Relationship counselling & therapy for couples and individuals.
By very nature of being human, we are social animals. We crave and yearn for closeness, connection, physical warmth and intimacy. How much we are in touch with this is another matter. And of course, there are those who seem genuinely fulfilled living on their own, perhaps with a rich network of friends or leading a meaningful and full life.
Relationship Counselling for Singles
Yet it is our very desire for intimacy that also makes us vulnerable to hurts, disappointments, rejections, abandonments and the ensuing states of shame, withdrawal and desensitization. Most of us have experienced some form of wounding around connection whether it be a childhood best friend that betrayed us at school, a parent that left the family home, or a parent that was physically present in the family home but was not emotionally available to us.
A natural reaction to experiencing hurt is to withdraw or to find ways to protect ourselves against imagined future hurts. As adults, we therefore lose the openness and spontaneity most children have. We may choose to bury a yearning for connection, however because of freezing that part of ourselves we lose other qualities such as creativity, spontaneity and flexibility. Perhaps we stave off intimacy through keeping up a happy jolly front and not allowing others to see our darker moods, or through an addiction. It may be that we use anger to stop others getting close. Alternatively, we fool ourselves into feeling connected through a string of casual relationships.
Therapy is a way for those of us who are single to look at how we prevent ourselves from finding the nourishing, supportive and healthy relationship we would like. The therapeutic relationship itself becomes a tool in which to learn about relationships. Often how we relate in the therapeutic relationship, for example being very concerned about what the other thinks of us or feeling ambivalent, is how we generally feel in relationships. By reflecting back how I experience you and looking at the professional yet supportive therapeutic relationship that we have co-created, you get clearer on any unhelpful patterns and can take the risk of relating in a different way in order to eventually improve your relationship skills with others.
Relationship Counselling for Couples
Therapy can also help those that are in a committed relationship. We hear a lot about the rising divorce statistics. It seems less and less common for people to stay together. However even with those that stay together, the number of unhappily married is significant. Some of us stay together because of familiarity and the fear of being alone and having to start over, or due to children and financial reasons.
We often replicate relationship patterns we knew growing up. This can provide us with the sense of familiarity and recognition that attracted us to our partner originally. Hence we often choose partners that are like our parents. Perhaps out of our awareness we are attracted to them because we are trying to obtain a different outcome, for example to make an unavailable parent available. However, after a while we may experience our partner behaving in a way that is painful to us such as dismissing us, betraying us or attacking us, just as our parent did and we became frustrated that we have not been able to change them. Or we find ourselves subjugating our own needs to keep our partner happy. Alternatively, just as we did in our family home, we communicate indirectly with our partner, expecting them to mind read. Maybe we find ourselves avoiding direct expression of anger for fear of getting caught up in an angry and abusive dynamic like in our childhood home.
We can feel helpless and confused in such dynamics. The good news is that coming to therapy can help you to gain awareness on your relationship dynamic. It helps you to get more in touch with your needs and wants and how to communicate them. You do not need your partner to be with you to benefit.
If you do come as a couple then the fact that you are both motivated to try therapy is a very good indicator that the work will be successful, whatever success means to you as a couple. For some this means better communication, for others this might mean better conflict resolution, for others this might mean figuring out how to be with each other now that you have a child, or it might mean working out how to be with each other now that you are separating but have children together.
My approach to Relationship Counselling
As a Gestalt relational therapist, I view a couple as a system. The relationship is my client rather than the individuals. In the first sessions, I find out about how you operate as a system, both from what each partner tells me and what I observe. I am particularly looking out for imbalances or ‘stuck places’ in the system. I view my role as facilitating awareness of how you operate as a couple. My role is not to attribute blame or to side with one partner. I consider that both parties have contributed to the dynamic and that we need to look at how that happens. For example, one person might become ‘the emotional one’ in the relationship and the other partner becomes the ‘the avoidant one’. Or one partner is the ‘angry one’ and the other person becomes ‘the reasonable one’. According to the Gestalt theory of polarities, we all hold polarity behaviours within us. When we are in touch with these we have more choice about how we behave. Often in a pairing we get stuck in a way of behaving and this becomes even more polarized through the relationship. One of the aims in couples’ therapy therefore can be to explore these roles and how they can be made more flexible.
Needs – we will also work to develop greater awareness of each partner’s needs and how they take responsibility for them in the relationship. This includes being in touch with our emotions.
Context – a couple exists within a context. These days couples and families can be complex including second marriages with step children. And there are more and more same-sex couples. I will consider with you how this context and environmental factors affect the relationship. In particular, what the challenges are that you face and what support you receive. Included in this are factors such as income, employment, housing situation etc.
CBCT – Cognitive Behavioural Couples Therapy
– this provides useful additional tools. This might include being more aware of our thought processes for example to see the negative rather than than positive in our partner. It includes communication training, problem solving skills, finding ways to de-escalate conflict and to help us stop replicating childhood negative belief systems and behaviour patterns which are referred to as schema.
These approaches help you to:
· communicate needs and wants more effectively
· to develop better listening skills
· to develop more flexible roles within the relationship
· to learn conflict resolution skills
· understand how the wider context of work, family, culture influences how we are in our relationships
· to gain greater awareness of unhealthy relationship dynamics and how to change them
· to increase the positive interactions within the couple
· to improve ability to accept differences
Relationship Issues I work with are:
· Separation and divorce
· Trust issues
· Financial issues
· Work issues
· Conflicting goals and values
· Conflicting parenting styles
· Communication issues
· Life changes
· Lack of communication
I am based in Forest Hill in South East London (SE23) within easy travelling distance from Dulwich, Catford, Sydenham, Crystal Palace and Brockley.