Couples and Marriage Therapy

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. 

We welcome couples who identify as:

●     Heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bi-, queer and questioning

●     Cis, non-binary,  trans gendered, or gender noncomforming

●     Mongomous, polyamorous, 

●     Married, unmarried, with children and without

Why Come to Couples Counselling?

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:

●     Infidelity, or “cheating” or in interest in open sexuality with other partners

●     Navigating transition moments: deepening commitments, adding new labels, moving from casual to serious, from dating to marriage, 

●     Deciding to have children or not have children, navigating fertility/infertility journeys, perinatal and postnatal couples support, and learning what it means when a couple becomes a family through the addition of children

●     Intimacy issues: is your partner not as responsive and engaged as they once were, or as you might like them to be? Does something feel missing, but you can’t quite name it? Feeling connected on the surface but disengaged at deeper levels can be frightening, and often feels hard to fix.

●     Conflict: so many couples experience the cycle of seemingly predictable conflicts, the same old argument again and again, and yet can’t figure out how to stop the loop. 

●      Trauma: very serious experiences can have a long lasting effect on the quality of our relationships, and even after we think we’ve moved on, one or both partners might notice this legacy.

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.

Why Can’t We Solve This On Our Own?

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.

What does couples therapy do?

At Nightingale, couples counselling provides directed and experiential conversation in an environment that is safe-enough for partners to explore and express the root causes of their problems. 

This process allows couples to:

expand

Expand and re-organize the response patterns which characterize both positive and negative interactions

enhance

Enhance the feelings of security and honesty in the relationship

repair

Repair bonds which have been strained, frayed, or torn 

Deepen

Deepen the feeling that we truly know who are partner is, and the feeling that they know who we are (and like what they see!)

How does couples therapy work?

 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.

Clarification

through careful reflection and observation, the therapist will help the couple clarify the communication patterns and cycles of interaction which are not working and establish shared goals for the future.

Deepening

we add layers of depth including the emotional, behavioural, and historical experiences which coincide with these relational interactions, sharing more with our partner with the guidance and security of the therapist.

Experiencing

we allow the deep-rooted feelings to be felt and expressed, and allow the listener to share what it’s like for them to see their loved one in new light (an experience often wonderfully and surprisingly filled with compassion, delight, and authenticity).

Integrating

a major experience can be important on its own, but change happens more reliably when time and care is taken to integrate the insights and lessons learned, putting to language what was felt in therapy.

Couples counselling is structured as follows:

Session 1

Everyone together, a chance to meet your Counsellor and see if there is a good feeling of fit.

Sessions 2 and 3

Your Counsellor will meet individually with each member of the partnership.

Session 4

We return together and begin working towards Clarification, Deepening,  Experiencing and Integrating!

Couples counselling outcomes

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.

●     The feelings of SECURITY. No longer walking on eggshells, or fearing rejection and abandonment.

●     The feelings of being KNOWN. No longer wondering if we are alone in the universe, or if the bridge between people can ever be crossed. Trading the sense of isolation for that of connection.

●     Being comfortable in our roles. Boyfriend, wife, mother, partner, family man, intentionally-childless … We pick and choose from a lot of hats in good relationships, and couples counselling can help us name and own our roles with a new sense of integrity and joy.

●     More fun. Life is less heavy heavy when the conflict and doubt and fear slides away. Lightness and laughter tend to go together.

●     Better sex. Being securely connected to your partner, and knowing it’s because they see you exactly as you are is hot. Enjoy.

The Nightingale Difference

At Nightingale, we’re proud to have worked with many diverse clients, all of whom have helped us grow and develop our practice of couples counselling and marriage therapy. We warmly welcome romantic partnerships of all sorts to come and experience the Nightingale difference, regardless of what brings you in today, or what you might hope to achieve.