Creating and sustaining relationships is one of the most rewarding of all human endeavours.
However, it is also one of the most difficult. As infants, we start learning about relationships from the people closest to us, and the quality of those early relationships set the pattern for our interactions with others as adults. As we move through life we establish relationships with extended family, friends, teachers, work colleagues, mentors, romantic partners and others. These relationships can enrich our lives and encourage us to be more than we are, or they can be a source of negative emotion that brings us grief and torment.
When important relationships become difficult, the first issue for the party or parties involved is to recognise that there is a problem.
This may seem obvious but many times the barrier to finding a solution is the refusal by one of the parties to acknowledge that the issue even exists. Often this type of situation is the starting point for going into counselling as the parties have reached an impasse trying to deal with the situation on their own. People approach relationship counselling for all kinds of reasons. A comfortable, long-standing marriage may be fractured as the result of an affair, or a blended family may be having difficulty co-existing in harmony. A person may find themselves in a career crisis and feels unsupported by their partner or a couple may have grown apart through career and family pressures, and want to re-connect.
There are a number of ways that the counselling sessions can be approached.
Couples often choose joint sessions to allow both parties to have their voices heard and get feedback that their point of view has been accepted and understood. Some people will only work with the counsellor in individual sessions, and families often prefer to attend counselling in group sessions, where they are sometimes confronted for the first time with the consequences of certain behaviours and communication styles. Undergoing relationship counselling when the difficulties first become apparent gives everyone involved the opportunity to work through issues before they reach a point of no return.
Counselling assists people to gain greater understanding of each other’s needs from the relationship and to explore areas of self development.
This does not necessarily mean that there will always be a “happy ever after.” Sometimes in the process of change, a relationship may end, but with the help of the counsellor, the parties can learn to accept this and look ahead with optimism. While our childhood experiences can still affect the way we manage our lives as adults, we now know that change is possible if we are willing to place ourselves firmly outside our comfort zone. Working with a counsellor to help us heal our relationships can be the beginning of a journey to discover our real selves.