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  • Writer's pictureLauren

Couples counselling - everything you'll ever need to know

Updated: Apr 5

I like to think it's a long time since telling someone you were going to relationship counselling was seen as code for breaking up.

The stigma of admitting your relationship is struggling and asking for help is hopefully well on its way out. Counselling could be exactly what you and your partner need to break out of the rut and finally move forward, but what is it really, what happens, and how does it help?

What's the problem?

Let's face it - if a relationship is going to last a lifetime, it's likely going to hit more than a few bumps along the way.

Maybe you got together at a young age and you've both changed as you've grown up. Maybe you are struggling with individual circumstances, which are now affecting the relationship. Maybe you are avoiding opening up to each other and it's caused a wall to grow between you. Maybe you are holding onto resentment for something that happened in the past. Maybe you get along well as friends but find the spark in your sex life has disappeared.

If any of those sound like you, or indeed if anything else if causing you to drift apart, couples counselling could definitely be useful.

Although far from a comprehensive list, the most common issues I have worked with so far include:

  • Infidelity and loss of trust

  • Breakdown in communication

  • Feeling unloved and unappreciated

  • Imbalance of home, work and childcare

  • Sexual difficulties

  • Conflict and disagreements

  • Loss of empathy and understanding

  • Resentment

Who is it for?

Couples counselling isn't just for married couples; it is for any two people in a relationship. I have worked with people of all ages, from their early 20s to their late 70s. I have worked with couples from different countries and cultures, different sexualities and genders, and those with mental illnesses and neurodiversity. I have worked with people in open and ethical non monogamous relationships, asexual partnerships, couples who are separated, people who haven't been together very long, and people who have been together for decades. It's important not to make assumptions about any relationship as every single one is unique, and everybody in them has their own expectations. It's up to me to learn to understand yours and help you in a very personalised way.

Do you want to make it work?

If the answer is yes for both of you, then I have great news - it probably will. As long as both people are fully committed to staying together and putting in the effort to create change, then I am completely optimistic that you will do. If one or both of you aren't invested, it's better to be honest. If you don't think you belong together any more then that's ok. You both deserve to be happy and loved. If you want a safe space to discuss separating amicably, counselling can also be a useful place for this to happen, and is something I have also helped with.

What actually happens in the sessions?

Sessions are 60 minutes long and involve each person in the relationship having their own time and space to talk about how they feel, and to speak uninterrupted. There is always room for the other person to reply and add to the conversation, and the time is split as evenly and fairly as possible. As the counsellor, I'm completely objective and will never 'take sides.'

Having worked out what the key issues are, they are then tackled together. This is through the use of different psychological theories and techniques, as well as simply what I observe about arguments and discussions in front of me. Sometimes what you think you are saying isn't what someone else may actually be hearing!

Many of my clients have told me that simply having a safe space in which to say difficult things to each other, with an unbiased third party to help keep things fair and calm, is the most useful thing of all.

Not every counsellor offers individual sessions as part of the process but I do; often one or two each. This is because there are nearly always important issues that come up which are adding to the relationship dynamic but which need more exploration on an individual basis. A session away from your partner can also be a good place to say anything you don't feel comfortable opening up about in front of them yet.

Sessions usually start as a weekly commitment. I don't give 'homework' as such, but there are often many practical ideas shared and it's good to put some of them into action during the week, in order to see what does and doesn't work. Over time, sessions cut down in frequency until there is a natural end. As it is generally solution-focused, the process in usually short term. On average, I see a couple for 12-16 sessions. Of course, sometimes it takes much less and sometimes it takes much more. The process is open ended and how long it lasts is ultimately up to you.

What will you learn?

Common takeaways from couples counselling include:

  • How to get back to feeling and acting like a team with shared roles and goals

  • Ways to build trust and lower resentment levels

  • What you are bringing from past relationships into this one that may be affecting it

  • How to communicate in a healthy way in order to listen and empathise

  • What your 'love languages' are and how to use them effectively

  • How to regain sex and intimacy without pressure

  • How to stop avoiding conflict and difficult conversations

  • Ultimately, what you both want and need from the relationship and how to get there together

Whatever you put into couples counselling, you will definitely get out. If you listen to each other, take things on board, put plans into practice and commit to change, I am fully confident there is no issue a couple in love can't overcome.

Although I titled this 'everything you'll ever need to know,' I doubt I've actually covered it all. Any other questions? Feel free to ask anytime!

Lauren x


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