Couples counselling is also called marriage counselling or couples therapy. Couples come to therapy to enhance their relationship in some way. It may be that they need to explore intimacy and closeness, find ways to bring romance back into their life or realign their goals and values. Usually a couple will find themselves in therapy when they have been unable to resolve an issue on their own or when they find themselves having conflict that escalates rather than finding resolve.
Couples counselling may address some of the following concerns:
- Intimacy and sexuality
- Past hurts
- Family of origin issues that have impact on present relationship
- Issues around same sex marriage
- Recurring conflict
- Mental, emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- Unhealthy patterns and roles
In therapy a safe, trusting space is created to help achieve growth for the couple. Together the therapist and couple share their concerns and process their difficulty or issue. Each person is given equal air time to express their concerns and care is taken to have each partner feel that they are listened to. Together they work to come up with treatment goals to meet their needs.
Both the Therapist and couple work together to come up with goals. After developing goals the Therapist will use her skills to assist the couple in looking at their issues from an outside, object lens. The therapist will facilitate new communication by providing different skills training and strategies. The couple practice the skill both in the session and between sessions, reporting back their successes and challenges. This feedback helps to reinforce new learning and align the couple in their goals. Though challenging, changing our patterns in communication can lead to growth and change.
What to expect from Therapy
The length of therapy varies depending on the complexity of the issue. Short term therapy would be between 6-8 sessions while longer term could be up to a year or more. It depends on the issues to be addressed.
Counselling appointments are usually once a week at the beginning of therapy when much of the skill development is happening but will become less frequent as skills are developed and the work is taken outside of the therapy room.
Sometimes during couples sessions issues of a personal nature will be discussed and one of the partners may choose to seek individual counselling. The couple will decide if it is appropriate to have the individual counselling with the couples therapist or seek a different therapist for this work.
Couples work is not all about skills training. Past issues from childhood or past relationships may be having an impact on the present relationship. These need to be explored in the sessions as well. It is helpful to separate out the past issues from the present one.
Once the couple is satisfied with their progress and are able to maintain the goals that were set out at the beginning of therapy their counselling is complete.
Couples may decide to come back infrequently for ‘tune up’ in the future as life transitions or new issues present themselves. Also one partner may decide to come in other their own to do some individual work to supplement the couples work.