Couples and Family Counselling
As a family and couple therapist I will focus less on the individuals in a family or couple and will instead look more at the problematic patterns that have developed between them over time. Just as an individual moves through a series of stages, so too do couples and families. As a couple or family moves from one stage to another they can encounter difficulties because the skills and roles required by the next stage are often quite different from those of the previous stage.
Generally it is best if both people can attend the sessions for couples work. However it is possible to attend on your own if your partner doesn’t want to engage in therapy right now. Sometimes when they see the positive changes in you they may change their mind and become more interested in the process. Couples therapy is a real investment in your relationship and can build your resilience to cope not only with the current stressors but future struggles which are bound to affect you both.
When two people fall in love and decide to marry or move in together they move from a state of being on their own to sharing their lives. Some people who have been very competent looking after themselves can find themselves partially or completely out of their depth when they are required to live with and relate intimately to another human being:
• fear of intimacy
• sexual difficulties
• inability to share and communicate their deepest hopes and dreams
• difficulties with maintaining appropriate boundaries between the couple and their respective parents and siblings
• significant differences between them in handling such things as finances and the raising of children, often as a result of what they experienced and consequently learnt in their own families of origin
• emotional baggage carried into the relationship from previous relationships
• attempting to control or change one another
• an inability to compromise and find joint solutions together
These are just some of the problems and challenges that confront a new couple.
Family therapy (also known as systemic therapy) is a treatment approach based on theories that highlight the importance of peoples' relationships and interactions, their particular context, and the meanings given to events as useful themes for understanding their situations and for designing therapeutic interventions to assist with their dilemmas and problems.
As a family therapist, I work in ways that acknowledge the contexts of people's families and other relationships, sharing and respecting individuals' different perspectives, beliefs, views and stories, and exploring possible ways forward. I therefore not only support change with individuals but also in their relationships in the family and beyond.
I may not need to see the whole family in each session but we will hold all members of the family in mind as we work towards the desired change. I usually work most intensively with parents as they are the leaders of the family and often initiate and support a lot of the ideas of change that the family generates. At times it will be important for all members of the household to be involved in sessions.
There are a number of critical times during the life cycle of a couple and family which have the potential to cause significant challenges and difficulties for the family. Some of the most common are;
• when the first child arrives
• when the second and subsequent children join the family
• children starting school
• when your children are adolescents
• when children become young adults and move out
These are predictable times when there can be increased pressure on couples and families, but what about the less predictable. Life is often filled with planned and unplanned changes. Accidents, illness, relocation, death and change in circumstance can all interrupt the normal life cycle of the family. Sometimes even the strongest of families needs some support to get back on track.