How Can Relationship Counselling Help Couples? – by psychotherapist, Lori Ralko
Relationship counselling can help individuals and couples to learn about the patterns that have developed in their relationships in order to better understand their habitual ways of communicating and behaving with one another so that they can move ahead in their relationships in a healthier way.
In the case of relationship counselling for individuals, therapy can help in identifying an individual’s needs (as well as the needs of one’s partner) and how these needs are being met or not being met in the relationship. Also, it can help individuals determine how best to meet their individual goals while at the same time being aware of the goals of their partner.
In the case of relationship counselling for couples (i.e. couples counselling or marriage counselling), therapy can help couples to put their relationship and their ways of relating under the microscope, both as a means to understanding what is working and valued in the relationship and as a means to find a better way of being together in the relationship. The relationship counsellor or therapist will point out what he or she notices in the interactions between each of the partners and together the three of them will work towards a better way of relating.
In both relationship counselling for individuals and relationship counselling for couples, awareness is key. When each partner can identify his or her own needs and see how his or her actions impact the other, the potential for conflict is reduced and the opportunity for growth is increased. The examples below provide an illustration of how this might happen.
Individual Relationship Counselling example:
Let’s say an individual in psychotherapy feels they give too much and receive too little in their relationships. By taking a closer look at their relationship patterns with their psychotherapist, the individual may be able to determine why they end up repeating this pattern. They may end up realizing that their personal ways of relating to others is based on insecurities or a need to please. They may benefit in therapy by learning about their “need to give” and reducing the strength of this need (i.e. being comfortable with the idea of saying “no”). As a result of the increased awareness, they are better positioned to form healthier, more balanced, relationships that are more likely to result in their own needs being met and less likely to form the basis of bitterness or resentment.
Couples Counselling example:
Let’s say a couple comes to therapy because one of them feels the other partner puts too much time and effort into their work life, ignoring or making their home life less of a priority. Couples counselling can help each partner see their role in creating and sustaining the problem. It could be that emotional insecurity on the part of one partner is fuelled by the lack of attention they receive in the relationship. On the other hand, the partner who is putting so much time and effort into their work life might be motivated by a different kind of insecurity (i.e. self-esteem needs or fear of financial insecurity). Learning about how one’s own needs contribute to problems in the relationship – and how their partner is impacted by their own needs-based actions – can lead a couple to a better understanding and toleration of each other and can result in changed behaviour as well.
There is much more to say about couples or marriage counselling, but I hope this brief post gives a sense of how individual counselling for relationships and couples counselling/marriage counselling can help bring about improvements in one’s relationships.