“The most destructive habit [to relationships] is criticizing; next comes blaming, but any of the habits are more than capable of disconnecting you from a person you want to be close with.” – William Glasser
For any couple coming to therapy for the first time, it can be quite daunting – we understand this. Our hope for you reading this article is that it will ease some of your concerns about couples counselling before you start. We want to give you more of an idea of what to expect from couples counselling, and to understand why it can be useful and helpful to attend.
Some of the main reasons that couples seek counselling for their relationship include:
- Poor communication
- Trust issues
- Feel as though you are drifting apart
- Different parenting styles
- Unresolved conflicts
- Lack of transparency in the relationship
- Not speaking to each other
- Different goals for the future
- Lack of effort
- Cultural differences
- Mental health issues impacting the relationship
- Outside influences interfering in the relationship
- Family systems
- Financial stress
- Sexual issues
- Blended families
Couples therapy is there to help build clear communication between the parties involved. The model of Choice Theory can be used in therapy to help couples see the patterns of behavior that lead to the couple becoming disconnected, and the methods to change habits that enhance connection.
It’s inevitable in any relationship that fighting will occur. The style of fighting/arguing in a relationship can be healthy or unhealthy, and can either destroy the relationship, or enhance it and help it to grow.
During a period in which the fighting or arguing is unhealthy, the couple can get worn down and their relationship can be negatively impacted. Couples counselling helps you to explore how you fight, and to develop methods to use healthy fighting/arguing techniques.
Action, action, and more action!
We generally ask that both parties keep an open mind when coming into the session, and that they are willing to do some work outside of the session to help the relationship.
Some of the work involves having more fun together, rekindling the romance in the relationship, and discovering what direction you’re going in in your life and if your partner is on the same page.
Couples counselling really works best for the couples that want to put in the work and the effort in order to improve their relationship.
Sometimes we might not be aware of what we are doing, which is contributing to the breakdown of the relationship. In couples therapy we help you become aware of some of the patterns that are causing the disconnection in the relationship.
A breakdown of trust can be a huge component to the relationship breaking down, this can lead to frustration, withdrawal, resentment, even though it’s difficult and challenging but overtime if both parties are open to working on building trust this can come back.
What will happen in the session
There are a few guidelines on how couples are invited to communicate in session, using different couples therapy approaches (William Glasser’s Choice Theory/Dr John Gottman’s theory for couples therapy). This sets a platform for open, clear communication from the outset.
For example (Glasser method):
- Both parties get an equal amount of time to talk
- No interruptions while one person is talking
- No criticism
- Use “I” statements
- Stay in the present (only a certain amount of time per session so it’s best to talk about what is currently impacting the relationship)
- Respect each other
Couples can either grow together or grow apart. Individuals do change over time, and therapy helps you explore both your needs as individual and the needs in the relationship. In counselling we will see how the needs are being met, or not being met in the relationship.
Written by: Deirdre McGill, Psychotherapist