We are delighted to now be able to offer couples counselling for clients experiencing difficulty in their relationship.
The way we work with couples is quite different to how we work with individual clients, since the three-way dynamic in the therapy room is naturally very different to the one-to-one situation. The couples therapist is typically much more directive and actively involved, mediating between both members of the couple and ensuring that each has equal opportunity to speak (and, more importantly, listen) to their partner.
The model we use for couples work is based on Transactional Analysis. This theoretical framework is based on the idea that two people communicate with each other from one of three ego states: Parent, Adult or Child. The ideal situation is an Adult-to-Adult transaction where both parties have their needs met. Problems occur when transactions take place between mixed ego states, or when the transactions are inconsistent with the ego state the two parties are in. This leaves one or other of the parties' with unmet needs and often results in 'game playing' to get those needs met. The role of the therapist is to observe what games are being played, to identify what unhelpful behaviours are being acted out to perpetuate the game playing, and to model more helpful behaviours in order to break the destructive cycle which is preventing the relationship from working.
Couples counselling can move more slowly that 1:1 therapy and the counsellor has to provide a safe space for both partners and ensure each has equal opportunity to express their concerns and is equally heard both by the therapist and the other partner. The dynamics of couples counselling is typically more complex than 1:1 work and there are more pieces in the jigsaw that the therapist has to put together. The therapist assumes greater control over the process than in (person-centred) individual work, and may ask the couple to use goal-setting, or set them homework between sessions.
As when working with individuals, we offer an initial consultation (around 1 hour) to see if we are a good fit for each other. We may meet weekly (for 90 minutes) thereafter, although it is not uncommon for the gap between sessions to be longer (e.g., 2 weeks) than it is for individual work. The therapist may also occasionally ask to work with one or other of the couple individually rather than both together.