How I work with couples
Couples come to see me because they have reached some kind of impasse in their relationship.
There are many reasons why a couple comes to counselling, but the bottom line is that they seek help because they have not been able to solve the problem themselves.
Part of my role is to help both partners talk to each other without them getting drawn back into familiar ways of relating. For example, a couple may find it hard to talk about a particular topic without emotions escalating or one partner may tend to hold back for fear of being judged or criticised by the other.
Frequently, a couple comes to therapy with each partner hoping to 'fix' the other one and wanting the therapist to act as referee. But couple therapy often turns out a little differently than both partners expect. For more details on this, read why couple therapy won't 'fix' your relationship in the way you expect
Dealing with disagreement or conflict is often a challenge for couples. In any intimate relationship there are bound to be disagreements. Some couples do their best to avoid any disagreement, but this can simply paper over problems that need attention. Other couples go to the opposite extreme - turning every disagreement into a major row. For more details on this, read handling conflict in relationships.
Another challenge many couples face is that they may have got stuck on the 'drama triangle'. This is a psychological model, in which the couple may find themselves repeating a similar pattern involving the roles of victim, rescuer and perpetrator. For example, one person may feel like a victim and experience their partner as a persecutor, but then on another occasion the roles may be reversed. Getting off the drama triangle is a great way of improving the relationship and relating to each other more authentically.
For more details on this, read the drama triangle
Among the relationship issues I deal with are:
- an affair or betrayal
- problems in dealing with conflict
- a lack of passion
- lack of communication
- problems concerning children or other family members
- sexual problems
Helping couples move forward
In couple work I do my best to make sure that both partners feel equally valued and listened to. This can come as a refreshing change for many couples, where partners may have felt unheard by the other for a long time.
Much of the healing in couple therapy is through enabling partners to speak their truth, without automatically blaming the other person.
In the therapy room a couple may be able to say things they would not say at home and the therapist can help them see longstanding problems in a new way. Part of this new perspective may be learning to recognise how patterns from the past can influence the current relationship.
Beginning to understand some of the unconscious patterns, which often underlie couple problems, can bring a new sense of awareness and compassion. This, combined with the therapist's help in making sure each partner feels listened to, can help strengthen and deepen the relationship.
The importance of specialist training
If you are looking for a couple therapist, it is important to choose someone with specialist training because working with couples requires particular skills and experience. As well as a my diplomas in counselling and psychotherapy, I have a diploma in couple counselling and have worked with a large number of couples (both heterosexual and same sex) over many years.