Couples Counselling and Therapy with Us
Couples come to us with differing distress levels. Some of the situations we encounter are:
- Mild misgivings and feelings of general dissatisfaction with the relationship, on the part of one or both partners. While they are not in crisis, the relationship feels flat and they may be questioning its future.
- One or both partners are in crisis following an event such as a discovered affair. They may be wondering if they can recover the feelings of trust after a betrayal. They may be struggling with feeling that they are weak to stay in the relationship.
- Ongoing distress from sexual dysfunctions and mismatches.
- Feelings of difference between their partner around parenting, spending, cleaning or other issues. They feel that their partner does not have the same values or vision for a shared future. They often wonder if these can be overcome.
- One or other partner is convinced they are on the edge of relationship breakdown. One may come to therapy saying it is already over. They feel they have tried everything and they feel hopeless.
Our approach is determined by what each couple brings. We use a range of techniques in which we are highly skilled. For example, we use:
- The Here-And-Now practice of Gestalt to see how misattunements happen between partners, and how the partners escalate because of these.
- Attachment Theory to understand how the younger, more vulnerable parts of one or both partners get triggered.
- Emotion-centred therapies to understand the feeling life of the two people, and how feelings are either supported or misunderstood by each person in turn.
- Psychoanalytic and Archetypal approaches; an investigation into the unconscious side of the couple and of each of the partners.
- Psycho-educational work, for example learning how hormones play a role in the couple interactions, or how they trigger arguments and can not get them under control even when they know they are being irrational.
- The experimental approach, in giving homework so that partners can come back and tell us what they have learned by undertaking the experiment.
Our Co-Therapy Model
We are unusual in offering our optional Co-Therapy model. In this model, two couples counsellors (marriage counselors) work in tandem with the couple client. (The model is also called Conjoint Counselling or Conjoint Therapy.)
The model is available in person at our Double Bay rooms in Sydney, and on Skype and FaceTime.
Find out more about how we use the Co-Therapist model (both Ron and Amanda as therapists).
Ourselves as Guinea Pigs
We will not suggest a therapeutic approach to you that we have not tried ourselves, and found to be useful for us in our own relationship. Although all couples are different, we have found some building blocks that are needed for a healthy and intimate relationship, and these we share.
Online if You’re Not in Sydney
Some couples choose to work with us online. Often, they are based outside of Sydney. Others live in Sydney, but difficulties, for example with baby sitters, make it easier to work with us this way.
Working online is very effective (especially with video). It’s in your own space, and we can see some of the dynamics that play out between the two of you.
(We are, however, unable to offer the Co-Therapy model in online sessions.)
- See also: Online and Phone Sessions
Differences between the Names
The terms Couples Counselling and Marriage Counselling are often used interchangeably. We tend to use Couples Counselling, as it’s more inclusive. However, marriage is an important institution and marker for some couples, and we see value in holding this institution in high regard. For example, in our own case, our marriage was a marker of the intention to build a secure container for our relationship.
Other Names for Our Work… But What is the Approach?
Couples Counselling also goes by the name of Couples Therapy, Couple Counselling, Marriage Guidance, Couple Counseling, Marriage Therapy, Relationship Counselling and Marriage Counseling. This somewhat confusing array of names refers to a range of quite similar practices.
Both Psychotherapists and Psychologists may offer services under one or more of the above names. Psychotherapists (such as us) are registered under our professional bodies (in our case ARCAP and PACFA). Psychologists are registered under their own registration board.
It’s not so much the names that are significant, but the underlying modalities (approaches) that the therapist uses when working with you, and their experience.
Our advice is always to work with a counsellor or therapist who is a specialist in Couples Counselling, Couples Therapy and/or is a Marriage Counsellor.
A Psychotherapist or Psychologist who is not a specialist in couple-related work will tend to “fill in”, using the modalities they trained in. These modalities may be highly effective when working with individuals in personal therapy, but may not be so effective when working with couples; in fact they may cause further damage if a couple relationship is very fragile.
An example of this situation is when a therapist (prematurely) suggests that a partner should end the relationship, because it is seemingly “not working for them”. In our approach, we pay attention to the disharmony in the relationship, and work with and understand that disharmony rather than attempt to dismantle the relationship. This is because there is usually so much happening that is about the dynamic between the partners, rather than about what one person is doing to the other. This dynamic is always (even in healthy relationships) only partly conscious.
It is our job to discover what we can about the unconscious dimension of the intra-couple dynamic, and to make our findings available to the couple. Any dynamic, once brought to the light, will then tend shift of its own accord.