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Being in an intimate relationship can be absolutely wonderful. It can also be a lot of work. Many couples hit a rough patch, when neither of them is getting what they want and need from the relationship, and problems arise. Although they still love and care for one another deeply, something has gone wrong. In this situation, it is all too easy to fall into a vicious circle of blame and recrimination, while problems escalate.
Relationship difficulties can also be triggered by external factors, such as financial problems, or by one or both parties struggling with issues at work. Changes to the couple, such as when a child is born or leaves home, or when elderly parents need help or pass away, can also lead to problems. While couples can sometimes resolve problems on their own, a lot of heartache can be prevented by seeking help before difficult issues get out of hand.
If you are in a relationship that is passing through a difficult phase, it might be a good idea to consider couples therapy. It can be hard, even impossible, for anyone to judge their own relationship and its strengths and weaknesses effectively. With professional help, couples can work through their problems and figure out a healthier way to manage conflicts of interest and sources of stress and strain on the relationship.
With a suitably qualified psychologist or psychotherapist, you can start to explore, as a couple, how unhelpful responses to stress and to certain behaviours are contributing to the problems you face.
After an initial meeting with your therapist, they will provide an assessment and tailor the therapy according to your needs.The assessment process normally occurs over three 50-minute sessions, carried out over three weeks or a shorter time frame, including both a joint session and two individual sessions. These give the therapist a good understanding of the problems at hand, and on this basis they will devise and explain a treatment plan. Couples therapy can be carried out using a very structured approach, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), or by using a less structured approach based on Psychodynamic or Systemic approaches.
If your therapist feels that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the best approach for you, as a couple, they will take a structured approach to therapy, that will include giving you tasks between sessions. Some of the interventions used in this approach are as follows:
- Looking at the thoughts and beliefs held by both partners, including those that they might not have already shared.
- Exploring how to communicate these thoughts, beliefs, and feelings more effectively.
- Examining the couple’s behaviours and how these impact on the relationship.
- Exploring how to create change based on the couple’s respective treatment goals.
- Practicing different communication skills in the session.
- Engaging in interventions to achieve positive change.
- Increasing positive behaviours in the relationship.
- Assigning tasks between the sessions to help the couple to achieve change.
- Creative approaches including, for example, videoing the couple’s communication without the therapist present in order to gain as much insight as possible, journaling, and more.
CBT sessions are typically weekly at first, gradually decreasing in frequency as you make progress as a couple until you no longer require therapeutic support.
For some couples, a less structured approach, such as Psychodynamic or Systemic Therapy, can be more adept. Together with your therapist, you will explore the two different personalities in the relationship and the dynamic between the two. Interventions are integrated into the sessions with a view to improving the couple’s relationship, and both parties’ backgrounds and early life experiences are explored, towards understanding how these impact on the status quo.
As the couple continues to go through couples therapy, they receive feedback on issues including how they communicate with one another and are taught tools and techniques to help them to manage their relationship in a more positive way, while breaking unhelpful behavioural patterns.
Whatever the approach, throughout therapy, your therapist will continue to monitor your current situation, and track progress.
If you would like to talk to someone about Couples Therapy, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: +442038872866 or by email at: email@example.com or by booking online.
Chapman, A and Compton, J. (2003) “From Traditional Behavioral Couple Therapy to Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy: New Research Directions.”The Behavior Analyst Today, 4 (1), 17 -2.
Gottman, J.The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (Norton, 1999).
Nichols, M& Schwartz, R.Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. Fourth edition. Allyn& Bacon.