While trying to think about what I wanted to blog about and getting nowhere I happened to meet with a couple with a difficult issue they wanted to address. It often happens that my clients provide me with blog inspiration as well as tricky issues I sometimes struggle to know how best to address.
I immediately wanted to work with this couple but wasn’t as clear about how to address their question: “How was I planning on structuring a program detailing a roadmap in the sessions”. This is a fair question that couples need and should ask their prospective therapist. Still, it’s a difficult one to answer definitively. When this question comes up, I sense the couple isn’t interested in wasting time in therapy that doesn’t produce concrete answers and results, which is a fair thing to expect but sometimes the answers take a while to emerge. The question also alerts me that the couple might have difficulty staying with unmanageable feelings and that there is a lot of anxiety around.
Couple therapy is nuanced, it becomes more texturised as we are able to be curious and reflective. It is a process of unravelling, of understanding and seeing the patterns each of us default into when we feel as if we need to protect ourselves, feel vulnerable or hurt. Most importantly, successful couple therapy depends on how able the individual is to understand themselves and use this understanding as a platform for the relationship. This takes time and patience.
On average, I see couples weekly for a year but the number of sessions depends on how useful a couple finds the process. Often couples become frustrated at points when they feel stuck or when they feel overwhelmed in the session. These are the times when it’s important to stick with therapy and stay with these feelings and try to understand and move through them. Of course, the flip side occurs when the alliance with the therapist breaks down or when one or both people are no longer invested in looking at their relationship. What couples need to understand is why they want to be in couple’s therapy and why they want to stop.
Couple therapy is a process of naming issues, talking them through and most importantly learning to stay with difficult feelings that come up, then exploring them until they are fully understood. My job is to help clients connect to themselves so they can name their feelings, which in turn, allows them to establish a clear way of communicating. I do not have answers, I just try and help clients find their own answers.
What you can expect from Couple Therapy (A Roadmap):
A regular, consistent time/day for the session.
A safe space where clients can reflect and express their feelings without judgement or bias.
An impartial sounding board.
Learn strategic and effective coping skills
Clarify feelings about the relationship
Learn to improve communication skills by working on one’s own self-awareness and personal growth.
An engaged therapist open to reviewing the process (how things are going) and talking about what works for them and more importantly, what doesn’t work.