- Lisa Bushman LPCC
The Art of Relationship Therapy
There's nothing more difficult for a therapist to handle than couple's counseling. I have to admit that when I first started doing this, I could feel my blood pressure rise, as I looked at the calendar and saw a couple scheduled for that day. It's incredibly unpredictable and often there's lots of tension in the room.
If there's one thing that I've learned, it's that most people want to avoid the emotion surrounding their issues. While most couples have been together for an extended period of time, the more you have invested in the relationship, the more difficult it can be to show up and be vulnerable. I often watch couples skillfully dance around their personal issues, which is exactly what brought them here in the first place. This often creates avoidance, which never solves anything, and allows the emotion and tension to grow. As a counselor, I know that there is no growth until individuals are willing to take risk and find the courage within themselves to move into unexplored and unknown spaces; usually a space which they have never encountered before.
A skilled therapist can often see what issues are getting in the way. However, it's not the counselor's responsibility to resolve them. Counselors support their clients but are careful to not do the work of the couple/individual. That would create a dependency, which is not in the best interest of the client, long term.
So what exactly do counselors do in the counseling office? Counselors are there to:
1) Help teach the skills needed for a long term relationship
2) Assist the individuals in building their own self confidence
3) Create a couple that walks side by side, not in front/behind one another
4) Allow clients to experience the consequences of their own decisions
5) Promote personal growth by helping clients move beyond their comfort zone
6) Create a safe and non-judgmental space for risk and courage to take place, and
7) Prevent individuals from deflecting responsibility when fear/tension arises
It's imperative for therapists to keep the client's best interest at heart. This helps the therapeutic process to thrive. So the next time you get frustrated with your counselor's lack of direct response in your session, realize that it's often difficult to watch clients struggle, and refrain from stepping in. However, doing so creates a stronger client/couple and a better outcome.