Couples Therapy: A Therapist’s View

In actuality, couples often come to therapy far too late. Often, by the time the first session takes place, the rot has already set in and in some cases, it is virtually impossible to do any serious work. However, there is always hope. As a therapist, I see my role as a facilitator, a coach and a mediator. I am not there to keep the couple together or to broker a separation. I am there to help them to come to a decision. A decision that is theirs and theirs alone.

Many come into therapy with unrealistic expectations of just how much a therapist can do. It is often a shock when they find out that any solution will be coming from them. They often think that a therapist can wave a magic wand and everything will be fine. Not so! Couples come to therapy for a range of reasons, not all designed to get maximum results. Sometimes, one partner is obligated to attend against their wishes or both are there out of a sense of desperation. They are in last chance saloon in their minds. There are many such cases and as is the nature of therapy generally, some never leave the starting blocks. Sad but true. That said, there is a lot to be gained from seeing a professional therapist.

Often, couples talk openly for the first time in a long time, especially when a relationship is built with the therapist. It can be a fruitful experience to sit with a mediator (A role therapists often take) and be supported and challenged through a healing process. This is an important point to keep in mind. Good therapists will set a framework, an agenda, challenge when needed (sometimes strongly) and consolidate appropriate behavior.

Of course, finding the right therapist is critical to this process and a few may need to be tried before the right fit is found. The biggest factor in this process is, of course, the attitude of the couple involved and the willingness to make fundamental changes, not only in their relationship but often also in themselves, and the way they see the issues.
​As John Gottman, renowed therapist stated: “Couples must become better friends, Iearn to manage conflict and create ways to support each other’s realistic hopes and dreams”. Additionally, action can be taken to increase the positive interaction on a day to day basis. I often introduce the concept of deposits into the “Love Bank” based on meeting a partner’s emotional needs.

To achieve this, it may need a complete change of paradigm in one or both partners. How well the individuals can do this will define them as a couple. If all else fails and the couples separate, it is a case of getting used to a new world, a world that can also offer rewards and a new start. However, it may be a while before this is realised.

We all have to face change. Whether it is forced on us by such things as a relationship break-up or illness or if, more positively we decide to make that change by choice, change is never easy and will often need time for adjustment. We actually face change more often than we think but the bigger changes are the ones that clearly have more impact. Transition and change are a part of life and the human experience, come in many forms and can be sudden or gradually evolving, stressful, pleasurable, or a mixture of both! We change our relationships, jobs, where we live, sometimes our values and beliefs, our goals in life; as well as changes in health. With transition and change comes some type of adjustment and roles and responsibilities can change with changing life circumstances.

Coping with this change can also become part of the therapy experience. Once the decision is made for example to separate, change will surely come especially if children are involved. Even if the couple decide to stay together after infidelity or the relationship being neglected, change will be a major factor in rebuilding and recovery.

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