How do I prepare for the first session?

You can prepare for your first session by thinking about the following:

  • what are the main issues for you in your relationship
  •  how you might be contributing to the problems in your relationship
  • what is your bottom-line 
  • read the article “How to get the most from couple therapy” under “My Services” 

Can I come on my own without my partner knowing?

Yes you can. If you prefer to get some confidential help or advice on your own first, then I can help you. As I have said before, just you having insight and making changes will definitely change the dynamic in the relationship.

If you are unsure of what you want to do in your relationship situation, then I can help you sort through and clarify what you want and need and options available to you.

Alternatively, if you are sure you want to part, we I help you in making this transition as painless as possible.

What do I do if my partner doesn’t want to come?

I suggest you come on your own anyway. If you can bring home some strategies that will help your situation, your partner may be encouraged to also join you in the sessions at a future date.

Even if that doesn’t happen, there are many insights and strategies we can show you that will help you with your issues. One person changing can and does change the dynamic in the relationship. You still have power in your relationship by making changes yourself.

Should we first come to sessions together or on our own?

You may choose either option. Generally we suggest that if you have been together for a long time or have quite a number of issues, it is usually best for each of you to have an individual session first before then coming together.

If you have been in a relationship for a short time, or have only a few issues, then it is usually best to come together from the start.  In most situations when I see a couple I have seem them together in the first session and individually in the second.  

Do you support relationships or individuals first?

I believe that a great relationship is created by balancing our basic human needs for togetherness and separateness. I have found that relationship problems come from the couple leading parallel lives resulting in a loss of connectedness, and/or loss of self in the relationship. I work to help the couple establish the balance of togetherness and separateness.

Do you take sides?

No I don’t take sides. Having said that, I will help each of you see the contributions you are making to the problems in your relationship and encourage you to take responsibility for your own part.

If it does not feel right

If you have been working with a counsellor for a while and feel uncomfortable, then it is best, in the first instance to discuss this with that counsellor. A good counsellor will be willing to work through these issues with you. If despite this, you remain dissatisfied with the outcome, then you should exercise your judgement and either terminate the sessions or seek guidance from another professional.

If you ever have concerns about the ethical behaviour of a counsellor, then contact their relevant association or the relevant health monitoring body (in the ACT this is the Health Services Commissioner).

Some principles to apply in choosing a counsellor

You need to feel comfortable with the therapist. Within a session or two, you should have a sense that you are being heard, have a sense that the counsellor is developing a good understanding of you as a person and that you are comfortable working with this person. The technical term for this is that there is a “therapeutic alliance” between you and the therapist.

A “comfortable” counsellor is not necessarily someone that you never disagree with, or who never disagrees with you. Sometimes the greatest lessons come when the counsellor and the client struggle together for mutual understanding. If, however, this does not happen in a “safe” environment, then you are unlikely to be able to make use of this struggle in therapeutic ways. The exchange must always happen in an environment of mutual respect.

The counsellor needs to be skilled in their practice. It is reasonable to ask them how experienced they are, what qualifications they have and what modalities they use. In talking about modalities, a good question might be “so what draws you to working in that way?”

Psychology, psychotherapy and counselling are skilled professions. While many people can be helpful to talk through an issue, a skilled professional must have more than just a “good ear”. Ensure that the qualifications are at a professional level. In Australia, most professionals will have a mix of university and developmental courses to guide them.

A professional counsellor will ensure that their work is subject to review by other professionals. This involves a process in which the counsellor regularly meets with another experienced counsellor and the work being undertaken is discussed. This process is called “professional supervision” and is done in such a way as to ensure confidentiality is maintained while letting the supervisor explore both the approach being taken and impact of this work on the client and counsellor.

A professional counsellor will be a member of one or more professional organisations. This organisation will ensure that the qualifications and ongoing professional development of the counsellor is maintained. It will also hold the counsellor accountable to a prescribed set of ethics.
The highest standards of professionalism can be determined by choosing a counsellor who is on the National Register. Psychologists are required to be registered in the state or territory in which they practice.

Choosing a counsellor

When we first go for psychology, counselling or therapy, the biggest challenge facing us is how to identify who would be good for us and what sort of therapy might suit us. It might seem that we need to answer each question separately, but research suggests that it is the combination that actually determines what works. The counsellor has to be skilled in the modality or modalities they use and this is important for the counsellor to be effective. However, the research shows that it is the therapeutic relationship that best determines the outcomes. This suggests that choosing the counsellor that you feel comfortable working with is the key measure for you as the client, provided that the chosen counsellor has adequate training and skills to be effective.

I am a relationship counsellor. You may not realise that not all counsellors, therapists and psychologists are specifically trained in relationship counselling. General counselling and psychology training covers only one or two units related to working with couples. Specific training in couples, marriage or relationship counselling is necessary and important to achieve effective results with relationship issues.  It’s unfortunate that some psychologists and counsellors in Australia are working with couples without having specific training or skills in this area.

Method and approach

I always use recognised therapeutic approaches to counselling which are widely used by counsellors and psychologists. Outstanding development is achieved through my eclectic model of therapy that looks at our past, present feelings, cognition and patterns of communication.

Recently I have completed Level 2 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, and use Gottman Method Couples Therapy in my work.  John Gottman was voted as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century.  World renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, John Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples.

Many of my clients have been able to turn their most challenging relationships into ones that are much easier to handle.  To facilitate this clients are provided with factual, objective information.  They are also given tools, methods, programs, products, and services dedicated to helping couples build stronger, happier relationships in a mutually constructive environment. 

When do I finish?

You can choose to end counselling any time, though I will often recommend a certain number of sessions that I have found to be helpful in achieving good outcomes in regard to similar concerns. Please let me know when you are considering ending yours sessions. You are welcome to return to us at any time in the future.

What happens when I see a counsellor?

Seeking out professional help is a challenge. It takes courage and honesty to reach out. Our culture tells us that we should be able to cope on our own. However, this sort of myth only makes people feel they are the only one to feel or think the way they do. In addition, isolation causes us to loose perspective and feel that our problems are unique to us that they are more difficult than they really are. Seeking out the assistance of a counsellor is the beginning of an exciting journey towards a new understanding of yourself that has the potential to become a guiding light on a fresh journey. Effective counselling operates in an atmosphere of trust, respect and understanding. The counselling process involves conversation and can include psychological inventories, homework, selected reading and attending support groups if necessary. A counsellor’s task is to assist the counselee to find more rewarding ways of living. The goals of counselling are worked out jointly by the counsellor and client(s).

What happens in a marriage/ relationship counselling session?

Initially, I offer you both an equal opportunity to speak about what are your problems and issues in your relationship. I will then clarify and summarise what are your particular issues, and also give you additional insight as to what dynamics are operating between you and where they may have come from.

From here, we will then begin to work on resolving these issues for each of you, working from the most significant issues first, and always with a positive and win-win approach.I balance listening to and understanding each of your problems with moving forward in a positive way, so that by the end of each session, you will feel that you have had an opportunity to be heard and also feel your problems are resolving and your relationship is improving.

Each session I also review how these changes are progressing, and address additional issues at a pace that is manageable by both of you.

Many of my clients have been able to turn their most challenging relationships into ones that are much easier to handle.  

How long does it all take?

Each counselling session takes one hour, except the first session with a couple which can be an hour and a half. The duration of therapy is determined in consultation with your counsellor. You can choose to end counselling any time, though I will often recommend a certain number of sessions that I have found to be helpful in achieving good outcomes in regard to similar concerns. Please let me know when you are considering ending your sessions. You are welcome to return at any time in the future.