Many people that come to Hazelwood Counselling Services are looking to improve their relationships. This article looks at what relationship counselling is and how it can help.
Relationships; including our romantic relationships are significant. They are a big part of our lives. Whether you are married, living together, single, gay or straight, it really doesn’t matter. Some relationships will be the most important we will ever have.
What is Relationship Counselling?
When these important relationships feel threatened or we don’t have the relationship, it can bring about emotions of isolation, loss and loneliness; we need support to get through.
Sometimes people have a set idea about what relationship counselling is and think that you only need counselling when things get really bad. But even if you think your difficulties are insignificant, if they are affecting your relationship, then seeking relationship counselling may help – no matter situation you face.
With a good relationship, we have a strong bond with those we love. When we have this with our friends, family and work colleagues we feel well supported, cared for and have a network of people that offer us advice, guidance, love and encouragement.
Fulfilling relationships like this don’t just happen. They need good communication skills along with an investment of time and energy. This is the only way a good relationship will stay strong and stand the test of time.
However, relationships are rarely easy and will go through difficulties from time to time. Sometimes we can work through these ourselves but if not, it can be difficult to see a way forward. We can feel lonely, disappointed and confused. There are many different concerns that may bring someone to relationship counselling. It might be a lack of communication or some form of betrayal or an affair.
Listed below are some of the common issues that bring people to Hazelwood Counselling Services:
- Frequent arguing or lack of communication
- Inability to reach a specific decision
- Feelings of jealousy and insecurity within a relationship
- Different sexual needs or other sexual issues
- Different parenting styles or other family conflicts
- Financial issues
- Work-related stress
- Different goals and values
- Life changes
- Reluctance to commit to the relationship.
Whatever the issue, relationship counselling can be helpful. In fact, people often talk of a huge sense of relief when they take that step and are pleased that they have sought help.
What to expect
It’s not unusual to feel some trepidation and apprehension at your first session, however, most people quickly relax into the process and come to value the experience and the benefits.
At the first session you will be asked some questions about you, your relationship and what you hope to get out of counselling. You will also talk about the best appointment times for future sessions.
You might decide to come to counselling with your partner or alone. However you experience relationship counselling, you can feel reassured that it’s confidential and non-judgemental.
Relationship counselling isn’t this…
The role of a relationship counsellor is to enable you to communicate more effectively and reach your own conclusions. They will not tell you what to do but will help you to come to a decision or conclusion yourself. They are not there to offer their personal opinion or to tell you whether or not you should separate.
Your counsellor is not there to criticise you. Your sessions provide you with a safe space which is free of judgement and where you can explore your feelings and what has been happening openly. So try not to feel nervous about discussing private matters with a stranger.
How can Relationship Counselling help?
When we have been in a relationship for a while we get to know the other person really well and so we may expect them to respond in a particular way – we anticipate what will happen next. This could be that we expect them not to pick up on the fact that you’ve had a difficult day and need a little bit of extra understanding; or they won’t listen to what you’re saying and instead want to talk about something that’s about them; or they turn the conversation around to find something to blame you for. In other words, we can fall into a trap of not listening to the other person or not communicating our needs clearly.
Talking to someone who is neutral helps you both gain perspective. Relationship counselling provides an opportunity to talk things through with someone who skilled and qualified, and who has no preconceived idea about you.
Most people feel at the end of counselling that some sort of positive change has taken place. Some people report that their relationship and their lives are transformed; for others, they solve a specific problem and move forward with more confidence and less anxiety.
Even if things don’t change immediately, counselling will usually help you to see things differently or help you make the decision that’s right for you to move forward.
The counsellor will work with you to help you and your partner in the counselling process. This may include:-
- Openly discussing difficult topics
- Sharing feelings
- Analysing behavioural patterns and the ways you communicate
- Teaching you techniques to help you improve your communication
- Asking you about your childhood and family history or
- Pointing out discrepancies in yours and your partner’s behaviour.
You may also be asked to undertake projects or practice tasks between sessions (like homework) in order to help with the counselling process. These approaches are what help you to:
- Adopt constructive communication skills so you really listen to each other without jumping to conclusions or starting an argument.
- Understand why arguments escalate.
- Learn how to disagree with each other without destroying each other in the process.
- Agree and resolve differences where possible.
- Better understand the struggles, challenges and fears of our partner.
- Improve intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual
- Understand how family values, religion, lifestyle and culture has an impact.
- Honour family relationships (particularly in blended families)
- Learn about personal boundaries and past history that we may not have known before
- Reflect on the past and how it effects the relationship in the present.
- Deciding whether there is enough of a relationship to salvage
- Concluding a relationship that is ending.
When is the right time to seek help?
Generally speaking, if you are concerned about your relationship and you have found difficulty in reaching a conclusion alone, it is likely that you will benefit from relationship counselling.
For some, they consider it to be a ‘last resort’ to save a relationship/marriage. While this is sometimes the case, you do not have to wait for your relationship to be in crisis before coming to relationship counselling. In fact, it is not unusual for couples use counselling sessions as a way to keep their relationship healthy and to quickly address underlying concerns before they grow into major conflicts.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure – it takes courage, and is the first step to help turn things around.
If you decide to seek a counsellor for yourself then choose one that’s properly qualified and accredited. The Counselling Directory (www.counselling-directory.org.uk) undergo checks to make sure everyone they list is properly qualified and belongs to a professional body.