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Couples Therapy and Couples Counseling

Filed under: Uncategorized — emitaliablog
Posted on June 16, 2010 @ 1:49 pm
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When working with couples and therapy, it’s important to realize that the couple itself is the client – under which umbrella are the two parties involved in the relationship. When two commit to each other, they create an entity that’s bigger than either individual is alone. For the therapist, he or she must be mindful of not becoming triangulated between the two parties, as well as allowing both of them to feel understood. Additionally, when only one person in the relationship attends couples therapy, the relationship itself is not being healed – but rather the one individual seeking treatment. Succinctly, the relationship is the focus of attention, not the individuals.

While couples therapy is often seen as different from psychotherapy, because it’s the relationship that is the focus of attention, each individual’s needs within the couple system certainly cannot be overlooked. This difference between couples therapy and individual therapy can arise if you consider psychological problems to be similar to medical illnesses, and therefore confined to a “sick” individual who needs treatment. That medical model of psychological diagnosis and treatment is common, but is really inadequate to describe and resolve psychological problems, especially within the couple dyad. All psychological problems, and all psychological changes, involve both individual symptoms (behavior, emotions, conflicts, thought processes) and changes in interpersonal relationships.

Couples therapy focuses on the problems existing in the relationship between two people. But, these relationship problems always involve individual symptoms and problems, as well as the relationship conflicts. For example, if you are constantly arguing with your spouse, you will probably also be chronically anxious, angry or depressed (or all three). Or, if you have difficulty controlling your temper, you will have more arguments with your partner. Often these behaviors stem from a long history of extended, albeit unconscious, family patterns. These patterns can be made known through a variety of techniques, depending upon the therapist and his or her theoretical background.

In couples therapy, the marriage and family therapist, or mental health counselor, will help you and your partner identify the conflict issues within your relationship, and will help you decide what changes are needed, in the relationship and in the behavior of each partner, for both of you to feel satisfied with the relationship. It’s important for the therapist to be sensitive to the possibility of triangulating him or her self in the dyad to prevent either party from feeling unheard or misunderstood. The therapist is not joining with an individual, but rather the entity the couple has created through their commitment to each other.

These changes may be different ways of interacting within the relationship, or they may be individual changes related to personal psychological problems. Couples therapy involves learning how to communicate more effectively, and how to listen more closely. Couples must learn how to avoid competing with each other, and need to identify common life goals and how to share responsibilities within their relationship. Sometimes the process is very similar to individual psychotherapy, sometimes it is more like mediation, and sometimes it is educational. The combination of these three components is what makes it effective.

About the Author: Patrick J. Hall is the Founder of Lotus Group and a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). He specializes in caring for adolescents/teens and their families, individual adults, and parenting issues.

Lotus Group has medical doctors on staff and provides a full spectrum of therapy, group therapy and mental health services for individuals and couples. Areas of specialization include marriage counseling, and family therapy, psychiatric services, eating disorders, chemical dependency and spiritual counseling. Lotus Group is committed to providing quality, access, confidentiality, and holistic treatment for all their clients.

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