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What is Couples Counseling and how does it work?

Conflicts and issues are a part and parcel of romantic relationships; however, the way they are overcome speaks to the quality of the relationship. Many couples deal with conflicts in a way that stops them from moving past it. Couples then find themselves in repeating patterns and cycles of similar conflicts. When this happens, seeking guidance from a third-part, especially a professional can help in a truly meaningful and tranformative way.

Couples counseling is a field that faces a lot of skepticism about the way it operates and how helpful it is in improving relationships. Many times it is thought of a courtroom where each partner tells their side of the story and the counsellor is the arbitrator who has to decide who is wrong and who is right. But, that is not how couples counseling works. Rather it involves techniques and interventions that are research-based and have been shown to be effective in enhancing relationships.

Here are some commonly faced couples issues and the techniques that are used to address them in counseling.

Increasing disagreements & conflicts

One of the most frequently occurring issue that couples bring to counselling is a high number of disagreements and conflicts between them. Couples who deal with these conflicts in a maladaptive manner are left with unresolved emotions and thoughts, which leads to an increase in conflicts. For example, many couples give each other the silent treatment after a fight, and after some time get back to normally talking without addressing the issue. Since the underlying issues are not resolved, similar issues are more likely to come up again.

This is where counsellors are highly effective as they help in improving communication among couples so that partners understand each other better and respond in a better fashion. Further, counsellors are trained to outline and break/change unhealthy patterns that are underlying cause of regular fights. For instance, a common pattern is of pursuer-withdrawer where the more one partner asks for other’s time, the more other partner withdraws from the relationship, and the more other partner withdraws from the relationship, the more the partner asks for other’s time. Breaking of changing these patterns help in reducing conflicts in the long-term.

Issues in sexual intimacy

Problems with sexual intimacy is another common problem faced by couples. The way counsellors generally deal with sexual problems is by first understanding the issue at hand, for example, low pleasure experienced by partners. The counsellors then try to understand underlying reasons for the issue such as mismatched expactations, rejection, low - libido, past sexual assault, vaginismus, etc.

Many a times, the reason for sexual problems is lack of emotional intimacy or lack of honesty with the partner about what is comforting and what is pleasurable. For this, counsellors use exercises to improve communication as well as emotional connection, which further help in improving sexual relationships. At Begin Again our counsellors may use Sensate Focus exercises to rebuild intimacy and bring back joy and pleasure for couples. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is used to reduce distress related to past sexual assault and reprocess that memory.

Distressing or traumatizing life events

Many couples undergo greatly distressing incidents such as infidelity, a partner recovering from substance dependence, loss and grief. Rebecca from our team at Begin Again uses techniques such as flash technique that helps in reducing distress associated with such incidents. Further, she uses EMDR which aids in reprocessing all thoughts and emotions related to the incident.

Reprocessing and reduced distress opens up space for other things such as positive emotions, better communication, etc. Counsellors also employ exercises that help in building back trust in the relationship.

These are a few of the abundant techniques and interventions that are a part of couples counselling. No relationship issues are beyond the scope of counselling. No matter what problem you are experiencing with your partner, you can work upon it and improve your relationship by seeking professional help. To book a couples counselling session please go to

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