So you might be asking the question: How does Couples Therapy work anyway? There are some common misconceptions of what couples therapy actually is. Some people avoid it because they believe it will be more arguments (this time in front of another person). Some also believe they will be attacked or blamed or be ‘the wrong one’. We agree both scenarios sound very ineffective and painful and will be a big waste of your time and money. Our commitment to you is to make this a positive and transforming experience where your relationship can come to be improved and benefited. Our methods are dynamic and transformational and lead to positive changes.
Gain a deeper understanding of the root cause of the problems
The aim of therapy will be to explore yourself and the ways you and your partner interact. Your assessment session will uncover an understanding of entrenched dynamics, ineffective responses, unresolved ruptures and even looking at each partner’s family systems and attachment styles. Knowledge and awareness is power. Only by knowing what isn’t working can we begin to instil effective more functional relationship behaviour.
Getting on the same page, setting goals and nurturing the ‘Couple Team’
Setting goals is powerful. Setting mutual relationship goals can be life changing. Together we will nurture your ‘couple team’ that functions to look at your vision of the kind of life you want to have together. When we have these important goals in mind, change can be rapid and satisfying. I will coach you both to set appropriate, meaningful and achievable goals. Then we will set off on the path to making them happen.
Harnessing the power of Autonomous Change
Some of you might expect that your partner will have to do all of the work. Yes, your partner will be ask to explore and look at behaviours that may be challenging the relationship. However, you will be asked to do the same. Truthfully, if relationships are to truly change and become happier, more connected and more functional, we have to embrace the concept of autonomous change. This means that you both are contributing in some way to the problem your relationship is having. The ways you may be contributing might be surprising to you. It is an important question to ask yourself “what kind of partner do I want to be”. Your partner will be invited to do the same. This truth can be truly liberating as you start to see how things came to be.
My job is to compassionately coach you both to see the problem more clearly. “The blunt reality is that, in an interdependent relationship, effort is required on the part of each person to make a sustained improvement. It is like pairs figure skating – one person cannot do most of the work and still create an exceptional team.” (Bader)
Learning to manage uncomfortable emotions
Being in relationship is challenging and deeply rewarding at the same time provided we know how to navigate when the going gets tough. When emotions are triggered we all have coping mechanisms that may not always be helpful in relationship. Some of the ineffective coping behaviours are:
Avoidance, disengaging, withdrawal
Trying to control, dominate, be the right one, blame the other
Denial, self-hiding, dishonesty
Overuse of one emotion to communicate feelings (such as always getting angry)
When stress is high it is a normal human response to defend. Defence mechanisms are all about self-preservation and we cannot survive without them. However, navigating relationships means that you will need to learn to sit with the tension or uncomfortable feelings without reacting. Sitting with this tension can open up realms of deeper relating that will be much more satisfying for you and will bring you and your partner closer. We are skilled at helping you do this in a way that is respectful and accepting of you as a human being who is suffering.
Learning more effective communication tools
The cornerstone of relationship success! We will work alongside you to explore the ways you have been responding to each other that might be causing a wedge between you. Often couples come in stuck in endless cycles of blaming and character assassinations leaving both to feel disrespected, devalued and unloved. Then more fights result as you both are in so much pain. It is time to break this cycle. Together we will look at ineffective communication and learn the couples dialogue, a powerful conflict resolution tool that calms the nervous system and builds compassion and connection.
Building positive neuropathways with each other
Current research into happiness and wellbeing has uncovered the neuroplasticity of our brains. This means that we can learn to feel at peace by practicing mindfulness, spending time appreciating one another and finding space for positive relating. We don’t only focus on what’s wrong but alongside look to ways we can build positive neuropathways or associations with each other. Often high conflict times we give so little space for this. Rebalancing is an important factor in trust building, calming the nervous system and changing entrenched, rehearse negative dynamics. As Ellen Bader, Phd says ‘to truly build a relationship that flourishes we have to learn to water the soil for new growth to emerge’.
Practice, patience, making effort and embracing long term change
Change takes focus, effort, time and patience. It does not happen overnight. Embracing this process and giving your relationship the time and commitment it needs to make changes that are real and long-lasting is a key ingredient in the recipe for a interdependent, synergistic relationship.
“Grace under pressure does not spring full-grown even with the best of intentions – practice, practice and more practice. Practice the right things and you will get there” (Bader).
Carly Goodfellow, MA, RCC is an Integrative Psychotherapist and Relationship Counsellor in Vancouver, BC. She is the Co-Director of Vida Relationships, a team of specialist Relationship therapists committed to building strong relationships and fulfilling lives.