Couples therapy, or relationship counselling, has become increasingly common in recent years among newly-constituted couples, established couples and among couples preparing for a commitment ceremony. In facing relationship difficulty, it is no longer the option of last resort after family, friends or a self-help book has been consulted.
It may be that a current relationship is at an impasse as a result of a traumatic life-event, such as bereavement. Working through the effects of the loss in a calm atmosphere with the therapist may be all that is needed to move on. Other reasons why people seek relationship counselling or couples therapy include: a life-threatening diagnosis, loss of intimacy, an extra-marital affair, a devastating change in fortune or financial circumstances, loneliness and the inability to cope and deal with change.
Working with families, couples and other groups is based upon the principles of Systemic Psychotherapy, which aims at treating the relation between individuals not the individuals as separate entities. At the initial consultation the therapist will assess whether couples therapy or individual therapy is the appropriate intervention.
The consultation offers a space in which feelings may be expressed in a safe way and where options may be explored which might be impossible to discuss without the therapist’s assurance of neutrality. The first goal of the therapy is to arrive at an articulation of the present difficulty. Strong emotions sometimes come to the fore during sessions and every attempt is made to structure the sessions so that they do not become intolerable to the parties involved. In the presence of a trained therapist, words may be found to resolve the situation so that the relationship can survive and grow.
Often, relationships require only a brief intervention to resolve issues.