Couple Therapy
The therapists at South Perth Counselling Services have developed many positive strategies in dealing with common relationship challenges. Couple conflict is considered perfectly normal – especially when considering that we each come from differing backgrounds which results in unique views, morals, ethics, communication, goals, and parenting styles. Some may attend to gain intermittent assistance with improving, tweaking or evolving their relationship into the next level. Others may feel that they may have reached despair, their situation appears bleak or they are no longer able to fix their troubled relationship. If your partner is unwilling to attend couple therapy, it is recommended that you attend on an individual basis to begin the process. Attending individual or couple therapy doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’ in your relationship. On the contrary, it means that you are committed to the relationship, are wanting to find better ways to relate, wish to remain or improve connection and intimacy and are enthusiastic in wanting to discover more about yourselves and each other to achieve positive relationship success. Whilst all these benefits may appear difficult at first to instigate, they provide hope for the couple and will ultimately result in them ‘doing less over time to achieve long term relationship success’. Sometimes ‘one off sessions’ may assist the couple to work out a presenting issue, whereas some couples might prefer to engage in ‘regular therapy’ to keep their relationship ‘on track’ over the long term.

Our couple and family therapists have taken many years to develop their ‘special skills’. This includes rigorous coursework, training, arduous credentialing and licensing processes and ongoing supervision. Additionally they continue to receive education and training to learn about the field’s newest developments. We pride ourselves in being committed to assisting families and couples to ‘survive’ despite current negative separation and divorce outcomes portrayed in the media.

Our therapists are committed to helping couples enact positive changes in their lives. They offer a combination of behavioural and emotion based therapies to help their clients to produce positive and effective change. Whilst they often take a flexible and eclectic therapeutic approach using a range of different techniques to assist couples to enhance and achieve long term relationship success, evidence based treatment outcomes are also utilised. These include the following:

1. Psycho-Education

Whilst it is expected that couples will have developed a base relationship skill which they have acquired over their lifespan from their own individual models, sometimes relationship education can assist them to understand their own personal conflict triggersand help them to achieve their relationship needs and goals. Additionally, our therapists discuss common relationship challenges with couples. Our therapists also assist them to enhance their views of the relationship and adapt effectively to common developmental stages and life changes. Throughout the therapeutic process, partners will begin to see the relationship in a more objective manner and feel more confident in their ability to succeed together and create a long term relationship.

2. Improves communication.

Our therapists focus on helping partners to communicate more effectively with eachother. Sometimes individuals may have developed ineffective styles of communicating which may work for their own family background but not for the couple. It is also recognised that each gender often has differing needs when it comes to communication. It is generally recommended that communication during sessions should not be abusive, nor should partners ridicule each other when they do express their true feelings. Couples may, therefore, require “coaching” to learn how to speak to each other in more supportive and understanding ways. Our therapists may also provide the couple with didactic instruction to give them the basis for knowing what types of communication are effective and what types will only cause more conflict. For example, they can learn how to listen more actively and empathically, for example. Couples with a long history of mutual criticism may require a different approach than those who try to avoid conflict at all costs.Therapists are able to explain exactly what general needs are to assist the couple to find better ways to communicate. Our therapists are highly skilled in providing several basic strategies on how to communicate more effectively which is often the ‘key to intimacy’. Whilst these take practise it is often recommended that couples visit for a minimum of 6 sessions initially. Whilst couple therapy may ‘seem expensive’, it is a much cheaper alternative (both psychologically and financially) to separation or divorce for both parties and children over the long term.

3. Decreases emotional avoidance

Couples who avoid expressing their private feelings put themselves at greater risk of becoming emotionally distant and hence grow apart. Our therapists help their clients bring out the emotions and thoughts that they fear expressing to the other person. Attachment-based couples therapy allows the partners to feel less afraid of expressing their needs for closeness. According to this view, some partners who failed to develop “secure” emotional attachments in childhood have unmet needs that they carry over into their adult relationships. They fear showing their partners how much they need them because they are afraid that their partners will reject them. Our behaviorally based therapists, assume that adults may fear expressing their true feelings because, in the past, they did not receive “reinforcement.” Either way, our theoretical approaches advocate helping their clients express their true feelings in a way that will eventually draw them closer together and in turn create a richer relationship.

4. Promotes strengths

Couple therapy is not all about focusing on the challenges. It is recognised that every couple has many positive aspects, skills and functioning abilities that they provide to the other person. As such our therapists point out the strengths in the relationship and build resilience particularly as therapy nears a close. Because so much of couples therapy involves focusing on problem areas, it’s easy to lose sight of the other areas in which couples actually function effectively. The point of promoting strength is to help the couple derive more enjoyment out of their relationship. Our behaviorally-oriented therapists may ‘prescribe’ that one partner do something that pleases the other. Additionally, other orientations may focus more on emotions instead which often help the couple develop a more positive “story” or narrative about their relationship. In either case, our therapists avoid putting their own spin on what constitutes a strength and they allow this be defined by the couple. This ensures that the couple as a unit are in control of their therapy.

5. Modifies dysfunctional behavior

At times, we see couples who may have developed maladaptive styles of relating as a result of significantly high stress, previous relationship styles, challenged with emotional regulation or as the result of their own negative parenting models. In some cases, individual therapy may be recommended in between couple sessions if there is a need for more support for one person or where there has been a background of trauma which may be adversely affecting the relationship. This is only when agreed upon by the couple. Wherever possible our therapists attempt to positively enhance the way that partners behave toward each other. This means that in addition to helping them improve their interactions, our therapists also ensure that their clients are not engaging in actions that can cause physical, psychological, or economic harm to one another. Following initial assessment, if it is found that an individual is at risk, therapists will conduct a careful assessment to determine whetherone partner needs to be referred to aspecialised treatment program such as group therapy for anxiety, depression, anger management or drug rehabilitation etc. If it is assessed that the risk is not sufficiently severe however, the couple can benefit from “time-out” procedures to help stop the escalation of conflict.