Couples therapy, also called relationship counselling, can help when a relationship is in crisis (after an affair, for example).
Both partners talk in confidence to a therapist to explore what has gone wrong in the relationship and how to change things for the better. It can help couples learn more about each other's needs and communicate better.
Couples therapy can improve the mutual support you provide for each other. Often people who find it hard to use psychological help on their own are able to attend and get something from doing so if their partner is also involved.
Who it’s for
We see couples of all ages, whether they are married or not, mixed or same sex, living together or apart.
Issues we can help with
Couples therapy can help with depression and isolation, mental health issues and parenting issues. Many couples find difficulties start after a painful event or illness, or following a significant life change such as:
- moving in together
- the arrival of children
- the loss of a job
- taking on step children
- other change or disruption
We support couples where the partners need help with their emotional lives and feel more comfortable coming together, as well as couples who have troubled relationships which might be affecting their children.
For troubled children, the relationship between the parents (whether together or apart) is often crucial to helping the child. One of the ways we provide support for children is by working with parents, although the emphasis of this work is with the primary carer (usually the mother) rather than the couple. Please see our working with parents page for more information.
Length of treatment
Couples therapy sessions last for one hour. Couples can be offered weekly, fortnightly or monthly sessions.
Assessment takes place over two to three meetings, where both of you meet with a therapist for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The therapist asks you about what’s bothering you in your relationship. You are both given the chance to explore and discuss the root of the problem, from the time you met up until the present. The aim is to understand how each partner thinks and feels about the present situation.
The assessment gives you and your therapist an idea of whether talking to someone in this way is going to help you or not. At the end of the assessment your therapist helps you to think about the most appropriate treatment for you.
The focus of couples therapy sessions is never on one partner or the other. The emphasis is on the relationship between you.
You both come to regular appointments at a particular time to discuss the difficulties you have. The therapist makes sure that both of you get a chance to speak and be heard.
The therapist is likely to listen and also offer his or her way of understanding the dynamics between you.
Research shows that couples therapy works better than anti-depressants in the treatment of adult depression. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that couple focused therapy should be considered for patients with depression who have a regular partner and who have not benefited from a brief intervention.
Risks and side effects
Talking and thinking about emotional problems can be difficult. For this reason some couples can feel worse before they feel closer and safer with each other. We work with you to manage strong emotional reactions.
Couples therapy is not for everyone. There is a range of alternative treatments that your therapist talks to you about during assessment. Some people prefer to be seen for help alone or with their families rather than as part of a couple.
Other psychological treatments include:
In some cases patients are helped by medication which can be prescribed by a doctor and on rare occasions by our staff.
Patients may choose not to take up any form of professional help for their issue and manage the problem themself.
Questions or worries
Therapy can bring up difficult issues. We want you to feel able to discuss any questions or worries with your therapist. This is important to progress your therapy.
If you would like to discuss any concerns with someone independent of your therapy please contact our patient advice and liaison service.