Collaborating with Couples
Working with couples is something I am passionate about. There is an overarching idea within most societies that people should get married, have a house and 2 and a half children and live happily ever after. Yet there seems to be very little support, from society at large, for the couple. Couples are faced with many challenges and sometimes need an environment of safety to look at the Relationship challenges and difficulties, and hopefully, usually, alternate stories for the Relationship can be found. Often couples need to find those stories of Love, Hope, Resilience, and Perseverance that have been forgotten due to the pressures of modern life.
Making the choice to seek couple’s therapy is often a difficult thing to do. Often we may feel we are failures, that the relationship is not as perfect as either we were led to believe, or as perfect as it should be, or as perfect as relationships are depicted in contemporary media. Role expectations, ideas about gender roles, expectations of how children should be raised are just a few of the stories which the relationship may become consumed by. Along the way many other stories, such as hope, love and companionship and desire, of the couple relationship may be forgotten. It may be that the relationship has not been honoured due to the busyness of life. At times there may be relationship infidelities. Pain and heartache may become too overwhelming for the relationship to deal with. Sometimes it is difficult to remember the enriching stories of the relationship. At times it is difficult to find the stories to strengthen and fortify the relationship in order to deal with current hardships. Perhaps a new ethic for the relationship needs to be found when circumstances change, children are born or loss is experienced.
The aim of coming to therapy as a couple is to remember and honour the relationship and perhaps to find new stories to assist the relationship to recover from neglect or to strengthen itself for challenges that may lie ahead. Much of my training has been with Judy Rankin who is a lecturer, teacher, mentor, and gifted couples Counsellor whom I have had the privileged of training under.
Couples in Conflict
In addition to couples therapy, I work with couples who have decided to separate or divorce. This process is often painful and the risk of separation is that bitterness may taint any relationship that the couple once shared. The intention of this particular type of counselling is different from the above mentioned couples work as the intention is not to reconcile the couple. The intention is to assist the couple in moving towards a relationship that means separation and or divorce. The process of therapy is to review what that means for the couple on a spiritual, emotional, financial and mental level, not only for the couple, but for their families and friends too. Separation occurs physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually and the aim is to assist the couple in preparing for this. The focus is to redefine a new relationship in this separated state in order to maintain a relationship where children can continue to be raised without animosity and bitterness, where friends and family can continue relationships with the now separated couple. The new separated relationship aims at honoring the relationship that was and assisting moving forward. The couple will continually need to engage and make decisions and the hope is that a by redefining the relationship this can indeed continue to happen.
This work is based on the new work being done by Dr. Stephen Madigan from the Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy whom I have had the honour of doing some training in this area.