Our image of what a relationship constitutes is largely derived from what we see in the media or from models in our social circle (e.g., parents, friends of the family, etc.,). This also means that through these models we adopt a certain way of behaving in a relationship. Sometimes we follow in these model’s footsteps and often times without questioning the behaviour or asking ourselves how it may be influencing others around us. Often these very behaviours can be hindering our relationships. Many theorists in couples counselling talk about the importance of observing behaviours and making choices that are best for the relationship and not just the personal self. We attempt to highlight how making choices that are solely in the benefit of the self may influence how the dynamic of the relationship unfolds.
For further information and clarification, we ask that you book an appointment with us. Find out how a professional psychologist or psychological associate can help.
Whenever a couple decides to participate in counselling at our clinic we conduct an assessment. An assessment provides us with information that helps identify variables that might be influencing the couple to remain ‘stuck.’ After the assessment, the therapist will provide the couple with information regarding a treatment plan. This will obviously be based on the couple’s goals for therapy, but also the therapist’s impression.
We use specific techniques and questioning to determine behaviour patterns, language used in conversation, and function (or purpose). Our goal is to gather as much information as possible to make an informed assessment and present it as clearly as possible to create awareness.
Should we come as a couple or should I come alone?
It’s typically never a bad idea to come alone to counselling. You can certainly begin to change throughout your therapy process and hopefully that change influences aspects of your dynamic with your partner. However, sometimes an individual can change his or her behaviour and if the other partner is not aware it may bump up against the reoccurring interactional pattern and the other person may attempt to simply maintain the existing pattern. Put simply, you may change through counselling, but your partner may not be completely ready for it and may attempt to maintain the existing dysfunctional pattern (sometimes not consciously). Change in a relationship often requires mutual influence. The change in one part of the system will create a ripple effect through the entire system, but reorganization from both partners is often needed.
Why hire a professional psychologist or psychological associate?
Psychologists have years of experience that includes an extensive amount of clinical training and supervision. This training includes 10+ years of education and thousands of hours of clinical experience. What also separates a psychologist form other professions is their certification to use specific assessment tools that help guide assessment and counselling.
There is considerable evidence to suggest that many distressed relationships exhibit a variety of dysfunctional patterns involving expressing their thoughts and emotions. This may include poor listening and problem solving. Expressing thoughts and emotions requires self-awareness, an appropriate vocabulary, freedom from fear of rejection by the listener, and self-control (not retaliating against the person). Couples engaged in therapy will work on skills that will facilitate effective problem solving, which involves obtaining the ability to recognize the problem, generating potential solutions, collaboration with family members to determine and evaluate advantages and disadvantages to each solution, and reach an agreement on the best possible solution. We also strive to help patients work on a plan and implement their proposed solutions.
What is also considered important in the therapeutic process is working on noncommunicative behaviours. These are acts that may by positive or negative (performing a task to achieve a goal or not doing so, like completing a chore or not completing one for the other person) that are intended to affect the other person’s feelings. Research by Epstein and Baucom suggests, that members of distressed relationships are more likely to direct more negative acts towards their partner than positive ones. One of the goals of therapy are to reduce the frequency of undesirable behaviour and increase the frequency of productive behaviour.
Epstein and Baucom propose that relationship satisfaction is largely based on behavioural patterns that have meaning for each partner. Some of the larger issues that are described by the authors include boundaries between each couple and their families, how power is distributed among them, and the amount of time and energy that is put forth into their relationship.
A trained psychologist or psychological associate can help use theory to identify patterns and help you move forward in repairing or imporving your relationship. Find out how we can help.
In a relationship dynamic, perceptions play an important part regarding how we interact and perceive a spouse or family member throughout the course of our interactions. For example, if a wife sees her husband as ‘over sensitive’ or ‘touchy’ this may influence how the two of them interact. Consequently, because our perceptions influence how we view people they tend to superseded other cognitions. This also means that perceptions can change. New information that we practice can alter the way we dialogue with our partners. However, some people may find it extremely difficult to alter their perceptions likely as a result of life experience. For example, if a man generally sees his wife as a selfish person he will likely hold this view in his general perception of her. This also means that if his wife does attempt to change, the new information and changes will always be judged in the light of that initial perception (she is selfish). A well-trained therapist combined with good rapport, can help people challenge this rigidity.
Sometimes we may hold distortions that are not initially apparent. Therapy can help bring awareness to these distortions:
Selective Attention: The tendency to fixate on certain aspects of an event that occurs in a relationship and to overlook other important aspects (e.g., focusing on other people’s words and ignoring their actions).
Attributions: Inferences (conclusions we make based on evidence) about factors that may influence a partner’s actions (e.g., thinking that a partner didn’t respond to your message because he or she wants to control the situation or make you feel bad).
Expectancies: Making predictions that a particular event will likely occur (e.g., expression feelings about something will result in your partner ‘blowing up,’ in anger.
Assumptions: Beliefs about a person’s characteristics (e.g., a wife assumes that men don’t need emotional support).
Standards: Beliefs about characteristics that people ‘should’ have (e.g., partners should have no boundaries between them and everything should be open, including thoughts and emotions).
Being mindful and questioning your thoughts will help bring better awareness of distortions you hold about your partner. This in turn will help you become aware of what thoughts need to be challenged or modified regarding your relationship.