Most couples experience problems in their relationship at some point, but that doesn't make it any easier when it's you and your relationship. Our relationship with our partner is usually a fundamental anchor in our lives - so when that anchor doesn't feel secure, our whole life can be affected. Relationship distress is hugely stressful for everyone involved.
From the very beginning I strive to offer a warm, optimistic and safe environment where you can express your fears, feelings and needs in a way that helps you begin to feel closer to one another, rather than stuck in conflict or mutual withdrawal.
The approaches I use in couple's therapy ...
The main approach I use in couples therapy - Emotionally Focussed Couple's Therapy (EFT) - recognises how vital our relationships are to our whole sense of well-being. EFT provides a way to identify the negative cycle you're stuck in, and a road map to getting out of that cycle and into a better place. EFT has been extensively researched and found to be highly successful in moving couples out of relationship distress and back to connection. Find out more about EFT from the videos opposite by Dr Sue Johnson, founder of the EFT model.
I also draw on my training in Internal Family Systems (IFS) when working with individuals within couples therapy.
The first step ...
I offer a free 30 minute initial session in person or online, where I will ask you to tell me a bit about where your relationship is struggling, but this session is also for you to see if you feel comfortable with me.
If we agree to continue, we can decide session times, modes (in person or online) and fees at this point, or you can go away and talk about it, check out other therapists etc. - there's no obligation.
Second steps ....
At our first full couples session, I'll ask about the history of your relationship, and try to get a clear sense of how each of you feels about it, and what needs to be addressed for things to improve.
I usually recommend that this first assessment session is 1.5 hours. Subsequent sessions can be 1 hour or 1.5, depending on need and feasibility. After this first couples session, I will usually ask to see each of you individually for one session - this is to find out a bit more about you as a person and especially about your individual family/attachment history.
The road map for moving forward....
Stage 1: The first stage of couples therapy aims to help de-escalate conflict, to identify the negative cycle in your relationship (this is usually around patterns of attacking and/or withdrawing), and to recognise what is happening in each of you in moments of blame and defending. Here, we also start to identify the softer emotions - the hurts and the fears - that always underlie blame and defending, so you can begin to sense the possibility of feeling closer.
Stage 2: When the relationship feels safer, we move towards a deeper understanding of the fears and needs you both have, and how you can communicate these differently so that your partner can hear them differently, and so that you can reach out for, and trust one another in new ways. This is a lot about learning how to have difficult conversations which actually connect you, rather than turning into arguments.
Once the relationship is feeling more connected and secure we can turn to focus on the future - how you'll continue to deepen your relationship, how you'll nurture your own and one another's separate lives (as well as your life together), how you'll notice any issues arising, and how you'll work as a team to tackle issues within your relationship or beyond.
Dr Sue Johnson explains Emotionally Focussed Couples Therapy (EFT) - the model I use most in couples work
Sue Johnson talking about how the EFT 'roadmap' can help rebuild relationships.