East Melbourne Psychology

Quality Counselling from Experienced Clinical Psychologists

Couples Therapy

Written by Sara Van Hecke

Being a couples therapist requires special skills and our therapists have had years of training in this area. As in individual therapy, our couples therapists employ evidence based approaches combined with their years of experience that helps them to tailor the therapy to your needs.

Our couples therapists can work with you around a variety of issues including:

  • Communication
  • Affairs
  • Sexual issues
  • Parenting
  • Life stage/transition issues
  • Blended/Step families
  • Physical or mental illness
  • Pre-marital counselling
  • Developing a more respectful relationship

The space in couples therapy should offer a non-judgmental, safe environment to help you and your partner navigate difficulties in your relationship. Sometimes, this might mean working towards rebuilding your relationship, while sometimes, this may mean helping you through the separation process.

Many people are skeptical about couples counselling. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, It’s important that the couple feel comfortable with their therapist, that they feel that their therapist is a good fit for them. Sometimes that means trying one therapist and if after a few sessions, you don’t seem to feel right about the therapist, then it might be good to change. However, it’s also important not to change therapists just because you don’t like what they are saying! Secondly, many couples come to counselling too late. For many, resentment for one another has well and truly set in and there’s not a lot of good will in the relationship making it hard to do the work that is required in therapy to get the relationship back on track.

World renowned therapist and researcher, John Gottman, claims that he can predict, by the end of the first session, (with around 95% accuracy) whether the couple are likely to stay together or not. Gottman looks for the presence of what he calls, the four horsemen. They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. The degree to which these are present and have become entrenched in the communication of the couple gives an indication as to the state of the relationship.

Many couples come in saying things like, we have the same fights over and over again, or, we are just stuck, or, he/she just doesn’t listen to me. It’s very likely that these couples are communicating using the four horsemen and every time they try to talk about a difficult issue they become gridlocked.

Of course, stress doesn’t help. The more stress the couple is trying to cope with, the more their ability to tolerate things is decreased making it more likely that they are going to resort to unproductive communication patterns. In addition we all have our trigger points, things that we feel a little more sensitive about. Understanding these triggers, whether they stem from our past or are just part of who we are, is important for the couple so they can navigate and accommodate better, the needs of their partner.

This of course, is not the whole story. Relationships might be abusive and one partner might decide to come to counselling on their own to help them navigate the abusive relationship.

The decision to come alone or with your partner can be discussed with one of our psychologists when you call to make an appointment.