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Couples Therapy/Couples Counselling

Let’s begin with the question - what is couples therapy/couples counselling?

Couples therapy was more commonly known as marriage counselling which stemmed from an increasing number of couples seeking help to cope with and understand their relationship. This combined with the counselling profession at the time recognising a growing need from couples, led to marriage counselling which has been evolving over the years. Now more often referred to as couples counselling or couples therapy, you may also come across it as relationship therapy. Traditionally couples would visit their counsellor in person. However in the last few years online couples counselling and online couples therapy has become common place and practice, having a resurgence since covid.

What are the kinds of issues that can be brought to couples counselling?

Expectations v Fantasy;

Expectations that come from assumptions about relationships. It might be helpful to think about it as what are your expectations of being in a couple? Where might they have come from? Where are the places you learned about couple relationships? In my experience for many individuals and couples, these relationships, one of the most important in life, isn’t learnt within the education system. More often we learn from parents, family members or what we pick up from society, in ways that we aren’t aware of.

Fantasy meanwhile, in my experience of working with couples is slowly giving way to more grounded ideals. Fantasies can still create many obstacles that time and again trip up many couples, getting in the way of realising how realities of different values and vision of each other and their relationship can lead to clashes. Add to the mix confusing messages around issues such as sex, how much are other people having compared to us? How much are we supposed to be having? Money, and how to navigate what we do with what we earn? What is my, your and our money? Family and their involvement, what is too much? How do we agree?

How does couples therapy support and help the couple?

So when the aforementioned becomes the terrain for couples to navigate, couples therapy is a space to gain different perspectives. So they become aware that it’s not so much that I/we are doing it wrong, as it is how aware and equipped am I to maintain the kind of love and relationship we want for us? Couples therapy helps couples see beyond increasingly outdated Hollywood and romantic ideals of love, that tended to suggest that relationships didn’t require efforts to be functioning, loving and safe.

Instead how these former ideals that suggested you set eyes upon someone, fall in love, have this most amazing wedding day and then live happily ever after is far from reality. I would ask, is the ideal your experience of your own or of your parents relationship. If not why might you be trying to impose it in your real life relationship? The couples I see, have for one reason or another come to see beyond these tantalising but unrealistic ideals, to realising that to have a relationship that functions well, that is supportive and safe does involve working at taking care of the relationship.

How does couples counselling work?

As such couples therapy works by helping individuals and couples with identifying what they need to achieve, and what is safe and loving for their particular relationship. It isn’t telling couples that there is one way to do a relationship, instead it’s helping couples agree between and for themselves shared frameworks and vision for their future together. Additionally improving their communication and other skills to understand and work through the kinds of problems that can get in the way and derail what may otherwise be a desirable relationship. The couples therapist doesn’t judge or take sides, instead maintains a neutral stance to enable and encourage the couple to understand themselves, their partner and their relationship.

When is the time to begin and attend couples therapy?

There can be assumptions with couples counselling, which is also found in individual counselling, that the time to begin counselling is during crisis. For example when faced with the prospect of separation or divorce, or following an affair or other form of betrayal. This was the time that couples would typically seek out and begin couples therapy. However this perception has been changing from both within and outside the couples counselling profession and the following are just three of the many reasons for shifting trends:

1, Being a couple looks very different now to how it did when couples therapy began about a century ago. These days couples are seeking help to navigate ever more complex ideas about what it means to be in a couple. For example how to navigate expectations based on gender roles which are not as fixed and clear as they previously were.

2, For many, having cleared the difficult terrain of online dating, the relief of getting to a point of finding someone where there is real connection is met with the question of how to grow and maintain a loving relationship. Some couples present with the difficulties they are having navigating and negotiating aspects of relationships to do with roles, expectations, sex and money for example that lead to arguments they are unable to resolve without help. Online couples counselling provides a space where these matters can be thought about and discussed in loving, safe and constructive ways. Also to ensure both in the couple are heard.

3, As attitudes towards mental health and wellbeing evolves in our societies, couple relationships are recognised as a very important aspect of life that is crucial to home-life, work-life and for some parenting. As a result then many individuals and clients are realising the value of taking care and addressing results to develop and maintain healthy and loving coupling.

Find out more about online couples counselling/online couples therapy

Those enquiring are welcome to contact me to get a sense of what working together would be like either via email or by phone 07795 253 457.

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