What is Relationship Counselling?
Relationships go through different phases over the course of their existence, with some of these phases bringing more challenges than others. At times relationships can feel fractured and conflicted, with arguments and distance replacing previous feelings of intimacy and support.
Some relationships will weather this storm and return to positive experiences; some will get stuck in this difficult space with the relationship remaining intact but feeling damaged; others will result in the breakdown and dissolution of the relationship.
Common experiences of relationship difficulties can include feelings of drifting apart, frequent arguments, loss of intimacy, loss of fulfilling sex life, and a sense of no longer being involved in a supportive and loving partnership. The causes of relationship difficulties can be wide ranging, with factors that include stress regarding either (or both) partners’ families, work stress, disagreements regarding parenting, one or both partners not feeling valued or appreciated, infidelity, addiction, and mental health difficulties being among the most commonly seen.
The goal of relationship counselling is not to provide a referee or judge in arguments, nor is it to completely focus on doing everything possible to keep relationships together regardless of how much emotional upset that may occur as a result of this. Instead, we focus on assisting each person in the partnership to recognise and work with their own communication style and emotional experience, so that when difficult situations occur within the relationship each person will be equipped to navigate these more effectively.
The process will also involve working with both partners to work out what they are seeking from the relationship and what may be getting in the way, as well as ultimately helping partners come to a decision about what form they wish the relationship to take.
Working with relationship issues is a key component of providing effective mental health services, with a number of Spectrum Mental Health clinicians having specific expertise in providing relationship counselling.
Typically relationship counselling sessions last between 1 and 1.5 hours and focuses on ensuring that the clinician has a good understanding of the history and current circumstance of the relationship, as well as recognising that each partner brings with them an individual history and set of circumstances. Sessions then shift towards addressing the relational patterns that the couples are playing out and how to effectively address and start to shift these patterns, often towards greater intimacy, trust, and cooperation.
This movement towards reconciliation is not always possible in all relationships, however if you are experiencing difficulties within your relationship it can be very helpful to meet with a mental health professional. This can provide space in which these difficulties can be specifically identified and processed, with methods then engaged to start the process of change.