Marriage & Relationship Counselling
What is relationship or couples counseling?
- Relationship or couples counseling is a form of psychotherapy which helps partners gain new perspectives about each other and new ways of being in a healthy relationship.
- With proper help of a therapist, couples are able to resolve their issues and understand each other better.
- Therapy often includes sessions designed to improve problem-solving, build communication skills, and identify life goals and relationship responsibilities. Other common issues include infidelity, anger, financial problems, illness, or other life changes.
What are the common techniques used in therapeutic sessions?
Emotion focused therapy (EFT)
Emotionally-focused therapy helps couples identify what they are feeling and how to deal with these emotions. Typically, this type of therapy is short term.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Behavioral and cognitive behavioral therapy is about changing the behaviors and thoughts that contribute to relationship problems. This type of therapy helps couples identify and change problematic thinking and the resulting behavior.
It is based on reinforcement of the positive aspects of the relationship. The focus is on the strengths and what can be done to overcome problems. This approach is not appropriate for abuse, drug, or alcohol-related issues.
Ellen Wachtel’s approach
This is a strength-based approach that involves focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship. It focuses on self-reflection rather than blame.
Psychoanalytic couple therapy
Psychoanalytic couple counseling focuses on helping individuals recognize their own unconscious processes as well as those of their spouse or partner. This theory tries to uncover childhood conflicts that have gone unresolved and are therefore influencing the state of the current relationship.
Is it only for married or committed couples’?
Short answer is No. Long answer is, there is premarital counseling which helps couples deal with marriage related issues and helps them bond better before marriage. Relationship counseling before marriage helps couples identify potential problems that could arise in the future.
The common issues addressed in the premarital counseling are as follows:
- Values and beliefs
- Roles and responsibilities
- Sex and affection
- Whether or not to have children/when to have children
- Family relationships
What are common issues or challenges couples face?
Well-known relationship researchers – Julie and John Gottman report that an astounding 69 percent of relationship problems are perpetual. These problems don’t have a solution and are therefore not going to get “fixed.”
Every couple has their unique set of issues and they may not be big or harmful for the relationship but need to be dealt with using healthy mechanisms and recognised at an early stage.
Common issues are as follows:
- stress and pressure emerging from health, work, parents, children or money
- different goals and expectations from one another
- different perspectives or values when a couple has core value differences, such as religious preferences, that can cause serious problems.
- lack of time to spend together or lack of interest or attention changes the chemistry of marriage, which instigates one or the spouse to act out and overreact.
- limited trust or past instances of infidelity
- financial insecurity/difficulties
- raising children (how and where)
- addictions like alcohol/drug abuse.
- serious illness or disability
- Ignoring boundaries
- sexual difficulties and intimacy issues
- job loss or unemployment leading to dependence and financial crisis.
- violence or abuse (Physical, mental or emotional)
- issues arising from a previous relationship and jealousy
How to convince your partner to attend couple or relationship counseling?
- Make them understand that you have issues that need intervention.
- Make them realize that therapy can be beneficial to make a healthy bond and family.
- Do not force them to attend therapy as it needs to be done willingly and voluntarily.
- Offer them with the option of trying it out once and opting out if they’re not comfortable or don’t like it for any reason.
- Try to understand their reasons for not liking it and try to find a practical solution for the same.
Often, by letting them know that a safety zone will be created, where their voice is heard and fault or blame isn’t the goal, the hesitant partner might feel safe to come in. Instead of waiting for the other person who doesn’t want to go to therapy to change, therapy can help strengthen your own self-improvement and personal growth. The hesitant partner may become impressed by these positive changes and decide to pursue therapy after all.
How to fix my marriage which is falling apart?
Fixing your marriage can be tough and requires you to be patient and willing. Both the partners need to be willing and put efforts to work through the rough phase. Don’t make any rash decisions and take time to understand the kind of issues leading to the falling apart of your marriage.
Some ways that may be helpful are as follows :
- Get brutally honest about your needs and expectations and If they’re not being met understand how you’re contributing to the problem.
- Focus on healing yourself first before trying to mend your relationship.
- Recognize your partner’s pain and be empathetic.
- Spend some time reflecting on the good and seeing all the positive and happy things you’ve done together as a couple.
- Show gratitude and be appreciative to make your partner feel that they’re loved and valued.
- Seek therapy, address the root causes and work on them to improve communication.
What are the goals of relationship or couple counseling?
The goal and objectives of couples counseling differ from therapy to therapy and couple to couple but majorly established goals are as follows:
- Clearly establishing objectives of treatment and therapies.
- Becoming aware of dysfunctional relationship patterns.
- Identifying and changing the behaviors that harm the relationship.
- Examining communication patterns and working towards the improvement of communication skills
- Learning how to be more vulnerable and speaking more openly about emotions.
- Reducing blaming language and increasing empathy and mutual understanding
- A focus on a specific problem (i.e. sexual difficulties, Internet addiction, intimacy, jealousy)
- Active participation on the part of the therapist in treating the relationship itself, rather than each individual separately.
- Solution-focused, change-oriented interventions early on in treatment.
How long will it take?
- It is different for every couple and there is not one particular time frame.
- People who participate in couples counseling participate for an average of 12 sessions, with 66 percent of participants improving in 20 sessions or less.
How long marriage counseling takes is largely determined by:
- The model being used is the kind of therapies like CBT or EFT.
- The goals of the couple
- The specific needs of the couple
- Other variables that affect the length of time marriage counseling takes
This means if you and your partner need to see a counselor but are worried over whether you can sustain the expense and time commitment over months, or even years, you can relax a little. While some couples need or choose to stay in therapy longer than the 12-session average, many do not. If you only have the time or money for short-term work, you can still get effective results from just two or three months of weekly sessions.
How can counseling help my broken relationship?
It can help you grow as an individual and be aware of yourself and your needs from your partner and the relationship. It helps you understand the needs of your partner and areas where both of you lack.
Here are some of the top benefits of seeking relationship counseling:
- Enhanced communication skills.
- A sense of self-acceptance and an increase in self-esteem.
- The ability to recognize and defeat self-destructive habits and patterns of behavior.
- You will learn to manage and healthily express negative emotions.
- You will also have a clear understanding of how to deal with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
- Boost confidence and decision-making skills.
- You can manage stress well and help the relationship flourish.
- Better problem-solving skills and conflict resolution abilities.
Why see a couple counselor instead of my marriage lawyer?
When a couple knows their marriage may be falling apart and needs to make a decision ,They have two choices: either a lawyer or a marriage Counselor.
- It’s worth going to the Counselor before you decide to go to a lawyer and end your marriage.
- Therapy and counseling can be an extremely transformative process when done at the right time and under the right circumstances.
- It can help you identify the issues and the solutions and if you think you can work to fix them.
- It provides a safe environment and can be cathartic/unburdening.
- Even if counseling does not result in persevering the relationship, the skills developed in counseling can be applied to other personal or romantic relationships.
- More than anything, it helps you grow and better yourself as an individual.
- In case the Counselor or the couple feels that the differences are irreconcilable, they may explore the option of separation through legal procedures.
Is it worth going for relationship counseling?
Gone are the days when we thought going to therapy is for people who’re not stable, now it’s a part of our self care regimen. We don’t seek therapy only because couples have issues or they want out, therapy can be attended before the issues arise or to rule out potential problems. Apart from that, it’s important for the individuals in the relationship to grow together and explore themselves.
Also, it helps in a lot of areas like:
- Communication (Techniques used for effective and healthy communication that’s honest)
- Understanding your and your partner’s needs (It could be financial, physical or emotional)
- Healthy coping mechanisms (It replaces unhealthy ways with positive and healthy coping mechanisms like talking it out and solution focused approach)
- It is worth it because it can improve the quality of your relationship.
When should I seek a couple therapist?
The majority of couples that I work with say that they should have started therapy years earlier.
- When either of the partners feels that something has been “off” or strange for a long time and their efforts don’t seem to bring any change, they see signs that the relationship is falling apart or anything similar, they should consider seeing a therapist.
- Most experts believe that therapy can be an important part of your relationship. Most issues within a couple start small and then grow in size when they don’t get resolved. This is where therapy can help, by giving tools and techniques to improve conflict resolution.
- You might also consider couples therapy to help support you at times of major life change and transition. “Getting married, becoming parents for the first time, moving, changing jobs, losing jobs, becoming empty-nesters, coping after extramarital affairs, recovering from addiction, caring for aging parents.
- Most couples should go to therapy “before they think they ‘need’ to.” By the time one member of the couple thinks couples counseling is needed, “it’s probably time.”
Should couples see the same therapist?
There is no hard and fast rule if couples should see the same therapist or if they can consider different therapists. Both the scenarios have their pros and cons.
Benefits of seeing the same therapist are as follows :
- There is Less repetition and confusion if they see the same therapist, saving time and energy.
- Going to the same therapist promotes greater trust and congruity, leading to better progress.
- All the therapists hail from different backgrounds and have their own mindset and perspectives. One therapist may have one set of perspectives and opinions of the couple or their relationship, and the other may have something else to say about the problems and solutions.
- Same therapy needs to be applied to see the progress and changes in the relationship. Different therapies have different ramifications, to avoid that, the same therapy needs to be applied.
- The therapist will be able to observe the couple in real time and gain better insights. They can help you reach a conclusion.
- If you don’t go to the same therapist, problems can arise in all these areas, making it difficult for the couple to improve their relationships or work through their problems.
How to find a couples therapist?
- It’s tough to find one, so start with talking with your partner about the vibe they’re looking for in the therapist and other factors like location and finances and reach a common ground.
- Prepare to dedicate time — a couple of weeks, or even months — and see at least a couple of different people.
- Some cities have local associations of therapists online that you can poke around.
- You can check websites like – psychology today or simply type “therapists near me” and get referrals.
- Getting a referral is a great idea.
What is the difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling?
Marriage counseling :
- It deals with present events rather than the past.
- Counselor is the mere facilitator to help you identify problems and practical solutions.
- It can be done before a couple decides to get married, that is premarital counseling.
- Marriage counseling is usually short-term and has a focused treatment.
- Counselor is the mediator and helps the couple communicate effectively and understand each other better.
- It deals with past events and history of the couple.
- Therapists look for the reasons behind the emotions that drive the unhealthy or toxic patterns.
- They offer proper therapies like CBT and EFT.
- Objective behind it is to help resolve conflict.
- It involves couple Counseling as well as therapies and usually has a long term of treatment relatively.
How do I know couples therapy is working or not?
- Building an alliance with your therapist in relationship counseling.
- When you see collaboration between the therapist and you (couple) and notice commitment from both sides, it’s an initial sign that therapy is working.
- Identifying your conflict cycle.
- Becoming aware of your emotions.
- Having more control over your reactions.
- Becoming more responsive to one another in relationship counseling.
- Expressing yourselves in new ways.