Marriage counselling, also known as marriage therapy, is a step couples take when they are stuck in their relationship and need help to break a repetitive and toxic cycle of withdrawal or conflict. Anger and feeling misunderstood and unheard are common complaints early in the therapy.
The Toronto Therapy Approach: Marriage Counselling
In marriage counselling, the therapist helps the couple take turns talking without interrupting, and helping the speaker feel genuinely heard and understood. The therapist listens with patience and empathy, provides helpful comments and generally provides direction to the conversation. The therapist may point out aspects of a communication that represent repetitive patterns from the past that are unconscious and unseen by a couple. Exploration of trauma or challenges in the individual lives of a married couple may also be an important aspect of marriage therapy, since it is assumed that the history of an individual is critical to hold the present unfolds. Importantly, this “unfolding” may be mostly unconscious, and it is the marital therapist’s role to recognize these patterns and make these explicit in a tactful way.
For example, a couple may come to marriage counselling due to the husband’s emotional and physical withdrawal, which makes his wife feels unsupported and abandoned. Upon further discussion in marriage counselling, the husband reveals that he withdraws due to his sense of feeling hurt by his wife’s criticism and anger. Upon further questioning, the therapist learns that the husband had been criticized a great deal by his mother and grandmother as a child. When the wife talks about feeling abandoned by her husband, she associates to her father leaving the family when she was 8 years old. This is an example of trauma in the past lives of a couple creating sensitive areas in the present marital relationship that may become triggered and re-enacted unconsciously. The husband and wife do not know that they are especially sensitive to criticism and abandonment in their relationship because of their past experience, and that this makes the present marital situation much more challenging, but in marriage therapy insights like these are discovered and change often follows this deeper understanding of the origin and meaning of relationship patterns.
What to Expect in Marriage Counselling
Marriage therapy often becomes a type of “container” or frame for a couple to speak about difficult things in a controlled, safe setting where feelings and actions are not given free reign but are stopped by the therapist at critical moments in order to reflect and understand what is occurring in that moment. Escalating arguments can stop before they really get started, and feelings can still be communicated in an honest, but respectful and controlled way.
If you interested in making an appointment or finding out more about marriage counselling, the first step is a telephone consultation where we briefly speak about your concerns before finding a time to meet to discuss the issues in more depth. This is also a good time to answer any questions, doubts or concerns you may have about marriage therapy before deciding if it is the right treatment for you.
Contact Andrew to set up a free, no obligation consultation for marriage counselling.