Are You Not Happy in Your Relationship? Couples Therapy Can Change That.
Partnerships and marriages go through various phases over the years. And, naturally, also crises. It is natural and we are usually able to deal with them with grace and dignity. However, there are situations that we can no longer handle on our own and that is when couples therapy can help. Today, we will talk about couples therapy with our psychologist and relationship therapist PhDr. Marek Hošek.
Marek, what is the main difference between individual therapy with one of the partners and couples therapy?
These two methods are certainly not mutually exclusive, I would say that they complement each other. It is essential for couples therapy that both partners agree to it and that there is no contraindication in their relationship (such as sexual abuse, drug use or domestic violence). It is useful to work with the client individually when it is clear that the cause of the couple’s problems is his or her individual problem or just a pattern or sensitivity that the client brings into the relationship from their childhood or culture.
The therapies sometimes take place in parallel and it is not uncommon that the couple comes for therapy to me and the partners go to my colleagues for individual therapy. In certain cases, it is actually better to start with individual therapy to prepare the client for couples therapy.
When and why do you recommend visiting a couples therapist?
The answer is simple. I recommend visiting a therapist when one of the partners feels like something is not the way they want it to be. For example, difficulties in communication or mutual support or fear of jeopardizing the relationship are very common reasons for a visit. Other common reasons include failure to cope with a developmental crisis (such as when the children leave the family), infidelity, an extramarital affair or different views of parenting methods. It is also important to come when there is still time. In practice, I often encounter situations where the client comes at the twelfth hour.
How long does couples therapy usually take? And how often should clients attend therapy?
The first consultation should take place as soon as possible after the appointment is made and the subsequent sessions usually take place after 3-4 weeks. They usually last 50-90 minutes. For couples (and families in particular), it may be a bit difficult to find availability, but it usually works out eventually. The overall duration of couples therapy is very individual. Sometimes, a solution or resolution is found after the very first session, but this is more common in ‘couples counselling’. Other times, it takes weeks or months which is typical for couples therapy.
But what can we do if only one partner is interested in couples therapy and the other one is strictly against it because they do not see any problems in the relationship?
I encounter such a dismissive attitude mainly in men who are not all that interested in someone else looking into such an intimate space that a relationship is. This may be also due to a bad experience (my clients sometimes point out their childhood experience with a visit to an educational psychological counseling center), fear or an unpleasant feeling of failure.
However, sometimes there may really be a situation when one partner does not see a problem because in reality there is none. I have also encountered situations where couples therapy was supposed to be abused to manipulate the other person. This happens, for example, during pre-divorce or post-divorce counselling. We monitor all our clients’ true motives and the real reasons for their participation in therapy. It certainly does not make sense to force anyone into therapy (and definitely not by manipulation). Instead, we prefer to present arguments to the client why they should attend therapy. One or two sessions are usually enough to convince them.
What do you think is most disruptive in today's relationships?
It may be surprising, but it is topics that repeat across generations, but they are upgraded with something new. For example, in the online environment, some people may have the false feeling that finding a new and better relationship is not a problem. After all, looking for “something better” was more difficult for our parents and previous generations. Recently, I have also been seeing that debts and mortgages, which significantly affect family budgets, cause major difficulties in relationships. All you need is a medium-term illness or dismissal, and debts become a major topic for evening discussions. I had a couple doing therapy who eventually decided not to get divorced only because of their debts, and in this case it was simply necessary to set rules for the coexistence of the whole family.
Another current phenomenon is working from home and home schooling of children (especially those under the age of 10). It happens, for example, that my client complains that they are overloaded and their partner is not of much help. At the same time, the family stereotype gets disrupted which is more apparent in families with a lower degree of flexibility and adaptability.
The coronavirus restrictions do not have a positive effect on relationships, do they?
Of course, under the restrictions, there is a certain loss of faith that this will ever end and fear for the couple’s future. There is a fear of losing jobs or receiving a worse education (especially for last-year high school students and children finishing primary education). For years, we were used to the week being divided into two main parts: the work part and the private part. Restrictions cause an unexpected interference with this set-up. Couples and families are only starting to get used to it. However, some people do not want to get used to this change, so as the time with restrictions increases, so does the tension between the couple or family. We can see the current situation as a very difficult life situation, in which the hidden difficulties of living together come to the surface.
In addition to Soulmio, PhDr. Marek Hošek also works in other psychotherapeutic professions, especially as a “general” psychotherapist, marriage and family counsellor, and addictologist.