What is marriage and couples counselling?
Couples counselling seeks to repair relationship difficulties between two people or enhance a relationship. The main aim is to try and bring the couple back to being close and connect, able to share life's experiences - both the positive and negative. When used to enhance a relationship it aims at strengthening the existing bond to ensure it stays strong in the future. Couples counselling can help partners work through issues they may face in a close and collaborative way. Learn to lean on each other and draw on each other's strengths and qualities. Essentially it is about helping couples become a close team.
Why does this centre specialise in Emotionally focused therapy?
When the American Psychological Association looked at the question of what the evidence-based approaches to couples counselling were several years ago, they concluded there were two - behaviour therapy for couples and emotionally focused therapy. When the two therapies were compared in trials, they performed similarly at the end of sessions but then 2 years later, there was a drop in the results for behaviour therapy for couples while the results for emotionally focused therapy shown even greater improvement (this is in fact very interesting and rare for therapies, which generally always show reduced effectiveness further down the track when evaluated).
The centre's founder, Rowan Burckhardt, discovered emotionally focused therapy after several years of searching for an approach to relationship conflict that truly works. Having gone through this therapy himself, he saw first-hand how effective it was at changing conflict patterns. Given that there were no certified therapists in Sydney, he worked hard to become the first. He wanted to create a change in Sydney so that when a couple reaches out for help, it does not take them years to find a therapy that works, as it did for him. Instead they get the best available approach the first time and not endure ineffective or worse, unhelpful, therapies. Relationships are too precious for that!
we have communication problems. Does this approach address that?
Yes, very much. We need to use communication to resolve differences, heal from past hurts, and get our needs met. However, communicating in a way that works is difficult and it goes far beyond simply using I statements or other such strategies. We must be able to recognise our feelings and the different layers of feelings we may have. We need to also be able to share these in a way that our partner can understand. And we must be able to identify and convey our needs in a way that the other will understand. This is where emotionally focused therapy works because it addresses what is at the core of effective communication - our emotions. Partners are helped to learn to not only stop attacking each other or getting caught up in conflict, but also to communicate together in a way the other can understand. This allows us to resolve all the issues we are currently facing and the ones to come.
We are having sexual problems. Will this therapy help us?
Sexual problems in a relationship can be a result of physical problems, relationship related issues such as resolving differences between the partners, or anxiety-based factors. A common sexual difficulty in a relationship is mis-matched libidos, which is an example of a difference between that the two partners that needs to be resolve. With his clinical psychology background as well as experience in couples counselling, Rowan is well-placed to help couples with sexual difficulties based on relationship or anxiety related factors.
ONE OF US HAD AN AFFAIR. CAN THIS THERAPY HELP US WITH THAT?
Yes, Rowan has worked with many couples where there has been infidelity. This is usually a very painful event and can be hard for a couple to work through the impact and repair on their own. The discussions often quickly escalate into conflict or the topic is largely ignored. Our approach helps the couple process the event and address the issues that contributed to the infidelity occurring. We help the couple rebuild their relationship into a new, stronger relationship.
I'm worried about the cost.
While couples counselling does have a cost, it is also important to consider the cost, both financial and emotional, of either ongoing conflict or separation. Divorce is usually considered to have one of the greatest financial burdens a person can go through. There are also lots of emotional and physical health problems that are associated with poor relationships and loneliness. And, more importantly, the quality of people's relationships is the most important factor in making a person happy. A recent study by Harvard University followed people for 75 years and found that it is the quality of the participants close connections that was the most powerful factor in predicting their happiness. You can view the Ted Talk on this study here or read an article about it here. And so the question is, is it worth spending a thousand or two working on the thing that is most important to happiness? What could be a more important?
Is there anything I can do to improve my relationship without going to therapy?
Yes, there certainly is! A book has been written by Dr Sue Johnson that is aimed at helping couples resolve their conflict. It can be found here. This book explains how couples get stuck in conflict and how they can learn to break the cycle. It contains exercises the couple can do together. It is best if both partners can read it.
I've had a bad past experience with couples counselling. I'm worried about trying again.
Unfortunately, not all counsellors/therapists/psychologists have specific training in couples work and apply individual therapy techniques to relationship counselling. Or they just try and develop their own technique through trial and error. This will usually not work. Couples counselling requires specific training and the use of a therapy that has been carefully developed and refined. The therapy should have been shown to work for couples’ problems in studies that compared it over a substantial period of time to either another therapy or a group not receiving any therapy. It is important to be selective about who you choose to see. Regardless of who you decide to go with, it may be a good idea to briefly chat with the person first and ask about their training in couples work and the approach they use. If they use an approach other than behaviour therapy for couples or emotionally focused therapy, it may be worth asking them why.
WILL THIS THERAPY JUST BE LOOKING AT MY CHILDHOOD?
No, emotionally focused therapy is a present-focused therapy that emphasises the current dynamics between two people. We do at times draw on earlier experiences because they can help us make sense of the current dynamics but that is not what we mostly focus on.
How long will it take to repair my relationship?
From our experience in working with couples, the average number of sessions needed to transform a relationship in a close bonded one in which both partners can work through their differences in calm and loving manner is about 14-15. Some get there quicker and may only need as few as 6-7 sessions, while others take more time and it can take up to about 25-30 sessions.
Do you offer therapy online?
While face-to-face is always better, some couples are unable to attend in person for a variety of reasons and so for these people, it is far better to do therapy online than not receiving therapy. This can also be a good option for people in remote areas where there are not any suitably qualified couples’ counsellors. We use a platform called Zoom for online sessions. Please enquire if you are wanting to have online sessions.
What do I need to do to make an appointment?
Just call our friendly receptionist and we'll work to find a convenient time. We offer after-hours appointments as well the usual business hour appointments.