What is it
Couples’ therapy assists couples who are experiencing issues such as communication difficulties, lack of intimacy or sexual dissatisfaction. The aim of couples’ therapy is to improve functioning in couples experiencing relationship distress, to improve the quality of the relationship, and to increase partner satisfaction. It provides a safe environment for partners to explore their feelings and emotions and to confront their issues. Couples’ therapy provides clarity and identifies those areas where misunderstandings or lack of appreciation of the other partner’s perspectives, desires or needs are causing distress or frustration. Couples’ therapy assists couples experiencing difficulties to communicate effectively, address their issues and move forward.
What it includes
Couples’ therapy helps couples to identify patterns of behaviour in their relationship, to identify issues that are contributing to misunderstanding or miscommunication, to negotiate areas of difference or disagreement and to improve communication at all levels. Other issues that might be addressed in couples’ therapy include parenting, sexual difficulties, financial matters, relationships with extended family and challenges that arise from creating and maintaining blended families.
Couples’ therapy can also assist in the development of emotion regulation, which is important to resolving relationship conflict. Emotion regulation is the ability to improve one’s own mood state when feeling depressed or experiencing some other form of negative emotion such as frustration, anger or hostility. Research indicates that couples who are able to regulate their emotions function better than those possessing less emotional control (Scott et al., 2014) and are able to get themselves to feel better more quickly when faced with disagreements or conflict (Bloch et al., 2014). More broadly, couples who experience positive emotions have been found to be better at calming themselves, an important ability in maintaining individual equilibrium and relationship harmony (Yuan et al., 2010).
How a psychologist can help
If effective communication has become difficult between you and your partner it might be appropriate to seek assistance from a psychologist experienced in couples’ therapy. Although different psychologists may employ a variety of therapeutic approaches appropriate to each couple and each situation, most will focus on the following five underlying principles that have been identified as being fundamental to effective couples’ therapy:
- Improving communication with the relationship
- Assisting partners to each change their views of the relationship and to be more objective in their appraisals of what is occurring within the relationship
- Modifying the problematic behaviours within the relationship
- Decreasing emotional avoidance and encouraging attachment between partners
- Building on the strengths each partner brings to the relationship and on the strength of the relationship itself (Benson, McGinn, & Christensen, 2012)
Benson, L. A., McGinn, M. M., & Christensen, A. (2012). Common principles of couple therapy. Behavior Therapy, 43 (1), 25-35.
Bloch, L., Haase, C. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2014). Emotion regulation predicts marital satisfaction: More than a wives’ tale. Emotion, 14 (1), 130-144.
Dixit, J. (2009). Psychology Today, March 1.
Evans, P., Turner, S. and Trotter, C. (2012). The Effectiveness of Family and Relationship Therapy: A Review of the Literature. Melbourne: PACFA.
Scott, S. K., Lavan, N., Chen, S., & McGettigan, C. (2014). The social life of laughter. Trends In Cognitive Sciences, 18 (12), 618-620.
Yuan, J. W., McCarthy, M., Holley, S. R., & Levenson, R. W. (2010). Physiological down-regulation and positive emotion in marital interaction. Emotion, 10 (4), 467-474.
If you require additional information, please call our office on 07 3256 6320. Our mental health focused reception staff will be only too happy to assist you with your enquiry about our service and can suggest the most suitable Psychologist for your concern.