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.
At Turning Point we are 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
Hearing from both of you about the difficulties you are having and assessing the interactions and patterns that you have created with one another. This is the first task of couples counselling so we can together develop an understanding of the way forward.
- Learn about the negative cycles you are involved in and how to work towards a healthy relationship.
There are typical ways that all couples end up managing the disappointments and differences they encounter with one another. These develop into predictable patterns that you get stuck in. Once we learn the dance you are having, we can work on changing how you respond.
- Learn better skills in communication.
A large part of the difficulties in relationships is communication. Being able to get your message across, to hear each other, negotiate your differences and successfully repair breaches that occur. A common difficulty 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 responses. This can lead to the cycles of blame and defense or avoidance. We do not automatically come with a communication manual when we enter relationships, and these bad habits are easy to develop. You will learn these skills
- Work Through Family of Origin Legacy
We all bring an understanding of relationships from our family of origin. Often the unhealthy habits we create come from the things we have learned in our families. We can develop a kind of sensitivity as a result of the emotional pain from past experiences. We then brace against being hurt in our relationship. If we remain unconscious of these effects we can not work to change them.
Our Approach and Training for Couple's Counselling
At Turning Point our therapists have a number of training experiences that gives us a broad and rich experience.
Delyse has training in Relational Life Therapy by Terry Real and the Developmental Approach to Couples Counselling by Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson. She is also influenced by Ester Perel and Stan Tatkin's work with Couples.
Rochelle has training and follows EFT for couples by Susan Johnston.
Mehmet has training in the Gottman approach to working with couples.