that was discussed. I tend to encourage partners to do the work with each other present no matter how hard, as that is the best way to work on the relationship.
Are you going to tell us who is at fault ?
No. People sometimes come into counselling worried that the counsellor will take sides against them especially if there is a lot of blaming going back and forth. Partners can be secretly wanting the counsellor to join them in their campaign of attacking their partner. However, underneath the hurt and accusation is often a need to be understood and validated. This is what I will help you move towards with each other.
I will coach you in communicating respectfully and help break the habits that keep you from a more loving relationship. It is my job to help you move from these unhelpful dynamics based on blame and distance to a loving connection. That is what everyone is really seeking.