A common question Cheryl King Counsellors are asked is how a couple can tell if they would benefit from relationship therapy. There’s no simple answer, but often they start to find there is no progress in the relationship as though the relationship has gone stale. You will be able to recognise that their problems can no longer be dealt with at home, together. Perhaps you are finding yourselves arguing about the stupidest things and these rows quickly escalate into something impossible to deal with.
If the two of you were not so busy leading separate lives you feel you would die of boredom. Sometimes there is a big issue – such as money, sex, infidelity, family or children – about which you cannot get your partner to understand your perspective.
Beginning any form of counselling is daunting, but in my experience people find it harder to start couple counselling than individual therapy. Instead of exposing your inner-most hopes and fears to a supportive stranger, your partner will be in the seat opposite ready to disagree, and possibly to discount your opinions. Your partner already knows so much about you from your day-to-day life together that exposing yourself further can leave you feeling intensely vulnerable.
There is the added fear that the truth will upset or hurt your partner and make a bad situation go from bad to worse. When I finish counselling and ask couples to look back over their therapy, most fear I would side with their partner. This is because couple counselling awakens sibling rivalry issues from childhood: “Will the therapist love me most?”
If you can get over the idea of entering relationship therapy, the rewards are often much greater than those of individual counselling. In many cases, couples get an immediate short-term boost. This is partly down to a sense of relief that something is finally being done, but mainly because our partner agreeing to this ordeal is concrete proof that she or he cares.
Next, it soon becomes clear that a couple counsellor’s responsibility is to the relationship and both of you will get equal time, attention and understanding. On a deeper level, couple work avoids the victim attitude that can be a by-product of individual therapy, which encourages people to dig deeper into their own world view and ignore everyone else’s.
If couples have been able to cooperate enough to set up a home together and raise a family, they soon begin to support each other through the necessary changes to their relationship. For this reason, couple counselling often needs fewer sessions than one-to-one work.
There are different types of therapy available. Couple counselling tends to work with the immediate problems, although the past is used to find out what’s really happening in the present. Couple psychotherapy starts with the deep-seated problems and by resolving these aims to alleviate any current issues.
Inside a counselling session
So once you have committed to Cheryl King’s counselling services, where do they start? We’re always interested in what makes a couple seek urgent help, as opposed to all the time up to now where problems have been building up into something they can’t cope with. We also like to hear each partner’s individual perspective.
Next, we like to put the couple’s communication problems – what they have come to me specifically to discuss – into the context of the whole relationship. So I ask my clients to tell the story of how they met – it helps make the couple relax and remember the good times which forms a solid emotional foundation to work on.
In the second or third session, I analyse family ties. This reveals important life events – the death of a parent, any divorces, and the ages of any children – and shows up similarities and differences in the partners’ backgrounds. Although we will generally concentrate on issues arising during the week between sessions, we have bigger plans: to help each partner to be emotionally honest, understand each other’s feelings and take on board difficulties.
All too often people try to avoid this pain by denying the problem and distracting themselves with something else. However once all the hidden issues are openly acknowledged – and the fear removed that something worse is lurking in the shadows – even ingrained problems are surprisingly solvable.
After two or three months, after giving the couple the tools they need to be able to cope, I tactfully withdraw. Couples discover they can do this work on their own, that their communication has improved and it’s time to bring their counselling to an end. Most people leave having learned a lot about their partner and their relationship and themselves.
If you feel you would benefit from relationship counselling in Preston, give Cheryl King Associates a ring on 07838 245395.