Tom Buckland : Counselling - Psychotherapy
& Relationship Counselling
Couple or relationship counselling (once termed marriage counselling or marriage guidance) is a specialist form of counselling for 2 people together in the same room. This is often for couples in a romantic relationship such as husband and wife or partners, but can also be used for relationships such as parent and child, siblings, or even family members.
Most people think of couple counselling as being a last resort when things are really bad, and crisis point has been reached. This doesn’t have to be the case. Many relationships benefit in a big way by using couple counselling as a way of sorting out minor issues in the relationship, before they grow into resentment and arguments. Sometimes couple counselling is also used to help a relationship end in a positive way, so any anger or resentment is left in the counselling room, and not taken into their new life as separate people.
Couple counselling can be used in the following situations;
Things have become ‘stale’ in recent years.
Communication has become poor.
Trust has become an issue.
One partner has had an affair.
Both partners are struggling since having children.
Romance has slowly disappeared from the relationship.
One (or both) partners are putting their energies into work (or hobbies) and not their partner.
Sex has become ‘stale’ or non-existent.
Children have left home and now there is a void.
Each person wants to be happier in the relationship, but doesn’t really understand what’s gone wrong.
Tom is based in Hythe Hampshire, and also central London.
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There are obviously other reasons why a couple would seek a counsellor to help them through a difficult time, the important thing is to look at working with a professional to resolve the issues as soon as possible.
Couple counselling isn’t about blame, it isn’t about one partner being wrong and the other right, and research has shown many men feel they are going to be put on the spot by the counsellor, and have to defend themselves, and again this is not the case.
The counsellor will be the facilitator to help the couple step back from what is not working in the relationship, understand their partner and the relationship dynamics, as well as themselves, and look at ways to improve the relationship so it becomes a healthier, flourishing, and a positive thing for both parties.
"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
— Mingon McLaughlin
You may not remember me, but my husband and I came and saw you in November 2008 when we were really desperate. Recently, coming to Oxford Street to do some Xmas shopping, made me think of the therapy. I just wanted to drop you a mail to say how good our relationship is now, and to thank you from both of us for the help you gave us on getting our relationship back together………..”
What to expect when you come to relationship counselling?
Couples who are having problems in their relationship may benefit from attending counselling sessions that focuses entirely on their relationship.
Many couples approach their first session with trepidation and apprehension, but they quickly relax into the process and come to value the experience and the benefits.
The first session is primarily an information gathering session where you are asked about your history and your troubles.
The relationship centre uses a variety of approaches and techniques to help you work through your relationship problems. Techniques include: open discussions, conflict management and analysing negative patterns of behaviour
Many couples are apprehensive if they have never attended a couples counselling or relationship counselling session before. Very often, couples have questions about whether the counsellor will take sides (of course this doesn’t happen) or what they may have to reveal as part of their couples therapy.
While relationship counselling might seem rather intimidating at first, many couples find that if they attend with an open mind and a willingness to work with their partner and with the counsellor, then their relationship will start to benefit from even a few sessions. In many cases, it is possible to narrow down the focus of the therapy in order to identify the primary issues which need addressing. Although every practitioner has their own unique approach to relationship and couples counselling, there are a few common elements to be found. The relationship Centre uses evidence based approaches which have been proven to work with couples.
How do I prepare for my first session of couples counselling?
You may be sent some information to fill out and return before the therapy starts. This gives us some background to start with. Many couples like to spend some time thinking about why they are going to counselling, and what issues they might want to discuss whilst there, so this can be useful but not essential. As experienced couple’s counsellors, we will be able to ‘start the ball rolling’ by asking the right questions to get you thinking and talking about the problems you and your partner are experiencing in your relationship.
What topics are covered in the first session?
The first session is primarily an assessment session. This is where the ground rules and boundaries for the relationship counselling are set, and the direction of the therapy can be discussed. During this first session, you and your partner will be given the chance to ask any questions or concerns that you may have and your counsellor will cover the formalities around confidentiality, code of ethics, cancellation agreements and a summary of training and experience.
Once this information is covered, then generally a brief history from you both is taken, covering the issues or problems that are bringing you to counselling, as well as a history of your relationship. Questions may be:-
What issues have you been experiencing in your relationship?
How long have these issues been a problem in your relationship?
Have you ever been in relationship counselling before?
What have you and your partner done to try to resolve these issues?
What are your expectations of couples counselling?
This means that although the first session is generally an assessment session, some counselling work already starts in this first session.Then, the real work of counselling will usually start during the second session, when your counsellor has gained a clear idea of the nature of your problems, and all of the “business” has been taken care of and is clear to everyone.
How is a session conducted?
Generally speaking, both people in the relationship will attend a couples counselling session together, at least initially. This is to help establish an association that is clearly about both of you and your relationship. Some relationship counsellors and indeed some clients then find it beneficial to see the counsellor individually, in turn, before meeting up again as a couple and this will be explored in the sessions. If you are experiencing some circumstances, such as trauma, depression or an addiction, then it might be suggested that you see another counsellor for individual therapy to attend to that particular issue.
Usually a session of couples counselling is a combination of several different tasks. The first task is to set you and your partner at ease and make you comfortable. Counselling or therapy is about developing trust with your counsellor or psychotherapist, so that you feel comfortable and safe talking about issues that may be very personal and extremely difficult to discuss. Working with a professional and ethical counsellor, it will allow both of you to tell your side of the issue when it comes to talking about the problems you and your partner are struggling with in your relationship.
There may be several different types of methods to help you and your partner in the counselling process. This may include:-
Openly discussing difficult topics,
Analysing your behavioural patterns and the ways in which you communicate
Teaching you techniques to help you improve your communication methods,
Discussing your attachment styles
Asking you about your childhood and family history or
Looking at discrepancies in your and your partner’s behaviour.
You may also be asked to undertake projects or practice tasks between sessions (like homework) in order to help with the counselling process, or you may be asked to record your feelings or arguments in a diary and be asked to report back on the experience during the next session.
How can a couple benefit from couples therapy?
Couples benefit from couples therapy in a variety of ways. Very often, the source of our problems as couples is not that we do not love and care about our partners; it is that we do not know how to communicate well about what we want and need. The benefits of couples counselling can include:
Learning better communication skills and how to really listen to our partner without jumping to conclusions or starting an argument;
Learning how to better understand the struggles, challenges and fears of our partner;
Freshening up your relationship;
Improving intimacy and cohesion within the relationship;
Learning about personal boundaries and past history that we may not have known before;
How long is a couple counselling session?
The first session gives time to make an assessment and for you to talk through your feelings and the problems as you see them.
Sessions can be set for 1 hour, 1 hour 15 minutes, or 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on what would be most effective for the counselling. At Harley Street, the sessions are 1 hour 45 mins. Fees are on the location and fees page.
It is most effective to keep to regular session times, once a week, or once a fortnight.
Couple counselling can be hard work at times, but with this work your relationship can really grow and help the two of you achieve being in a happy and rewarding relationship.