What are the barriers to and in couples counselling?
The journey to therapy can be hard. This can be doubly true for those seeking couples counselling. For there can be obstacles in the way of going to therapy. Often couples will see couples counselling as a last refuge, the thing to try when all else has failed. Sometimes, one partner will be keen to try to save the relationship, but the other is reluctant to go along to couples counselling and tell a stranger their most intimate details.
The reality is that a good relationship counsellor has the training, resources and skills to ask the questions and challenge the partners. Opening up the discussions and helping see alternative viewpoints. Couples counselling is not magic, it is a process that partners engage in. In doing so they learn to communicate more effectively and begin to understand each other better. A good counsellor provides a neutral nurturing space for you to come together safely to do that.
Obstacles to couples counselling
If we were to try and encapsulate the obstacles to couples going to counselling we might come up with some of the following.
Perceiving that going to couples counselling is a failure. In reality the strength is in knowing when to ask and in getting effective help. You wouldn't think twice about asking for help with your car or your child or an elderly parent, so why is it not okay to ask for help for yourself?
You wait in the hope things will improve by themselves. In reality you are hoping that you and your partner’s communication on issues that you are struggling with (or perhaps are not talking about) are suddenly going to come right. In reality both partners need to take responsibility for the situation and start to make the changes they need.
Secrets! Families have secrets and couples have secrets, some are intended and some are unintentional. An old love affair, a secret grudge, a family secret kept from your partner; all have different currencies and values as to whether you should talk about them. However, secrets have the power to corrode trust in a relationship. If you are holding a secret, it’s worth thinking of the impact on your relationship if it were to come out.
Couples may come along to couples counselling and agree to make changes, but then struggle when one or both fail to follow through. Part of the process is in having patience. Patience in allowing for failure and learning to work as a team to improve the relationship. Couples counselling gives a safe space to work through those problems.
Finally and almost echoing our first obstacle, is leaving couples counselling till the last minute. It is not an instantaneous process and leaving it till the death throes of a relationship can undermine the chances of saving it. Tackled early and you may learn to see each other’s point of view and start to improve your relationship.
The next step
The single thing that couples counselling does well is to help you look at and address the emotional connection between you. Usually because the communication has gotten to a place where it is hard to see or express it effectively. As you start to improve that foundation it becomes easier to work on the big issues as a team, so consider how you can sweep away the obstacles to your couples counselling.
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