At Nightingale Counselling we are pleased to offer counselling support for romantic partnerships of all kinds. Although couples counselling of the past tended to focus on traditional, heterosexual couples, the Nightingale approach is open to everyone. Our approach emphasizes cultural competence and is inclusive of gender and sexuality diversity.
Many couples arrive in counselling on the brink of crisis, or in the aftermath of a crisis. This can take a great deal of forms, as the nature of our relationships is as diverse as the individuals involved. Crisis can therefore mean different things. Often, the problems that people arrive with include one or some of the following:
These are just some of the pathways Nightingale clients have taken into our offices, but its just the tip of the iceberg. And the truth is, a couple doesn’t have to be in a crisis to show up in counselling. For many of our clients there is present only the draw to deepening connectivity with each other. For these couples, therapy is a safe space in which to enhance their skills at being supportive and caring, and talking and listening, of being heard and nurtured and giving that back to their partner.
Living with these problems is hard work. Distress in the relationship can make it hard to focus on the other things that matter like work, the kids, our hobbies or our personal health. Our partners are the people who we’ve built a life with, and have a shared vision of the future with, and it can be terrifying to imagine a life without that teammate in the picture. For good reason, this can lead to very difficult emotions for each person involved, and in many cases can start to look like increased anxiousness, feelings of frustration, irritation, or anger, or even depression.
For others still, trouble at home can lead to coping strategies which are harmful in their own right, and often lead to increased disconnection rather than connection: workaholism, alcohol and drug use and misuse, and seeking romantic connection and validation from people outside the partnership are just some examples.
The biggest question we get from our clients is “How can a conversation in a counselling office be any different than the conversations we have at home?”. It’s a great question: after all, it’s still just talking isn’t it?
If conversations at home always end up in the same place, what’s going to be different here? Well, there’s a few answers to that question, and it’s not just “communication”.
Couples counselling at Nightingale focuses on uncovering the root causes of conflicts, of misalignment, and disconnection between partners. Often these root causes are points of significant vulnerability, and most of us find it difficult or frightening to go there in everyday life. Our Counsellors are specially trained to hold a safe space for all parties involved, facilitating a slowly deepening conversation that ultimately transcends the kinds of things we are usually able to say to each other. By allowing couples to speak and hear from the heart, we uncover the root causes.
At this point some people might ask “Isn’t that dangerous or risky?, Don’t couples break up when the ugly truth comes out?”. Not usually. In fact, the evidence shows that despite the fact that most couples arrive in a crisis, with their relationship on the brink, 70% of couples in emotionally focused counselling have positive results. The secret truth is that those conversations we are afraid of are incredibly affirming, validating and CONNECTING.
The course of therapy is always unique at Nightingale. We do not believe in prescribed “treatment plans” as they are called in some institutions. Instead, we work dynamically in couples therapy, moving at the pace of the relationship as it is. But generally speaking, there are 4 important phases of all successful couples therapy.
What is the result of all this? Anyone who tells you they know just what the outcome of YOUR therapy will be should be considered with suspicion. The goal for one couple might not be the goal for you. This is what we mean at Nightingale when we say that our couple and marriage therapy is client-centered: we trust that you know what’s best for your relationship, and that you just need a little help to get you from here to there.
But, there are some common improvements that we tend to see when couples learn to become more engaged, more responsive, and more authentic with each other.