Can Marriage Counselling Save Your Marriage?

Reconciled couple smiling at each other

Are you considering marriage counselling to improve your relationship? Every relationship faces times of conflict or difficulty, and it is not at all uncommon for couples to feel that they aren’t connecting.

Marriage counselling with an experienced and compassionate counsellor can assist couples to work through their differences, improve their communication skills, and rebuild trust within their relationship.

What Issues Can Marriage Counselling Help To Address?

There are many issues that can affect a romantic relationship, especially a long term one such as a marriage. Whether you have been married for one year or forty, problems can arise as both people grow and change, and the external pressures of life take their toll.

Some of the common marriage issues that can lead a couple to seek marriage counselling include:

  • Lack of intimacy. A loss or lack of sexual desire within a marriage is not uncommon. Most long-term relationships will experience peaks and troughs in sexual activity, but a lack of intimate connection can put a strain on the relationship.
  • Infidelity. Affairs or incidents of infidelity can create feelings of insecurity, betrayal and a loss of trust within a couple.
  • Infertility. Difficulty conceiving or the lack of ability to conceive can be devastating for a couple, and the strain of this can put pressure on the marriage. Common problems include feelings of blame and breakdowns in communication.
  • Pressure from society or family. When a person’s family disapprove of their relationship or partner, it can make the marriage difficult. This is especially felt within same-sex marriages.
  • Children. The introduction of children, or the normal pressures associated with raising children through different stages of life, can cause conflict in a marriage. Disagreements about how to approach parenthood are common.
  • Mental illness. When one or both members of the marriage are experiencing mental illness, it can be difficult for the other person in the relationship to navigate and understand.
  • Ageing parents. Many people who are married will eventually cope with the ageing of their parents and parents-in-law. Decisions around caring can cause disagreements in a relationship.

How Can Marriage Counselling Save A Relationship?

Even if you are experiencing a myriad of marriage issues and feel that your relationship is under threat, marriage counselling can help to save your marriage and return the love and joy to your relationship.

When you are within a relationship, it can be hard to objectively consider your problems. Communicating with your spouse can become difficult if conversations often lead to arguments. But when you visit a marriage counsellor, you are given the opportunity to talk freely with an experienced counsellor to guide you. Counsellors create a safe environment where both people feel able to share their thoughts and feelings. In this non-judgmental space, couples can often open up about their true concerns and communicate more effectively with each other.

Couples experiencing stress can often harbour feelings of resentment and frustration towards their spouse. These negative feelings can be toxic to a marriage. But in a counselling session, couples are able to unburden these feelings and be guided to understand their true cause. Issues such as infidelity or lack of intimacy are tackled without prejudice or judgement, with the aim of moving past these problems and rebuilding trust in the marriage.

What To Expect At A Marriage Counselling Session

Many people can be apprehensive about pursuing marriage counselling, but the counsellors at Perth Counselling & Psychotherapy will ensure you feel comfortable and safe to open up when you visit us for a session.

When you attend marriage counselling, your counsellor will begin by gaining an understanding of your relationship and any problems and issues you are experiencing. Both people in the relationship will be asked to explain their thoughts and feelings about what has brought them there. Your counsellor will also strive to understand the history of your relationship, including how you met, why you were drawn to each other, and any important milestones in your marriage. They will get to know your individual histories and life experiences, so they can know if any significant events may be impacting your present relationship.

While your counsellor will spend most of their time listening and inviting you to share your thoughts on what you want to achieve and what potential issues you see in your own behaviour and those of your partner, they will also be proactive in providing feedback and sharing their own thoughts. Any escalations towards arguments will be gently interrupted so you can both stay focussed and work together to address issues in a productive way.

Marriage counsellors will also offer couples advice and tips for improving the problem areas of their marriage. Utilising their wealth of experience, they can provide impartial feedback, which couples can put into action when they return home. If the couple is committed to putting in the work and trusting in the process, almost any troubled relationship can be saved.

If you feel like you could benefit from marriage counselling in Perth, or you want to find out more, please contact us for a discussion.

A Guide to Gestalt Therapy

White Chair

Gestalt Therapy is a gentle yet powerful therapy that supports clients to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and responses. Gestalt therapy fits very well with other types of counselling approaches such as Gottman Method and is very beneficial for couples therapy and relationship counselling, and to assist people to gain insights into how they relate and interact with themselves and others.

What is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt Therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that was developed by Fritz Perls in the 1940s and 1950s. Perls was a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist who was born in Germany in 1893. He developed Gestalt Therapy with his wife, Laura Perls. The practice grew in popularity during the 1970s and 1980s, and is now widely practiced around the world.

Gestalt Therapy focuses on the experience of the individual in the present moment and emphasises the importance of personal responsibility. It can assist people to become more aware of what is actually happening in their lives in the here and now, and through this enables them to start and change old patterns of thinking and being in the world. Gestalt therapy is a process focussed model, so people become aware of what they think and believe and how this influences how they respond and behave.

The goal of Gestalt Therapy is to help people become more fully aware, more creative, and more experimental in their daily life. Often, our sense of fulfilment and personal growth is diminished by the way we interpret events and the actions of others. By understanding a distinction between the lived experience – what is being done, thought and felt in the moment – and the interpretation of these, people can become more aware of what they are doing and make changes to their lives. Self-awareness is the key to making positive changes and reaching your full potential.

Who Can Benefit From Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt is a type of therapy that is well suited to almost all types of people, and anyone can benefit from the techniques used in this therapy. Because the therapy focusses on building self-awareness, individuals who struggle with this are particularly well-placed to benefit. Gestalt Therapy is often considered to be a gentle and safe therapeutic experience, so people who are nervous or unsure about therapy can find Gestalt to be supportive of their needs. Additionally, people who have trouble identifying or understanding their problematic behaviours, or who disown their own emotional reactions and aspects of their personality, find Gestalt to be helpful in addressing these issues.

Gestalt is suitable for people of all ages, and Perth Counselling and Psychotherapy offer Gestalt Therapy with children.

What Techniques Are Used in Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt therapists may use a range of techniques and methods to help clients improve their self-awareness. These are often referred to within Gestalt as ‘experiments’. The experiments allow for deeper insights and awareness for the client. Experiments are only offered when the therapist believes it will allow for greater self-awareness, clients that do not wish to try an experiment can decline the invitation at any time.
Some of these techniques include:

  • The Empty Chair. The Empty Chair is a well-known experiment that is used often. The client is invited to sit in a chair facing an empty chair. Then they need to image someone or something in the empty chair that is causing angst or distress. The therapist will encourage the client to have a conversation with this person or thing – it may be a partner, a child, or a friend, or it could be a situation, an event, or a personality trait.
  • Dialogue. Gestalt takes forms of dialogue beyond usual talking to encourage creative expression and looking at things from a different perspective.
  • Reversal. Gestalt uses role-play to help people accept their role in conflicts and negative situations. Clients are asked to act out the behaviours, traits or symptoms which are the opposite to those that have been causing them problems.
  • Rehearsal. Acting out a different behaviour can assist clients to experiment and learn new ways of being. Rehearsing calms a person’s anxiety around doing something different, and allows the behaviour to feel more natural.
  • Dream work. Working through all aspects of a dream can take several sessions and is a very powerful way of assisting clients to increase their self-awareness

What Kinds of Issues Can Gestalt Therapy Assist With?

Gestalt Therapy is used to address a wide range of issue and problems within a person’s life. It can also be combined with other therapy methods. It can be used as both a short-term and a long-term form of therapy to deal with problems ranging from minor to severe.

Some of the issues Gestalt can assist with include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Family conflict
  • Marital and couples’ conflict
  • Grief
  • Trauma
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationships

If you feel like you could benefit from Gestalt Therapy, or you want to find out more about this approach, contact us for a discussion.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy vs. Gestalt Therapy – Choosing the Right Therapy for You

Psychiatrist

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Gestalt Therapy are often considered to be very similar psychological approaches. While both focus on the importance of investigating behaviour and learning strategies for dealing with negative thinking and conflict, there are some important differences in the techniques used to help clients reach their goals.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, is a short term, goal-orientated approach to therapy. It has been shown to be successful in the treatment of a range of mental and emotional issues, including anxiety and depression. The aim of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to identify thoughts that are negative and unhelpful to you, and challenge them in a way that encourages more positive thinking.

CBT practitioners focus on teaching practical self-help strategies to clients, giving them the tools to make changes when they identify negative thoughts. This can be helpful for people who are struggling to live happily or to reach specific goals due to damaging self-talk. The basis of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is that negative thinking is a bad habit, but like other habits, it can be broken through hard work.

Anyone that struggles with negative thought patterns and mental health issues can benefit from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Practitioners use a range of strategies, such as thought monitoring and challenging, to help clients alter their negative thinking habits. Issues that can be effectively addressed by CBT include depression, anxiety, obsessions and compulsions, stress, anger management problems, and phobias.

What is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the experience of the individual in the present moment. The primary focus of the therapy is on the process itself. Gestalt Therapy emphasises the importance of personal responsibility, encouraging clients to focus on what is actually happening in their lives in the moment, rather than what their past experience may lead them to believe is happening.

The goal of Gestalt Therapy is gaining better self-awareness and making positive changes based on this improved understanding of the self and our own ways of thinking. Often, our sense of fulfilment and personal growth is diminished by the way we interpret events and the actions of others. Reaching your full potential depends on living in the moment and not focusing on a negative interpretation of what is happening.

Gestalt Therapy is a very gentle form of therapy; often, people who are sceptical or intimidated by the idea of therapy find Gestalt to be an easy and supportive method that works well for them. Gestalt can be used to address a multitude of issues, including depression, anxiety, chronic stress, family conflict, martial and couples’ conflict, grief and trauma. Anyone who has trouble identifying their problematic behaviours or owning their emotional responses can greatly benefit from the techniques used in Gestalt Therapy. Additionally, Gestalt Therapy can be used with children.

Why Choose Gestalt Over Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

While both forms of therapy have their merits, Gestalt Therapy is ultimately the best type of therapy for addressing issues and living more positively.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy operates on the premise that all emotional responses are due to the way that a person thinks, and that therefore changing our thinking can solve any emotional difficulties. Gestalt Therapy takes a far more nuanced approach, recognising the complexity of human emotion and realising that while some emotional responses are irrational, that does not mean they are not truly occurring. CBT will teach you strategies to think differently so as not to feel negatively about yourself. In contrast, Gestalt will assist in unearthing buried emotional reactions to people, situations and events and will help clients to accept their role in conflicts and learn new ways of being.

Gestalt is a more creative and free method of therapy, which is why it is often seen as very accessible. The techniques commonly used in Gestalt – including the ‘empty chair’ experiment, role playing, and movement – encourage creative expression and looking at things from a different perspective. Gestalt practitioners believes that doing things which can bring joy heightens the sense of experiencing the present moment.

While Gestalt is a free-flowing therapeutic approach that deals with issues as they arise, CBT is far more rigid. CBT is often considered a short-term approach, and clients are encouraged to discuss a specific issue. A time-frame is agreed upon to tackle a particular problem. Part of the CBT process is dependent on measuring your progress so that you can gauge whether you are improving. This can create the sense that the therapy is “not working” and be disheartening for clients, especially those who were counting on the short time frame espoused by CBT for quick results.

There are many similarities between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Gestalt Therapy, but Gestalt is the better option for people hoping to explore their internal selves in a freeing and creative environment, and looking for long term solutions to deep and complex issues.

What To Expect at Your First Couples Counselling Session

Couples Counselling

What can you expect when you attend your first couples counselling session? Even within strong, secure relationships, all couples can experience difficulties or conflict where they need outside expert help occasionally. Relationship differences are common and can be caused by many factors, including environment, career and family changes. These differences unless managed well and respectfully, can cause hurt, stress and conflict for a couple. Good couples counselling can prevent these differences from becoming problems. Working with an experienced counsellor, couples can learn to communicate with each other more effectively and work towards a healthier relationship.

What Kind of Relationship Issues Can Couples Counselling Assist With?

Relationship issues may present themselves in the form of day-to-day disagreements but are often caused by a deeper problem.

Some of the common relationship issues facing modern couples include:

Poor conflict management. Different ‘arguing’ styles can result in poor conflict management. Unresolved conflicts can lead to resentment between a couple. It is never too late to process long held resentments and doing this is essential if the relationship is to survive and thrive.

  • Lack of intimacy. Many couples experience a discrepancy in their desire to be physically intimate at different times in their relationship.. There may be many reasons for this and opening up honest dialogue is essential to help each person understand what is happening.
  • Infidelity and trust. When an affair or infidelity has occurred, it can have serious repercussions for a couple. Couples need to work to rebuild trust within their relationship, deal with the hurt and pain and build a new relationship together. For others the trust rupture makes staying together not possible and they may need help to process the rupture and move forward in an amicable way to separation.
  • Infertility. Being unable to conceive a child can put significant strain on a couple, and this stress can cause breakdowns in communication or a sense of blame within couples.
  • Pressure from society or family. Especially for same sex couples, a lack of acceptance from family can impact romantic relationships.
  • Separation. Couples ending a relationship and moving into separation often need help to process their feelings and negotiating the way forward, especially when children are involved.
  • Blended families. Blended families can be doubly fun, and not surprisingly can be challenging for everyone as they transition to the new family and changed dynamics. Developing skills to assist in resolving difference and conflicts and working towards building understanding and acceptance can assist all family members.
  • Mental illness. When a loved one is living with mental illness, it puts a strain on not only them but the people around them. Couples facing this experience often need validation and good psychological health so they are able to sustain the daily pressures of life.
  • Physical pain. Experiencing chronic pain can make people tired, depressed and frustrated , which can negatively affect their relationships. Couples living with this need to communicate effectively to avoid conflict.
  • Ageing parents. The stresses associated with ageing parents and the difficulties of end-of-life care can cause disagreements and conflict within couples.

How Can Couples Counselling Help?

If you are experiencing trouble in your relationship due to some of the issues listed above, or for other reasons, couples counselling can be extremely beneficial. Checking in with a counsellor can prevent issues from becoming bigger and causing conflict and resentment.

Counsellors are able to offer an unbiased opinion. They don’t take sides, they don’t blame and they are interested in each person gaining awareness of how they behave in the relationship.
Counsellors can provide strategies and skills development so couples learn how to manage these issues differently and by themselves over time.
They facilitate an open and honest discussion in which you and your partner can share your thoughts and feelings, without fear of judgment or reproach.

Couples counselling can also help the individuals within the couple. Many people find that through counselling they improve their self-confidence and become happier within themselves.

If a relationship is important to you, it is worth taking steps to help it. Even if you are experiencing difficulties, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be a couple anymore – it might just mean you need to learn some skills to communicate more effectively with each other.

What Happens at Your First Couples Counselling Session?

Many couples approach their first counselling session with some trepidation, this is entirely normal. It is not easy to know you will be talking with a complete stranger about the most intimate aspects of your life, your relationship. Our counsellors are highly skilled at working with all sorts of people who bring their fears, joys, anxieties, grief, anger and curiosity to the sessions.

You do not need to bring anything to your first session, but you may want to spend some time beforehand thinking about the reasons why you are pursuing counselling and what you might want to discuss.

Couples counsellors will normally spend time in the first session explaining their work and methodology, so that couples know what to expect. Following this, your counsellor will get to know you and your partner better by asking questions about issues in your relationship, what you may have done to try to resolve these issues, and what your expectations of counselling are.

Your counsellor will ensure that both people have the opportunity to speak and voice concerns, and that you and your partner feel at ease and comfortable. While in counselling, it is important that both people feel the counsellor is the “best fit” for both of them. Unless both people feel confident and comfortable with the counsellor you will not get the most out of your sessions.

What Happens After the First Session?

The counsellor will arrange to meet each person individually, then bring you back together for another joint session. The first four sessions form the Assessment Phase of the work and along with the completion of a comprehensive on-line questionnaire both people attend, provides your counsellor with important information to help plan the therapeutic phase of your couples work.

Every relationship is unique and comes with its own set of complications. But with an experienced counsellor, you can develop stronger bonds and work towards a healthier relationship.

Communication Issues? Could Your Relationship Do with Some Fine-Tuning?

Joyful couple looking at each other

Communication issues are one of the most frequently cited reasons for relationship trouble. You and your partner don’t need to be anywhere near considering separation or dealing with infidelity for communication to be a concern.

A breakdown in communication can be where everything starts and the point at which all other problems can begin to develop.

If you and your partner are experiencing some communication issues, don’t brush it off—don’t ignore it until something more serious develops. There are some easy things you can do now to give your relationship some fine-tuning and improve your communication as a couple and a family.

What Happens When You Have Communication Issues?

When we interact with other people, we need to communicate with them, to let them know what we think and how we feel. The more people in a household, the more thoughts and feelings need to be communicated and understood.

If everyone in the relationship is effective at getting their point across, as well as hearing and responding to the other person – awesome! But people don’t really work that way…

Important Communication Factors

There are a few factors to communication:

  • You need to understand your own thoughts and emotions
  • You need to be able to express your own thoughts and emotions
  • The other person needs to hear and understand them, then respond appropriately
  • Then these three things need to happen in reverse
  • And both happen at the same time and on an ongoing basis.

It’s no wonder that sometimes we struggle!

The worse we are at understanding ourselves, or the more stressful our lives become, the harder communication is. The more entrenched our thoughts are, or the more seriously we feel about a topic, the harder communicating about it may be as well.

Easy Fine-tuning Steps to Improve Your Communication as a Couple

Learn how to use active listening. This means focussing on what the other person is saying, rather than working out what your own reaction to it is going to be.

Practise maintaining eye contact and trying to pick up on your partner’s body language. Check in with your partner on what you are thinking about, and how they are thinking and feeling……you may be right, but many times you can be wrong too. In other words: DON’T ASSUME.

Ask questions, especially open-ended ones. Then listen to the answers.

If a discussion is getting heated, don’t try to resolve the issue in the moment. Stop fighting and give each other some space to calm down – then come back to the discussion when you both feel better.

Spend time together in different situations. Don’t always talk – sometimes be physically intimate, or silent. Also, don’t always just have sex – sometimes just talk.

Practice mindfulness on your own, and together as a couple. This means focusing purely on what you are doing in the moment, rather than ruminating over the past or worrying about what else you’ve got coming up.

For help with learning new communication skills, resolving long-standing issues between you and your partner and re-connecting with your partner in a more meaningful way, contact Deborah.

Is Trauma the Same for Everyone?

Trauma - Sad Man

Trauma in psychological terms means that the mind has been exposed to a level of stress beyond what it can cope with. It happens to people of all ages, and for all sorts of different reasons. So it makes sense that not everybody experiences trauma in the same way.

Sometimes trauma is the result of one distressing event, or it can be the cumulative effect of an overwhelming amount of stress. Generally, it happens because an individual’s life, safety or security is threatened.

Some events that can result in trauma include domestic violence, car accidents, being the victim of crime or kidnapping, the loss of a loved one, bullying, living through war or being exposed to intrusive medical procedures.

As you can see, the nature of the event can vary considerably. There is no valid or invalid response to a traumatic event.

What Effects Trauma?

It is impossible to gauge or predict trauma based on the facts of an event itself. Trauma isn’t dictated by what happened, but by how the individual experienced the event and, very importantly, processed it afterward.

How your mind deals with the trauma of the event will affect the extent to which you are traumatised. You can also be affected by how unexpected the event was and how unprepared for it you were.

If you felt more alone, or if the event occurred during childhood, this will also affect your experience. There is also a range of other contributing factors, including how cruel the event was, if the event was repeated, how much loss you sustained and how responsible you perceive yourself to be.

It is very common for a person who experienced trauma to blame themselves, either for the event, or for their reaction to the event. This blame makes the suffering worse.

Sometimes we show the signs of trauma immediately after the event occurs, while for other people the signs may not show up for many years. Sometimes people repress the traumatic experience and may not even remember that it happened.

There are similar symptoms and effects of trauma, however, and many people respond to the same kinds of treatments.

Symptoms of Trauma

Some of the most commons symptoms of trauma include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Anger
  • Constant fear
  • Triggers or re-awakened memories that affect emotional responses
  • Avoidance of people and places
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Self-harm
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Self-medication with alcohol or drugs
  • Easily startled and on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension and vomiting
  • Emotional detachment and low self-esteem.

Trauma is a complex condition because it is so different for each individual. Treatments that have the best results include psychotherapy and sensorimotor therapy. Some alternative therapies and relaxation skills can also provide help and some people respond well to medication.

Further Information

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, or you need help to deal with a traumatic event, reach out to the friendly, caring team at Perth Counselling and Psychotherapy. We’re always happy to help and provide compassionate, healing trauma counselling.

How Attachment Influences Intimate Relationships

How Attachment Influences Intimate Relationships - Couple lying on the beach

There are very few parents who haven’t thought at some time over their parenting journey that some of their responses or parenting decisions may negatively impact their child’s life forever! Thankfully, a significant permanent effect on our children doesn’t really happen anywhere near as often as we fear it will. However, it is important to be clear: what we do as parents does lay the groundwork for our children’s patterns and behaviours as adults.

Does the kind of attachment style your child has developed influence their intimate relationships later in life? Or—if we think about it another way—as adults, how are our own intimate relationships affected by how we attached to our parents? All these questions really have a common theme: better understanding how attachment influences intimate relationships.

It is true that attachment styles and emotional development are closely linked. Attachment, as the bond between a child and their primary caregiver, is the first significant relationship that a completely dependent human baby has. It forms the basis of the relationship that usually lasts throughout a child’s formative years, when most of their learning and exploring and developing occurs.

It is a child’s first experience of trust in another human being, and is where we first start learning our social skills and communication skills. It also helps children to develop their own sense of self-worth. Through the attachment relationship, a child experiences what happens when they need comfort, attention, support or security. How their parent consistently responds will craft that child’s basic understanding and expectation of how relationships work.

Secure attachment relationships teach us that we can rely on other people, and that we are important and safe in this world. Through secure attachment, we grow up being able to recognise and manage our own emotions.

As older children heading off to school, then young adults moving out into the world, or young couples forming friendships and intimate relationships with people beyond our family, how we attached to our primary carer when we were a baby and toddler will have an effect on these relationships.

So, what could an insecure attachment style look like in adult relationships?

If we had trouble with attachment as children, we might have the following difficulties with intimate relationships when we are older:

  • Difficulty empathising with others or being able to see their point of view
  • Inability to trust other people and open up to the possibility of a committed relationship
  • We may have trouble with anger management, depression and other ways of dealing with our emotions. We may be quick to lash out at others
  • We may have difficulty managing our emotions and learned that behaviours such as drinking, drugs, gambling and our relationship with food can help to temporarily soothe our distress
  • We may avoid and not deal with stress or conflict very well
  • We may recreate the kinds of parent-child and intimate relationships that we saw our parents have. This could continue cycles of domestic violence, infidelity or emotional unavailability to our partner
  • We may have negative critical thoughts about our self, making it difficult to reach our full potential and enjoy life.


Don’t let this information scare you – knowing how attachment influences intimate relationships, and that attachment has an ongoing effect can help you be a better parent. It can also help you work out why you might have difficulty in your own adult relationships. We know attachment issues can be worked out in adult life. This means there is always something that can be done. For more information, get in contact with me.

Resources
http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/attachment/according-experts/attachment-early-age-0-5-and-its-impact-childrens-development

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As restrictions surrounding COVID-19 begin to ease in Western Australia, Perth Counselling and Psychotherapy is once again offering face-to-face sessions, in addition to online sessions. For those of you visiting us in-person, rest assured that we are strictly following social distancing regulations and will not have any physical contact with clients. If you have any questions, please contact your therapist for more information.