Couple therapy refers to psychotherapy in the context of two (or more) individuals that are in a defined romantic, intimate relationship and are often conducted with persons older than 16 years. Within this context, therapy focus on optimizing the relationship between the individuals.
The world would be a peaceful place if conflict, misunderstandings and often betrayal did not exist in partner relationships. Some of the world’s greatest wars sprang out of lovers’ quarrels. When two (or more) people come together and form an intimate connection, this is within the bigger picture of two (or more) worlds coming together – different upbringing and household cultures, possible different values and norms, different life goals and drives, different interests and different political and or religious views.
It is no wonder that the older folk say: “each challenge in an intimate relationship is like eating a bag of salt together: the more bags of salt eaten, the more mature, longer-lasting and durable the relationship become”.
This simple expression validate the secret of relationship success, not that challenges signals the expiry date of the relationship, but rather an opportunity for further growth and deeper connection. The ultimate challenge in romantic relationships is to find a way to merge the different backgrounds and base the relationship on the merits of what each individual bring to the relationship. This is so much easier said than done and very far from the Hollywood portrayal of “happily ever after”.
Couples often present to psychotherapy when one or both (or all partners) experience psychological (and sometimes physical) distress. This distress can be a result of poor communication skills and misunderstanding, incompatibility and different life goals, domestic violence and abuse, infidelity and emotional affairs and/ or psychological disorders in one or more of the partners (alcoholism and other substance dependencies, pornography, intimacy and sexual difficulties, depression, anxiety, neurodevelopmental disorders like Autism spectrum disorder, psychopathology and personality disorders and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia).
Couples therapy is aimed at treating relationship distress in order to restore a more optimal level of functioning in the relationship. Usually, one of the partners reaches out to the psychologist to set up an appointment. During the first session the individual is offered the opportunity to share this/her experience of the relationship as well as concerns and difficulties. If it is clinically indicated that a couples therapy process is necessary to resolve to presenting difficulty, the possibility of the inviting the other partner/s to therapy to share his/ her/ their experiences of the relationship is discussed with the individual. When the other partner/s have been invited to share his/ her/ their experience, a comprehensive picture of the relationship dynamics is formulated. The plan for therapy in assisting both the relationship and the individuals, is discussed with all parties. From here sessions are scheduled for therapeutic assistance.
The length and process of couples therapy differ from each couple. Usually, the process start with individual psychological input before moving towards joint couples therapy sessions. The focus of couples therapy is to assist the couple to learn new skills both individually and in terms of being a partner, in order not only to address the current relationship challenge, but also being able to effectively deal with future challenges.
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