- conflict resolution
- depression and/or anxiety
- compulsive internet use
- distance in the relationship
- growing apart
- cultural differences
Each of these concerns (and others) are ones I’ve heard and helped couples with during my many years of experience as a couples and marriage therapist.
Face-to-face marriage & couple counselling sessions, scheduled weekly, are a typical choice for Toronto & GTA couples. I offer alternatives to weekly/biweekly face-to-face sessions: 3-Day Counselling Intensives and Couples Retreats.
Couples Counselling – Initial Treatment Focus
Usually the first treatment goal is restoring the marriage or couple friendship in order to decrease the loneliness each of you feels in the relationship. Years of distance and isolation may make trust a challenge.
Where open hostility and anger is a major problem, learning to recognize and manage intense emotion is a priority treatment issue. You will learn how to calm yourself and your partner before your emotions hijack you and ruin any chance of a productive discussion between you and your partner.
You may be tempted to stop treatment as soon as things get a bit better. This is not wise because at this point the work of weaving a long lasting relationship begins. As you learn to manage the overwhelming emotions that are part of recognizing your marriage is in trouble, you will begin to have success negotiating your way through situations that used to end in anger or isolation.
If a recent affair is the presenting issue, the first sessions focus almost exclusively on containing the chaos each of you feels. I’ll help you deal with feelings of betrayal, ambivalence, curiosity and anger about the affair partner, as well as the conflicting and rapidly changing emotions you have about yourself and your partner. Sometimes the chaos after the discovery of infidelity require scheduling more than one session a week for a time. More information about how Couples In Step works with affairs is here and here.
Couples Counseling Benefits You When…
Research has demonstrated that most couples come to couples counseling seven or more years after first becoming aware of problems. By then partners desperately want a quick fix. However couples counselling requires intense work. Improvement takes time. So…
- attend regular therapy sessions
- think of the money you spend on therapy as an investment in the future of your relationship (counselling fees are less than attorney fees!)
- dedicate time between sessions to practice the skills you learn in therapy (regular practice may mean you’ll achieve your goals with fewer therapy sessions)
- commit to learning new habits
- nurture the desire for a healthy and intimate marriage
Patience will pay off. Loneliness can be transformed into companionship. Even after betrayal, trust can be rekindled. And hostility can evolve into kindness.
I am a trained EFT therapist (more about EFT here) and that’s the approach I use with the couples who come to Couples In Step for counselling. EFT has a good success rate in clinical studies. I’ll be writing a blog post about how my experience lines up (or doesn’t) with the clinical outcome studies. Stay tuned.
Couples Counselling is Expensive…
Yes, couples counseling is a financial investment. There are some ways you can lighten the financial load.
- Your extended health benefit is likely to reimburse you for some or all of your couples counselling. The fee schedule I’ll send you when you contact Couples In Step outlines how to determine coverage, amount of coverage, etc.
- Most extended benefit plans go from January to December. If you are able, you could postpone the start of your marriage counseling until the fall. You could then use up your yearly maximum from September to December and have access to your full benefit again in January.
- Couples In Step has reduced fees during weekday hours (before 4 pm). Perhaps you can flex your work hours to accommodate marriage counseling. Your doctor may be willing to provide you with a note. Ask me about that if you have questions.
- I have noticed again and again that couples who spend time between sessions doing the relevant readings and watching the DVD’s that I suggest use the actual therapy time more effectively and in the long run appear to need fewer sessions.
- You can schedule longer sessions further apart. Typically therapy begins with weekly sessions. However you could arrange for bi-weekly sessions.
- Remember that in nearly all cases divorce, even collaborative divorce, is a lot more costly than marriage therapy.
I regularly video tape couple sessions — always with your permission of course. Videotaping improves my overall work as a specialty couple’s therapist. And occasionally you get my focused attention on your relationship without having to pay for it! While the first few minutes of videotaping feel awkward and artificial, couples quickly become accustomed to videotaping.
No marriage or couples counselor can guarantee that a successful course of marriage therapy will mean you and your partner will never again run into relationship problems. However, effective couples counseling focuses, from the beginning, on helping the two of you develop interaction patterns that helps you talk through your concerns in a constructive manner. At the conclusion of couples counselling you will spend some time developing rituals for fun and relaxation, and for stress management. Having a “toolbox” of activities and patterns that will help your relationship flourish even after therapy concludes is reassuring.
Alternatives to Traditional Couples Counselling
There are other ways to focus on your relationship.
Couples In Step offers a 3-Day Intensive Couples Counselling option. Couples who want to jump start therapy sometimes choose this route. So do couples who are in crisis, or who feel very desperate about their relationship. Occasionally couples who are very pressed for time will elect a 3-Day Intensive.
Many couples profit from Hold Me Tight Weekend Couples Retreats. These couples retreats are a cost and time effective way to focus on improving your relationship. I offer 2 – 3 Hold Me Tight Couples Retreats per year. The Hold Me Tight couples retreats are based on EFT, a couples therapy model that has excellent clinical outcomes.
I am not the only therapist who offers Hold Me Tight Couples Retreats. These retreats are offered all over North America.
Besides Hold Me Tight Retreats there are other types of couples retreats and workshops. I’ll be writing a blog post about that in the near future. Stay tuned.
There are literally hundreds of relationship books. I have a few favorites.
My blog posts are about relationships.
Video conferencing is another way for some couples to get counselling. I am happy to work with you and your partner by way of video conferencing after I’ve met you through face-to-face counselling sessions, a 3-Day Intensive, or a Hold Me Tight retreat. The first sessions may be a bit rocky as you get used to the medium. Occasionally video conferencing is not a good medium for counselling. That will become clear after the first two or three sessions.
More information on:
- Sex therapy
- Cross cultural couples
- EFT (Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy)
- Intensive Couples Counselling
To schedule an appointment call Couples In Step at 416-459-0956, or email Couples In Step.
Couples In Step serves couples living in Mississauga, Toronto, Etobicoke, and North York. Couples come to Couples In Step from a long distance away as well.