Couples therapy in a nutshell
What is couples therapy?
Apart from the initial change from “falling in love”, which is the stage of initial attraction and discovering each other and identifying what is similar in each other, to “standing in love”, where we learn what is different about the other, yet still feel love and accept the other in their difference, in a knowing way. The main difficulties clients may present with are:
- When a couple is not making enough time to enjoy being together.
- Thinking that their partner can predict or mind read what they need from them.
- Misunderstandings in communication and not recognising that the issue is from an external source rather than between them.
- One partner feels that they need to have more of a sense of autonomy than the other.
Couples therapy can help by supporting both partners to recognise that it is OK to be “different but equal”. It can help partners gain a deeper understanding about where the other person is coming from, what emotional needs may underlie feelings of insecurity that may be difficult for both to deal with. It can help couples to recognise that as humans, we often show love in the way we need it to be shown to us, rather than how others need to be shown love. Couples therapy can teach individuals the ways in which they can take this into consideration.
Other struggles a couple may experience include the change in a relationship when a baby or another addition to the family comes along. Despite the joy that a new child may bring, for one partner, this may bring feelings of being “left out” or less special. The dynamic of the relationship has changed, and as such can result in one partner experiencing feelings of shame or guilt. Often with these larger life changes, we forget that with any new responsibility, there will certainly be less time to be shared.
Furthermore, when one partner experiences the death of a parent or a close relative or friend, by the very nature of grief being isolating, both individuals in the relationship may start to feel alone. Even worse, when there is a close death that affects both partners. Because as humans we grieve in different ways, this will also have a potentially negative impact on the perception of the relationship.
Other losses such as loss of employment, ill health diagnosis or redundancy can also have a negative impact on an individual, which will then impact on the relationship.
So, why couples counselling?
The reason why couples therapy is helpful is that the therapist can be present, non-judgemental and neutral, therefore supporting you both to find resolutions to whatever struggles you may be having. It is important to recognise that the role of a couples therapist is to facilitate and support you as a couple to do the work.
In my experience, there are generally two main reasons why couples therapy may not have a good outcome; these are either due to the therapist’s lack of experience or not managing to contain what is presented by the couple, or because the couple has sought support too late.
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About Maureen Anderson
Maureen Anderson M.A. Bsc(hons) psychology. U.K.C.P. registered psychotherapist/clinical supervisor.
Currently co-writing a book mental health workers on how to use Clinical Supervision.
Experience includes private practise and working within mental health, prisons, young people, couples and refugees.… Read more
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