What happens in couples therapy?
Couples therapy is for partners or spouses with relationship problems. Couples come to see us for all sorts of reasons. Some partners want to regain an emotional intimacy that's been lost; others can't have a conversation without shouting at each other. Some partners appear happy but are avoiding a thorny issue. The cracks may be showing in other aspects of their relationship, such as their sex life.
As couples therapists we're not there to judge or take sides. We're there to help partners have a meaningful conversation about their difficulties, and, together, work towards a solution.
We also help partners listen to each other. This may sound very obvious. What we're trying to encourage is a profound shift in the relationship. We want it to become about understanding, not blame or accusation.
Sometimes we suggest techniques that partners can practise at home, such as reflective listening. This is when one partner simply 'reflects back' what the other has said, without expressing an opinion. This isn't always easy at first. But by listening to their partner, rather than judging them, many people find that, to their amazement, their own grievances soften. This is when a conversation can begin.
How do couples therapists participate in sessions?
As couples therapists, we won't just be sitting back and observing. Instead, we'll offer interpretations of things that have been said. If we feel a topic is being avoided, we'll help bring it out into the open. If you and your partner are having a conversation that goes to the heart of your difficulties, we'll be busy scribbling notes so we can feed this back to you.
Because we work quite intensively, many people start to see a dramatic improvement in their relationship within a few sessions. Others like to work with us over a longer period of time. We can discuss your needs when you come to see us, and work with you accordingly.
Are there different types of couples therapy?
We offer both psychodynamic and psychoanalytic couples therapy at our centre. We realise this sounds confusing but it isn't, we promise. The only difference between these two approaches is that psychoanalytic couples therapy is slightly more intensive. Psychoanalytic sessions will usually take place more regularly, and there may be more of them.
We'll also encourage partners in psychoanalytic therapy to chat about their backgrounds, past relationships, and the way they see the world. This can help identify the emotional differences - and similarities - that are at the heart of any relationship, and how these may relate to problems a couple are having. Many couples find psychoanalytic therapy profoundly healing.
Do my partner and I need couples therapy? How long will it take?
Nearly all of us experience difficulties in intimate relationships. Often we can work through these problems; sometimes they resolve on their own. The key, we think, is communication. We'd recommend couples therapy if you feel unable to talk through the problem with your partner, either because it feels too frightening or because any attempt at conversation descends into an argument.
Some people with relationship difficulties need space and time away from their partner; in these cases, one to one therapy can be very helpful. We also offer sex therapy for couples experiencing problems specifically related to sex.
To find out more about couples therapy, or to make an appointment with us, please contact us.