Couples & Family Systems

Graphic of a pregnant couple facing each other and talking.

I guide couples seeking Relationship Counselling using the Gottman Method, a research based approach to understanding what makes relationships happy and lasting. The format of these sessions is highly customised depending on the couples circumstances, sometimes we begin with individual sessions while at other times I start with the couple.

In addition to the Gottman couples psychoeducation and exercises I work with the relationship dynamics, what is the ‘dance’ of the relationship, the typical patterns which both partners are locked into. This is useful because partners come to see that they are not having many fights but the same one over and over again, repating itself under the surface. Some couples are engaged in ‘hot wars’ others in ‘cold wars’ one partner advances, the other retreats, understanding how each partner plays into the dynamic is useful because then there is a possibility for each partner to pause and do something different.

Interpersonal Neurobiology or Psychobiology is the next layer, that is vital for couples to understand, it speaks to how that pause can come about, the micro movements necessary for change to happen. Understanding our own traumatic patterns helps us realise that disconnects and overwhelm are happening in slight ways throughout the couples interaction at a very quick neurological level and it is this which is guiding the behaviour. When we can recognise our pattern and pause, self sooth and ground we are able to stop before an escalation or withdrawal takes place. When we can self sooth and attune to what our partner needs we can start to co-regulate and our relationship gets the attention it needs

When we feel safe enough as individuals to put our relationship first we start to really reap the benefits of being in a genuine commitment to another person and find the loving connection we hoped for. Stuck patterns in a relationship happen when the stuck patterns of trauma are being played out by an individual in the relationship so over the course of couples work we may focus on one partner and use Focusing or Brainspotting to help the partner be unstuck. When the person’s partner is able to be a gentle witness to their partners healing both partners reach a much greater level of understanding than they can when the therapy is individual. However, seeing someone we love work through their trauma can be overwhelming so this is something we work towards in collaboration, sometimes having individual sessions if necessary.

Terry Real calls this The Birth of Relational Joy His 10 commandments of Time Outs is something I share with many couples who’re not experiencing much ‘Relational Joy’ and if you and your partner are struggling it’s a good place to get some help before our first session. Marion Solomon and Stan Tatkin’s book ‘Love and War in Intimate relationships’ is an excellent read if you have time, or try this a podcast featuring Stan which will give you an a greater understanding about this approach to couples work.

Some people find their partners reluctant to engage in therapy and have found it helpful to begin working on their relationship through individual therapy and learning about how couples relate successfully. If you find yourself in this situation, I’d encourage you to get in touch.

I love to work with families with mixed heritage and members of the rainbow community, following the pieces of your identity that matter most to you, as you see it and experience it.

Get in touch.