Couples counselling is offered to gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples. For most people, the aim is to explore an existing relationship to see if it can be improved or whether it has reached the end of its life. Couples may be at crisis point when they come, with every conversation being heated and destructive. Couples counselling is often effective, as the figures for Relate suggest.
We begin by seeing how each person views the relationship and what each person feels needs to change to help the relationship. The participants are encouraged to try out new ways of behaving. Many couples feel that they go round in circles and ways of replacing this behaviour with new and better patterns can be discussed. Reciprocity negotiation – “I’ll do this if you will do that”- is encouraged. Exercises in listening, communication, and seeing things from the other person’s point of view are offered.
Our early relationships with our parents can be very important in shaping and moulding us, and these can affect our behaviour unconsciously as well as consciously. Whether these patterns from the past are harming the relationship can be discussed and new ways of relating can be practised.
Attitudes towards intimacy and distance can be central. Individual issues can be accommodated within the therapy pattern. Psychosexual issues may arise. Aggressive and critical behaviours can be moderated through assertiveness work and through positive psychology.
There may be issues around forgiveness and trust and I encourage couples to work towards a warm and open atmosphere. By the end, couples may feel that they have re-established their relationship on a sounder basis than ever before.