Couples Counselling Perth
Couples counselling is designed to help you develop an enjoyable emotional closeness. Through this process you may identify and appreciate further, how your partner is uniquely made. We may explore core emotional needs and recapture the essence of what brought you together. Couples learn to agree and disagree in a way that is fair and enhancing of the relationship, making the bond between you resilient and strong. You may begin to give more generously and to mutually meet each other’s needs, enjoying the differences, resolving long term issues in healthy ways, helping to maintain deeper levels of intimacy and closeness while looking ahead with shared goals and a positive future together.
Some common themes:
The blame game
Experiencing criticism or avoidance
Separation and re-partnering
Conflict around parenting values
The impact of ageing altering the quality of life
Mental health issues
Adapting to change
Generally to begin with the counsellor will see both people to establish the agreement to work on couples issues and establish goals. There may be an opportunity for both people to have individual sessions to begin with if that is seen as necessary or it is requested by the couple. Some counsellors’ prefer to refer the couple to other counsellors for that purpose and then bring them back together at a later date. Often a counsellor will suggest separate sessions if the couple are too conflictual. Or where couples work is contraindicated in the situation of domestic violence, trauma, mental illness, or substance abuse and a referral may be deemed more appropriate for a specialist service to address these presenting issues prior to couples work proceeding.
In the initial session of counselling the counsellor will direct things and assist the couple relax and feel comfortable. Primarily the counsellor is aiming to establish a trusting quality relationship between himself and the clients, as almost half of successful outcomes in therapy are attributed to the quality of that connection and the trust the client has in the character of the person helping them. The couples’ counsellor’s character and skill in joining with clients’ is therefore paramount in bringing about the conditions for hope and anticipating change. This is directly related to the change process in that as the client is able to trust in the character of the counsellor and the unique quality of the therapeutic encounter the greater the levels of trust a client can develop which provides the security and safety for attempting new behaviours.
The first session is about information gathering which is a basic gathering of historical data. The real work of therapy will occur in the second session when the counsellor has a clear understanding of the patterns and themes presenting. Some common directions the counsellor may take to begin with may be to:
Explore each partners experiences of past personal counselling and if it was helpful
How they think change happens, and what it would take to change
How they got together, how they fell in love, what they appreciate about their partners
What issues have arisen in the relationship
How long the problems have existed
An exploration of how they have attempted to deal with the problems
Why they think the attempts to change have not worked
What they expect from couples counselling and the counsellor
What goals each would like to state
Where they would like to see change in themselves and the other
Briefly how they see their past being linked to current patterns and themes
What should you achieve through couples counselling
Reshape and reframe
The effective relationship counsellor works to reshape the perspective of the couple and assist in helping the couple reframe how they view the relationship by raising awareness. Objectivity for both is important, to be able to step back and rethink in an objective way. Turning away from the blame game is essential as it is destructive for the relationship.
The counsellor will study how the couple interacts and reflect back to the couple his impressions. This may include process commentary on how the couple relate both individually and as a couple. It will include developing a deeper awareness around what they are not aware of about themselves and their relationship. This touches on their individual and joint blind spots or their unconscious behaviours and ways of being. An effective couples counsellor will have a skill set to assist a couple with awareness raising around motivations, blind spots, hidden agendas, and styles of relating. Predictably for group and couples settings the here and now and active processing work from the therapist makes interactions come alive and intensely personal.
Encourage new patterns
An effective couples counsellor will assist the couple change how they relate to each other. The counsellor will communicate the nature of the styles of relating and how that impacts himself and others, this processing commentary will work to bring self-awareness, and a cognitive assimilation of what both people do. The counsellor will work to bring about shifts in emotional states that are appropriate and congruent for the person realizing that their behaviours may be hurting their partner. The counsellor may actually ask for an appropriate expression of primary emotions such as sadness as patterns of behavior are challenged and the couple are invited deeper into meaningful change and intimacy. Embracing of emotional states are normalized and encouraged.
Normalize once feared emotions
Effective couples therapy involves assisting the couple bring forth their emotions rather than avoiding uncomfortable feelings. Couples Counsellors encourage the expression of appropriate emotions and thoughts and encourage the couple to feel less afraid of fear and sadness as they express their desires for emotional and physical closeness. Couples who have had parents that had limited tolerance for expression of emotions communicate that these are unsafe and to be feared. The effective couples counsellor will counter this narrative with corrective experiences and create an environment to encourage new attachment opportunities and occasions for expression of needs for security. Couples are then able to express needs for touch, and allow themselves to express their fears and anxieties around not getting their needs met in a secure way. Secure emotional attachments are then encouraged and old patterns can be broken down. In this way a positive reinforcement of a once feared experiences is challenged and potential for new levels of intimacy opens up for the couple
Quality of the communication
An effective couple’s counsellor will focus the couple on the quality of their communication. This is modelled by the counsellor constantly and a large part of social learning mirroring within therapy sessions. There is a direct focus on not blaming and ridiculing, of offering the expression of true feelings, of being supportive, and at times a direct coaching for empathic responses. The couple’s counsellor will set up the couple dialogue as a constant pattern whereby the couple addresses each other instead of speaking through the counsellor to the other person. They are encouraged to build on their strengths, and are encouraged to have soft start-ups to conversations, to offer statements of repair and to allow greater levels of partner influence.
The couples counsellor entices couples to live out of their best qualities and to build on strengths. Much of couples counselling exposes whats wrong. Couples counselling will also focus strongly on the rich, glorious and attractive qualities each person has. An effective couples counsellor points out the couples strengths, and builds a narrative around looking ahead to the future in a positive way. Humans are essentially future orientated and are at their best when doing the thing that they enjoy the most and expressing gratitude for that. This also builds positive self-concept and promotes mental wellbeing. The main point of encouraging strengths is to assist the couple gain more enjoyment from their partnership.
On a behavioural level the couples counsellor may ask the couple to practice certain behaviour that pleases the other. The counsellor may also encourage the couple to begin to speak positively about the relationship as a corrective narrative. When the couple begin to speak a positive narrative about the person they live with it, changes how they feel about that person and creates positive warm emotions needed for a relationship to thrive. Homework assignments, where you are asked to practice some behaviour such as stroking the base of her neck or rubbing her forearm periodically during the week. You may be asked to journal your feelings when things arise between you both. These homework assignments are valuable ‘grist for the mill’ exercises to bring back to sessions for discussion and assist in the real work of therapy. You may be asked what was challenging about certain homework and why there was resistance to doing exercises, and be asked to unpack that experience in session.
The Person who is the Couples Counsellor
Often people are wary of counsellors taking sides and that their true concerns will not be heard and perhaps their will be partner favoured by the counsellor. These normal fears will be addressed by the counsellor as it surfaces in counselling. Couples counsellors are under clinical supervision and will be encouraged to have their own therapy and or enter into deeper self- reflective processes of their own to establish how their personal histories are impacting and causing a bias in therapy. These are called transference and projection issues, and are common discussions in ongoing training and supervision for counsellors. Counsellor values and bias are a reality in counselling and a good therapist will be very aware of their own leanings and declare these when appropriate. Common bias may include values around such things as parenting, marriage, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. In fact counselling is never value neutral in the sense that the counsellors values will impact on counselling processes over the length of therapy. This may be a good reason to find a counsellor that you’re fundamentally aligned with on a values basis and to have those important discussions when entering into therapy.
Couples Benefit From Couples Counselling
Stronger and confident as couples experience a more secure relational attachment
Couples learn to trust
Develop refined communication skills, to respond and listen, without harsh reactions
Create shared meaning
Understand your partner’s pain, story, struggles, fears, desires
Build a deeper knowing of each other’s loves and hates and to understand their needs
Develop caring, skilled ways of disagreeing and dealing with conflict
Growing a deeper commitment and walking together, sharing goals
Making Plans come true
Reframing things, and seeing your partner in a more positive light
Understanding positive and negative patterns
Valuing strengths rather than deficit in their partner and themselves
If you’re in Perth and you would like to speak to a relationship counsellor about your relationship, contact us today for a free initial consultation.