” I started off my couples work dealing only with separated couples in mediation. I moved into counselling because I found it so awful to see people who love each other deeply but don’t know how to make it work.”
At You, Me & Us, it is our belief, that for many couples, if they get help with professional support, they can avoid separation. This is our biggest motivator in working as relationship therapists. This basic premise, that with help, most couples can negotiate and work through their challenges or issues is part of our ongoing success in this area of therapy. This is what motivates and inspires our therapists to do the best for our clients every day.
Good counselling can help you reconnect. It might help you stop seeing only the worst, and to once again see your spouse as someone to be truly valued and desired, even with all their faults. This might sound far-fetched but when counselling helps couples to reconnect emotionally, the results can sometimes be magical. It is equally true, though, that ill-conceived relationship counselling can be problematic – setting up triangles, leaving one person feeling like a scapegoat, opening up old wounds and doing nothing to soothe them.
Our therapists are committed to doing the absolute best they can to help save relationships. This is a debatable issue in the relationships counselling world, as it is true that not every relationship should be saved. Many have argued that “the relationship is not sacred”. Our therapists agree that not every relationship should be saved, but when people really care about each other, relationships are pretty sacred aren’t they? We hate to see break-ups between couples who really love each other, but don’t know how to live together without fights and heartache.
If your relationship is really beyond help, and especially if one of you has truly left emotionally, counselling may not save things. However, it will often help you exit more easily, with less hurt, bitterness and recriminations.
And with a handful of exceptions, almost everyone else arrives with absolutely beautiful intentions of doing the right thing towards their spouse. Even if they haven’t been the best husband, wife or partner so far, most have the capacity and desire to change and make things better.
As therapists we are always moved by these kind of intentions and we work with our clients during their time in our sessions to find an angle, any angle, that will help us all to see what went wrong, how things can be better and how you might reconnect on a deep, beautiful and loving level. To do this, our therapists draw on a number of therapeutic techniques and strategies. Some people won’t care about the “how”. “Just give me the results!” they’ll say. For others, knowing about the “how” is really important before committing to the process.
Our therapists focus on a number of strategies as detailed below which are useful in rebuilding love and strength in a relationship. You can also read much more about these and other helpful approaches in our resources section.
Research has shown that Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT) helps 70-75 per cent of couples to move away form relationship distress into relationship recovery, with 90 per cent of couples reporting improvement to their relationships after EFT therapy.
These are amazing results – using EFT you have a 9 out of 10 chance of improving your relationship and a 7 out of 10 chance of “fixing it” if things are really in a distressed state. But statistics alone aren’t the reason our therapists love EFT (which has nothing to do with “tapping” that might come up if you google EFT – it’s a different EFT!).
Our therapists find that with EFT we can help couples get quickly to the heart of things: it helps you and your partner go down through complex layers of emotions, reactions, and behaviours so that you can uncover patterns or perpetually unhealthy dynamics in your relationship.
EFT is based on both classic and cutting-edge knowledge around how we attach to other humans and how our brain is wired for this attachment. Modern developments in neuroscience fully support the science of EFT.
In EFT you will hear terms such as “raw spot”, “attachment injury” and “infinity loop” and be given homework to take note of the triggers that catapult you both into a destructive cycle. In sessions, we work through three main stages. The first is the de-escalation phase. This phase helps you indentify the cycle you are trapped in and enables you to calm down immediate conflict and hurt. In stage two, we work on deconstructing the triggers and exploring what is behind them for each of you. Both of these stages can be incredibly revealing. In the third phase we work to consolidate insights and change until you are well away from risk of getting back into unhelpful behaviours.
John Gottman was the first leading researcher to look specifically at couples and identify where they go wrong and has spent 30-plus years studying the subject. He became famous for being able to listen to newlyweds talk and then predict with great accuracy if they would divorce within 5 years. He was able to identify hallmarks of conversation that indicated trouble. He called these “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”.
The four horsemen are criticism (when people point out their partner’s character flaws to try and make things better), defensiveness (the way in which people resist taking responsibility for how their actions are affecting their spouse), contempt (when people feel so hurt that they resort to using derision and insults) and stonewalling (when one person just withdraws, whether for self-protection or relationship protection, and refuses to talk or be accessible in any way at all).
A word of warning: talking to each other in new ways and hearing each other in new ways takes a LOT of practice and if you find it hard to do on your own. This is because in our experience, couples don’t set off to be deliberately critical or defensive, these defences arise out of our emotional distress and in sessions, we are working to reprogramme those patterns.
John also talks about building a ‘safe relationship house’, where couples move from negative sentiment override (where you see a lot of what your partner does in a negative light) to the positive perspective, when you are starting to feel heard, understood and loved.
On starting on your therapy journey, our therapists take time to get to know you as a couple and then also as individuals. Initially, your therapist will work with you as a couple, which we consider to be an assessment session. We’re trying to understand the heart of the matter for you. You will then each have a one-on-one individual session with your therapist to give you the opportunity to each share your stories, perspectives and personal history in more detail. Following these assessments. your therapist will start to work with you as a couple.
Our relationship therapists have all studied a range of modalities, and will use a blended approach as appropriate to each individual couple in the moment. Generally speaking we are emotionally and experientially focused and will try and work on your bond rather than wasting too much of your time in content that you are already good at arguing about.
In summary, our therapists often work intuitively, considering what will work for each couple at each stage, practicing “the art of therapy”. You’ll find more information on our Relationship Counselling FAQs page. Please contact us at Me,You &Us if you have any more questions.