In this episode, we chat to Simone Poppleton a registered counsellor based in Dublin Ireland about couples counselling.
Link to Audio Episode
What is couples counselling?
So couples counselling is a particular branch of counselling. It’s a kind of specialized area and focuses in which trained therapists trained counsellors are going to be working with the romantic relationship with the couple. And they’re going to essentially be trying to guide that couple from moving from a space of some kind of rupture that’s happened in the relationship to some kind of repaired reconnected space.
Are there any other reasons that people might seek out assistance around couples counseling?
Yes, so obviously, you know, that would be the often the crisis management point that some couples might reach, where things are not going well, and they are needing an external mediator, often the language that couples will use, we need somebody in the room who can mediate what’s happening between us. But there are couples who also use counselling more proactively.
It’s more of a process of going, we want to maintain the healthiness of the relationship that we currently have. And so they seek it more much like any car needing a service, or relationship with need the same. And I think it’s also recommended, just one of the things, I would also specifically do something like pre-marriage counselling. So that’s also an aspect of couples counselling, in which a couple is preparing for the next chapter preparing for marriage, that’s a lot more of a guided experience as well, there are obviously certain things that need to be spoken about, leading up to something like their wedding and their marriage. And so it’s also a very proactive response to counselling.
Do you use a specific therapeutic plan or does that shift depending on the couple’s needs?
I think they very much depend on the registered counsellor’s approach to couples counselling and the training that they have. So I’ll speak from my experience, just because I’m obviously very passionate about the way that I specifically work with couples. And so it’s also important for couples to know that as they’re doing their discovery and research, so the way that couples will find my approach is that it’s very connection-oriented.
So in my sessions, that is more of a semi-structured, guided experience, I call myself the couples guide. And because I regard them ultimately as the experts of their relationship, but I’m there to guide them perhaps with different questions, different ways of thinking, I’m teaching them how to be present with one another again. And so mine is a more guided kind of semi-structured program that I developed.
I felt that couples were often getting stuck in couples counselling or treating it as if it was almost a one way kind of a way to meet in the week. But they weren’t necessarily doing a lot with a during the rest of the week. So I felt that having some kind of program meant that we were all kind of committed, we’d invested in the process, we were also moving through it. Which matched my more transformational approach to couples counselling, there’s also homework that they will receive. So keep them linked between the sessions, so that they feel as if they’re actually applying what we learn in the session between the weeks.
Then obviously, I’m able to get that feedback immediately in the next week. How did that work, what didn’t work? And then we learned the next relational concepts, and we kind of scaffold and build the blocks in order to ensure that they have the relationship that they longing for. That’s the way that I predominantly work.
But I also am very aware that that doesn’t work for all couples because sometimes there needs to be kind of more groundwork done before we can move into the more teaching guided process. During that intake, session is where I’ll make that decision of whether we’re going to follow a little bit more of that structure. To the approach, or whether I’m going to need to do a little bit more work beforehand to get them there. So that might mean we do individual work before, it might mean that I kind of take what happens in this session and focus on what shows up. And so there’s space for both.
So how long would couples normally remain in couples counseling?
I just want to touch on what you say, because I really connect with that exactly that hero’s guide. I do call it the hero’s journey because that’s very much what they going on as a couple. And it’s also important to think that we often come into counselling thinking that the relationship is like a problem to be solved.
But I really think that marriage and relationships are an adventure to be had. So it’s about us going on a journey together. Me as they guide almost like as if we’re, river rafting in my role is to kind of guide where we’re going to flow with where the water takes us as well. And, sometimes it’ll take us down another path, but we might just find something absolutely wonderful. So it’s a very open process.
Typically, couples will be in counselling, at least in the way that I work from anything between 9 to 11 weeks. So there’s just over two months, two and a half to three months. And I think it is important for couples to remember that. I actually have a magic wand in my room, just to remind couples that this is not a magic process. I don’t want to just wave this wand as much as I wish many times that I could and that everything’s going to be fixed.
Instead, it’s going to go through a process and a journey. But it’s also merely the beginning. It really is saying now that we have the tools, we then have to keep applying them as a lifelong process. And, that’s why maintenance sessions are so important, long after they finish the formal, program approach. So whether that’s once a month for some couples, sometimes it’s you know, every three months or four months. But it’s just a sense of going we touch base. And we say can we tweak this, what about this, this isn’t working, this is going great, and I really love it when couples do that.
What advise would you give a couple thinking of going for counselling?
I think if you start to have any of those thoughts, my recommendation is to do it. Because those thoughts are there for a reason. And sometimes we reach a growth edge in our relationships that require us, to get external additional assistance support guidance. Rather than expecting that we need to be building these relationships on our own, we’re not created as people to be silos.
So even marriages or relationships don’t exist just on their own. They actually best done within the context of a village essentially. So counselling is part of that village that comes along to support that process. And so my recommendation is, is to take that first step, it’s brave.
So to actually take that leap of faith takes a lot of courage and always honour my clients for that. And I think it again, it is important as you’re reading up, as you’re doing that discovery time really looking at what connects with you. You may not know a lot about counselling or about psychology or about the different theories. But as you read, just see what lands for you and go oh, I really love the way he or she said that, that really connects with me. And that’s often what I find couples that’s how they choose me.
For example, they would have said, you said something like this on your website and that really connected with me. And, that’s why I chose you, you know. So it’s often just that kind of organic process. And then to my encouragement is to kind of trust that intuition. I don’t believe in coincidences. So I think that clients and the counsellor are very much chosen in many ways for each other. And there’s something about the way that I word things online. The fact that I am a little bit more semi-structured, does attract particular clients. And so I think, trust that gut trust your intuition.
Anything else about couples counselling that you think is important?
I think that often regard relationships, marriage as being almost like you, are sailing, you’re obviously sitting in a ship. And the difficult thing is that people don’t realize that, particularly with something like marriage. Is that you are having to sail and build your marriage ship at exactly the same time. We don’t build this beautiful ship in the dry docks before we married. And then we sail into the sunset, you’re building and sailing at the same time.
And so I think that sometimes couples get to the point where they realize the ship that we had got us to this point served us well, and it got us here. But maybe we need to rebuild the ship, maybe there are some, cracks, maybe there’s a leak in it, maybe we just need to change the whole shape of it. Because we don’t need such a big one anymore. You know, it’s times of transitions that couples look and go, Oh, you know, children have grown. We’ve just had our first child, we’re moving country, there’s a sense of going this change. So change the ship. And that’s very much the way that I work of going, what is the kind of ship Do you want to build? And where are we sailing to?
Contact details for Simone Poppleton
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