Thinking about couples counselling? …….Some information you may want to know

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Contributed by Associate Pam Roberts:

When most couples come to their first session, they usually tell me that they want to learn to “communicate” better with their partner. Although this belief that poor communication is the culprit to the difficulties in a relationship is partly true, research is showing that this belief misses the boat.  What the leaders in the field of couples work are finding is that what creates safe, intimate, rewarding relationships is “connection”, not communication (Sue Johnson).  The research being done at the Gottman Institute has discovered 7 basic principles that make relationships work. And while communication is a piece, it is just that – one piece.

One form of couples therapy called the Gottman Method was developed by Dr. John Gottman and his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman in the 1980s. It is an evidence-based form of couples therapy that strives to assist couples in achieving a deeper sense of understanding, awareness, empathy, and connectedness within their relationships that ultimately leads to heightened intimacy and interpersonal growth. By combining therapeutic interventions with couples exercises, this type of therapy helps couples identify and address the natural defenses that hinder effective communication and bonding.

I am a Certified Gottman Therapist and find it an effective form of couples therapy.

So, what can we expect would happen if we came for couples therapy?

The assessment phase is key in the Gottman Method. Completing a good assessment means that you and your partner are working on the right problems.  You wouldn’t go to a doctor with a complaint and accept treatment without a thorough investigation of that complaint!  Couples therapy is the same.

We would start with a 100 minute session with both partners to learn about the problems and relationship history.  Then each partner attends for a 50 minute individual session.  There are also a number of assessment tools for each partner to complete.  All of the data is then pulled together and presented back to the couple as a summary of the strengths and weaknesses in their relationship along with a treatment plan.  The couple then decides if they would like to move forward or not with couples work and regular sessions begin.  Many couples report that the assessment phase itself is very helpful and couples often begin making changes as they become more aware of what is happening in their relationshipThe frequency and duration of couples therapy varies and depends on a whole host of factors.

Who goes to couples therapy?

Couples therapy isn’t just for married heterosexual couples. Any couple in a committed relationship can benefit from couples work.


Is it too early or too late in our relationship to try couples therapy?

Timing is an essential element in whether couples counseling works. Unfortunately, most couples wait much too long to reach out for help repairing their relationship. According to relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. This means that often, couples have six years to build up resentment before they begin the important work of learning to resolve differences in effective ways.

A couple should consider couples therapy:

  • As soon as one of you thinks you need it, even if the other person doesn’t think so.
  • You feel stuck and what you have tried on your own is not working.
  • One of you feels emotionally or physically/sexually disconnected and can’t seem to change it on your own.
  • You fight or withdraw or refuse to address issues of conflict.
  • You are thinking you might be happier with someone else
  • There has been an affair and you are struggling with whether you can or should try to repair the relationship.


Will it work?

Truth be told, the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related to the motivation level of both partners and timing.  Further, it’s important to choose a therapist who has experience working with couples and who is a good fit for both you and your partner. If both partners don’t feel comfortable with the therapist, this can negatively impact progress; or one person may prematurely drop out.


We’re interested, who do we call?

If you’d like to do couples therapy, please give Dr. Nina Woulff a call to discuss whether this would be a good fit for you and she will arrange the first session.

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