Any counselling better than none

Q: I think that my husband and I need counselling. There are some things we really need to work out together. Trouble is, we never seem to be able to organize to do it. My friend told me that if we are going to work on our marriage, we have to do it together. Can I come to counselling alone while I wait for him to get organized?

Q: I think that my husband and I need counselling. There are some things we really need to work out together. Trouble is, we never seem to be able to organize to do it. My friend told me that if we are going to work on our marriage, we have to do it together. Can I come to counselling alone while I wait for him to get organized?

A: The short answer is yes, there are many things that one person in a relationship can do to make a real difference. It is, of course, most efficient if both people can attend a counselling session together. When that’s not possible, though, don’t throw in the towel and do nothing! On your own, there are lots of things to do.

In a relationship, each person has their own thoughts, feelings and actions. Anything that one person does makes a difference to the other. It can be positive or negative. Because of this, it is really possible to work with your own thoughts, feelings and actions individually and make a positive difference in the relationship.

Let’s look at a few of the reasons people feel they need couples counselling and how they can be positively influenced in individual counselling.

Arguments that don’t go anywhere

Lots of couples struggle with these. It is easy for arguments to take on a life of their own. One person initiates a discussion, and before you know it, there are loud words, hurt feelings, and nothing gets resolved. This can happen over and over again.

Figuring out how arguments get going is often most efficiently done as a couple. In individual counselling, though, it’s also possible to understand what is happening, and just as importantly, develop some strategies so that arguments stay on track and things have a better chance to get resolved.

Anything you do in a different way about how the argument is “done” will change the argument itself. It will mean that your husband has a chance to respond differently. Working with a counsellor, you will also have any support that you need to make a difference to how arguments happen. This is so even if your husband doesn’t attend a session.

Feeling not understood

Not feeling understood can lead to such hurt feelings. With a qualified counsellor, in couples counselling, it is possible to efficiently help each person in the relationship feel heard and understood.

This doesn’t mean that on one’s own, a wife, for example, can’t feel supported in exploring her own feelings and learning some really good ways to help relay them more effectively to her husband. It can be very interesting to notice what happens when one person in a relationship starts letting the other know their feelings in a different, perhaps more effective, way.

Wanting one’s spouse to put the same effort into the relationship

We can’t make another person do anything. Individual counselling can help a wife (husband) understand the way in which their husband (wife) is, or is not, putting in effort. It can help to deal with the feelings related to that, and respond skillfully to that situation.

There are many other reasons why couples seek counselling. When it is possible for both people to attend — terrific. When only one person can attend — terrific.

Just as there is more than one way to get to Vancouver, there is more than one way to do relationship counselling.

There are qualified registered clinical counsellors available in the community to assist. As well, The Learning Program at Pacific Therapy and Consulting offers individual, lower-cost counselling by masters students, supervised by one of our qualified registered clinical counsellors.

If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at askpacific@shaw.ca; or fax the Record at 250-338-5568 or write to them c/o the Record. Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Karen Turner. It appears every second Friday.