Psychotherapy : Hypnotherapy : Counselling : CBT
Specialist Anxiety Therapist UK
Tom Buckland Psychotherapy Services
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.
I have helped form The Relationship Centre that specialises working in this way. For more details on the centre and my work around couples, please click here.
Tom is based in Hythe Hampshire, and also central London.
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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 by us 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:-
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:-
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.
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.