Many relationships will get strained at some point, which can result in conflicts between members and maladaptive patterns. These patterns can be known as “negative interaction cycles.” There are many possible reasons why relationships might be strained including changes in financial state, physical or mental health, problematic relationships with others, lifestyle changes or transitions, and losses/grief. Relationship influences are often reciprocal, meaning it takes each member to both make and maintain the presenting problems.
In order to get the relationship back on track, couples therapists work to help support each member in exploring their perceptions, emotions, and thoughts and finding new ways to share and communicate them to the other member. This is often done through some combination of the following:
- Identifying the repetitive, negative interaction cycle as a pattern
- Understanding the root of the key emotions that drive the pattern
- Expanding and re-organizing key emotional responses in the relationship
- Facilitating a shift in the interaction between members so that new patterns of interaction can form
- Creating new and positive bonding experiences in the relationship
- Fostering a secure attachment between partners
- Supporting and developing a sense of intimacy if this has been impacted
There are many different forms and types of couples therapy that can be offered and can be either short term or long terms depending on the presenting concerns and the model from which the therapist practices. In general, short term counselling tends to take on a more ‘here and now’ approach focusing on current concerns and developing new coping strategies. Whereas, longer terms couples therapy is focused more on exploring the history of the patterns of the presenting problems and the relationship history and emotions are often explored as both the target and agent of change.
For more information on couples/marriage counselling: