Sophie Haggard MA hons Dip.Couns. MBACP (Registered)
These are tough times for coupledom. The modern companionate model of marriage is based on the idea that each partner look to the other to supply all their needs, and this new type of partnership has to last longer than ever before. Not surprisingly, perhaps, many long-term relationships flounder under the weight of such high expectations, and when this happens, couples feel bitter and blame each-other.
I am an ex-journalist, writer and relationship counsellor with a particular interest in how long-term relationships can successfully negotiate middle-age and evolve in ways necessary to meet the challenges of this tricky life stage. It is no secret that middle-aged couples often feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face, which may include health problems, increased family pressures, the menopause, affairs, diminished sex drive and function, work stresses and financial pressures, thoughts of retirement and the empty nest. I work by attempting to improve understanding and communication, clearing up misperceptions, building compassion and enhancing self-awareness; especially awareness of what each partner brings to the partnership in terms of (sometimes inherited) attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, coping strategies and expectations, and levels of comfort with intimacy.
A secondary goal of my work is to inject a note of much-needed pragmatism into modern couple relationships; to help couples develop more realistic expectations of themselves, each-other and of their relationships, and to give them permission to carve out areas of autonomy, privacy and independence as well as togetherness, intimacy and collaboration so that their relationships do not become bogged down, predictable and over-loaded.
The brain is the biggest sexual organ. Many sexual difficulties (especially loss of desire in long-term relationships) have their roots in unspoken resentments and unresolved conflicts. As a natural part of couples work I try to create a safe and containing environment where couples can explore sexual difficulties and the emotional problems that may lie behind them.
Affairs and Betrayal:
A severe test of many relationships, often arising as the result of a need to reduce the pressure in the couple relationship when it has become air-less stifling and over-involved. I have worked with many couples where affairs have been an issue, and subscribe to the modern thinking that affairs need not necessarily be traumatic or inevitably devastating to a relationship if properly contextualised, addressed and worked through.
It is increasingly recognised that depression is not always endemic to one individual in a relationship but often arises in the context of an intimate partnership which may evoke many of the themes of the early parent-child dyad. I try to encourage couples where one partner is experiencing depression, to think of it as a shared issue belonging to both partners which they can work on together to resolve.
Separation and Divorce:
Sometimes couples come to counselling wanting to negotiate a smooth separation and limit fall-out; sometimes it emerges in the course of work that separation would be the best option. When this occurs, counselling can provide a containing environment for exploring its complications, including concerns about housing, financial arrangements and children.
Who I work with:
I work with couples and individuals with relationship difficulties (including singles) and often see couples together and separately. I am happy to see clients on a short or long-term basis depending on what is required and the nature of the presenting concerns.
It is often the case that couples come into counselling when matters have reached crisis point. Early intervention can prevent problems later on. It is not necessary to wait until things deteriorate before considering coming for counselling. The prophylactic care of long-term partnerships seems sensible in view of what is at stake, and many couples find it useful to bring their partnerships in for a ‘service’, particularly if they need to resolve a particular issue or point of disagreement, make a difficult decision, or nip a burgeoning problem in the bud.
How it works:
Normally clients call up and I take a brief description of their difficulties over the phone. After that, I invite couples in for a first meeting after which we decide whether to work together. Counselling does not thrive on interruption, so it is best, if you’re thinking of coming to counselling, to start the work at a point in your lives when you know that you’re free to commit.
Short term or long term:
I offer both. Some clients want to engage in more in-depth work, exploring the impact of their earliest relating on their present relationships and sense of self. Others want a more future-orientated, solution-focussed approach and to explore their relating in the here-and-now without too much reference to the past. Both approaches have their value and can, of course, be combined. I am happy to help you choose a way of working that fits best with what you want from therapy and the nature of your concerns.
Training, qualifications & experience
My first career was as a newspaper and magazine journalist. I completed my first counselling training in 2013, before embarking on a second dedicated relationship counselling training at Relate, which combines systemic (interpersonal) and psychodynamic (intrapsychic) approaches backed up by clinical data. I have also done training in CBT and CAT approaches and have an interest in EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy). I am a registered counselor with, and member of, the BACP (British Association of Counselors and Psychotherapists) and currently see clients at Relate in London and Bristol where I also see private clients.
Areas of counselling I deal with
- Affairs and betrayals
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Child related issues
- Chronic fatigue syndrome/ME
- Domestic violence
- Emotional abuse
- Family issues
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Low self-confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Passive aggressive behaviour
- Personality disorders
- Physical abuse
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
- Cognitive and behavioural therapies
Photos & videos
Individual therapy: £60 per hour*
Couples therapy: £80 per hour (£65 per session for couples who are able to come during the daytime)
*(Special rates offered in exceptional circumstances)
I have private consulting rooms in West London (Fulham) and Bristol.
Maps & Directions
Type of session
|Face to face counselling:||Yes|
Types of client