Why Private Couple Therapy?
In the UK we have an excellent counselling service called Relate whose counsellors have many years of experience. Relate is also able to offer low cost work to people in limited incomes.
Many couples experiencing problems for the first time, or undergoing unusual difficulties due to outside issues find a brief period of counselling with a charitable agency very beneficial.
So why private therapy?
Two reasons: first, a private therapist is unlikely to have a waiting list of more than a week or two if at all. People in crisis should not have to wait several weeks or even months for help.
Secondly, if you are a couple which has identified that you have long term, deep seated issues where there is repeated conflict, but would either like to work on remaining together, or finding a sensible way to process separation, couple psychotherapy might be for you.
Other couples choose psychotherapy as a joint personal growth exercise to improve and enhance their relationship. As with individuals, we all, as couples, go through different phases of development in our lives. People get sick, people have accidents, children arrive, children leave, finances can go through dramatic highs and lows, responsibities change.
There's no Relationship Manual - often these changes put pressure on relationships which do not survive. If the couple seeks a neutral, empathic third party to process change often the relationship does survive.
What are the key skills for a couple therapist?
Well, for me, there are several things that the couple therapist must keep in mind.
As with individuals, the therapist must be someone with whom both people in the couple feel emotionally 'safe' and trustworthy.
The couple therapist needs to make sure that both partners get the space they need in the session to express themselves.
The therapist must of course never take sides, never be judgmental, gender biased, or make assumptions about either person.
The therapist must never allow the couple to slide into a 'fight' in the therapy session.
The couple have the opportunity to look at how their individual personal issues impact upon the couple relationship, and it is one of the skills of a good couple therapist to help each person identify and process these unconscious issues in the context of the relationship.
Lastly, the couple therapist can also offer clients some suggestions as to ways in which they can communicate more effectively and help them come up with ways to negotiate more effectively and create a developing, 'live' relationship which fit in with their particular lifestyle and preferences.
Overall, although a couple therapist does not need to be someone who has a 'perfect' relationship, it's best to choose someone who has a lot of life experience, and has done plenty of couple therapy, as experience is just as if not more important than training.
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