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Couples therapy and Family therapy

What sorts of relationship problems warrant help?

Many couples hit a rough patch, when neither of them is getting what they need from the relationship and problems arise. Any number of things can cause this, such as sexual problems, negative emotional states (e.g. depression, anxiety, shame or guilt), unhelpful behaviours (e.g. avoidance, addictions,infidelity), uncertainty about commitment, starting a family or fertility issues, financial problems, work stress or redundancy, when a child is born or leaves home, or a bereavement. However, it is often the couple’s responses to these triggers and their communication styles that can cause further difficulties.

When couples find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of arguments, where the same grievances are met by the same rebuttals, when blame, resentment and frustration starts to occur, seeking help from an impartial professional can prevent a lot of heartache, before difficult issues get out of hand.

How common are Relationship Problems?

This is hard to measure as there are only statistics available for marriages that end in divorce. According to The Office for National Statistics, 42% of all marriages ended in divorce in England and Walesin 2012.

What treatment is available for Relationship Problems?T)

If you are in a relationship that is passing through a difficult phase, it might be a good idea to consider therapy. Just as CBT can help individuals to identify and manage behaviours and reactions that are not helpful in coping with their problems, it can help couples too. Behavioural Couples Therapy (BCT) has been specially designed to help couples deal with the issues they face.

Initially, you will identify a list of your problem(s) that you want to address. Alongside this, you will also develop realistic goals you would like to achieve, these are flexible and constantly under review. A key component of this therapy is to focus on relieving stress and improving communication difficulties within the relationship. Therapy can help a couple to step back from their difficulties and consider alternative healthier ways to deal with their problems; manage feelings and conflicts; solve problems, make decisions together and promote acceptance. The therapist will assess and conceptualise couple functioning; look at both partner’s thoughts and beliefs and to understand the link to your behaviours towards each other; teach strategies to regulate emotional experience and expression; address the physical relationship, revise perceptions and increase caring behaviours and support. The couple can learn to interact with each other in ways that will enhance the quality and longevity of their relationship as well as reduce individual psychological distress.

Behavioural Couples Therapy is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for the treatment of moderate depression.

Family therapy sessions

Family therapy sessions can teach skills to deepen family connections, support each other and manage transitional stages of family development or stressful life events. Family therapy aims to helps members to talk about a specific issue or issues that they feel are having a negative impact on the family, and address relational or behavioural patterns and dynamics and thought processes that are causing problems within the family unit. The family therapist aims to help enhance communication, improve problem solving, develop deeper empathy for each other and reduce conflict within the family.

Family therapy is a well-recognised and researched approach with strong evidence of efficacy and effectiveness in a wide range of specific conditions. Common issues a family could benefit from therapy include physical or mental health problems, alcohol and other substance abuse, separation and divorce issues, LGBTQ issues, family life cycle and transitional stages of life issue, parenting difficulties and traumatic experiences, loss and bereavement. Family therapy can be useful in times of crisis as well as with longstanding problems.

Marriage preparation sessions

Marriage preparation sessions are designed for engaged couples, couples that would like to explore the idea of getting married, and couples where one or both partners have been married previously, and are wishing to build a strong and lasting relationship. Taking time to invest in a relationship’s future enables a couple to move into marriage with their eyes wide open. It allows them to ask the hard questions before tying the knot. Exploring issues both in the present and anticipating those that might arise in the future can be important as couples begin their lives together. The sessions will involve exploring and learning the following:

  • Communication – expressing feelings and learning to listen

  • Problem solving and decision making as a couple

  • Making each other feel loved

  • Resolving conflict

  • Having a fulfilling sexual relationship

  • Understanding and appreciating your differences

  • Spending time together

  • Recognising the influence of your family background

  • Discussing expectations and future goals e.g. children and parenting

  • Roles within the relationship

  • Having compatible lifestyles

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