Reasons why people turn to counselling or psychotherapy are as varied as people themselves. Some clients have encountered distressing experiences which they would like to talk about in a safe setting. These may include present situations of bereavement, separation or other major life transitions, as well as experiences from the past, from childhood and adolescence. Others seek help in dealing with specific psychological or behavioural traits which they’d like to alter, such as compulsive thoughts or difficulties in relating to people. Some people seek a counsellor to help them cope with feelings of depression or anxiety, while others treat counselling as part of their effort to discover or create meaning in their lives. Many people are attracted to counselling as an opportunity to undertake personal development in a safe and supportive environment: it is not at all necessary to have a ‚problem’ to find psychological help useful. Both – people seeking general development as well as those coping with difficulties ranging from ‚minor niggles’ to profound distress – have benefited from counselling or psychotherapy.
In addition to getting help with achieving specific goals or solving particular difficulties, clients who undertake counselling often experience general improvements in their quality of life. The change may include:
- decreased defensiveness
- increased ability to express themselves
- improved relationships with other people
- increased self-esteem.
The committed or marriage relationship is easy to romanticize. Hopes and expectations for marriage are often very high. Disappointment in our self or our partner is common. Partner relationships are very complex. Each person brings to the relationship the experiences, feelings and assumptions of the past. Thus the partner relationship can disappoint and hurt deeply – as well as delight, heal, and serve as a basis for growth.
Working with a psychotherapist who is trained and experienced in doing therapy with couples can be highly productive. It allows couples to gain perspective, learn new skill and to discuss their struggles without incident. This may include intimacy, power, decision making, parenting or even use of spare time. It can help in relationship to realize the differences between our ongoing individual struggles and the struggles that originated in the relationship. The histories of each person as well as the history of the relationship itself are important in couples therapy. Difference, assumptions and expectations may not be intentional or personal. Misunderstandings will often arise when two families unite through marriage. The daily complexities of children, maintaining careers, and going through life transitions can create misunderstandings, stress and unnecessary struggles for couples.
In order to resolve conflicts, the source of problems or a failing love relationship, a couple must have confidence in their psychotherapist and feel safe. Psychotherapy must allow participants to feel safe. This permits openness, understanding, reassurance and new developments in the couple’s relationship to proceed.
One or both members of a couple might have concerns about couples therapy that could delay their decision to seek help. There may be fearful that a psychotherapist will be judgmental or will take sides. There may be fear that the therapy will separate the partners rather than bring them closer together. One partner might fear that something could be uncovered during the work that would frighten the other partner away. Shame or guilt about appearing to have „marital problems’ is also common, and seeking expert help can be experienced as a social stigma.
Seeking help is a sign of maturity rather than insecurity. Reaching out for help is a sign of courage and hope. It re-establishes a foundation for greater trust and satisfaction and good decisions about the relationship.