Couples, Marriage and Relationship Counselling

I believe that people, above all, are relational beings - we make sense of ourselves and our world through relationships, interaction and feedback.  I strive to offer a safe and private space for you and your partner to explore issues together, to understand each other and resolve difficulties.

What counsellors call couples counselling, many people call marriage counselling or sometimes relationship counselling - perhaps because for the most part couples are either married or see themselves as a committed relationship.

I use the term couples counselling to mean marriage and relationship counselling.   In couples counselling, you can bring any issue that relates to your relationship with a significant other, whether you are married, in a committed romantic relationship or are close for any reason - such as being a parent and an adult child, or siblings of any kind (see also family therapy).  I also use the terms 'counselling' and 'therapy' interchangeably.

You can find information about counselling charges on the Appointments & Fees page.

Couples can be opposite sex, same sex and can be any age.  And there doesn't have to be only two of you.  The main focus at the outset is to create a space in the therapy room where everyone is equal and everyone feels safe to say what they need to.

How couples therapy works

My couples working is based in my training as a person-centred counsellor and my post-graduate training to become a Systemic Practitioner.

At its simplest level of explanation, couples therapy focuses on three primary entities: the (usually 2) individuals 'in' the relationship and, at the same time, the entity that is the relationship between these individuals.  This relationship is a living, unique, breathing and sometimes discordant organism with a life of its own - just as the individuals are.

Couples therapy - in a similar way to family therapy - acknowledges the importance of the history, experiences and meanings that have been created in the lives of each of the individuals in the relationship - their life and the events and relationships that led up to this point.  And it also acknowledges the existence of the new system created by the therapy.

Bringing these elements together in a way that allows you to understand what is happening and perhaps see where change is possible and desirable can be said to be what couples therapy 'is'.

What I bring to the session is an outside view that can enter your worlds, see some of what you are experiencing and, by seeing it, help you see it too.   Once this has begun, most people find that their chances to make good choices increase.

Couples working, like all my therapy, is based in a philosophy of believing in the goodness in all people and the struggle that we each of us face in being both alone and relying so much on being in relationship with others.  It is also based in the research-led science of what happens to us (and why) and at the same time in the art of trying to understand, truly understand, what another person is going through.

Couples and Disagreement

Clients have said to me; 'it's normal to argue'.  I would say that it is normal, healthy and good to disagree but not to argue.   Argument tends to be about winning and loosing, having my point win over yours, my view win over another view.  Can any one of us ever be completely 'right' and the other 'wrong'?

When any of us consider ourselves in a relationship, there are a number of aspects to hold in view: our internal experiences that for us, is 'reality' - how we experience things is the reality we live in.  Then there is the 'other' person in the relationship and their experience of the things happening in their life - their 'reality'.  And then there is the special, unique organism that you have become by being together - and something that has been an important factor in the success of the human race - what happens because you are together.

For each of us, our experience of reality is based on what is happening now, and what that means to us because of what we have been through up to this point - our history.  And we also experience things in the here and now based in what we are hoping for - or fearing - in our future.

Disagreements, and often the arguments that follow them, are usually a manifestation of the clashing of these differing and equally valid 'realities'.

Specialist Couples Therapy Issues

Specialist Mental Health Difficulties in Couples Therapy

I have experience of working with couples where one of them has been diagnosed with a specific mental health condition and have experience of working in the pre-diagnosis phase as well.  For example, I have specific experience working with couples where one of the individuals has one of the following diagnoses:

I also have considerable experience of working with couples where one has attempted suicide or is actively suicidal.

See Psychotherapy page for more information on my experience of working with specific difficulties and disorders.

Anger and Conflict in Relationships

More than most of our struggles in relationships, difficulties within loving relationships that lead to conflict have their roots in our deep past.   As a starting point for your search for healing this painful outcome, I can recommend my own specialist web site on anger and conflict, where you will find a good amount of useful information.

Even when anger doesn't become physically violent, it can be emotionally abusive and frightening and involve the challenging dynamics of control and power.   Plus, both the anger in your home and the ways it is expressed are passing from generation to generation - so your children will be picking it up from a surprisingly young age.

And yet, it is also one of the most resolveable issues and your chances of recovering are good.  So if you have the courage to face your demons in the safety of the therapy room, I will be there for you and will help you see your ways to recovery, health and happiness.

When anger is becoming violent, it is really imperative that you both seek help.

Systemic view of couples therapy
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