Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

Platonic-Couple Counselling (Professional & Non-intimate Relationships)

For the purposes of this article, I define a “couple” is two adults involved in a relationship … any form of relationship.

Whilst some assume that ‘couple counselling’ is only for couples in an intimate (meaning sexual) relationship, because a couple relationship does not have to be sexual,  marital or a civil-partnership, then couple counselling is also not exclusively for those only in such relationships.

Couple counselling can be very helpful to platonic relationships.

By “platonic relationships” I would include:

  • Business partners.
  • House-mates / flat-mates.
  • Neighbours.
  • Friends.

  • Parent and (adult) child.
  • Brothers / Sisters.
  • Family members
  • … any relationship where two people are involved with each other and who wish to change.

And using family systems theory as his model, Dean Richardson’s Systemic Couple Counselling for Platonic Relationships is ideal for non-intimate couple relationships wishing to change their relationship behaviour.

Systemic Couple Counselling.

Systemic couple counselling is a process that assists two people in a partnership to focus upon their relationship with a view to learning how to change the relationship for both parties’ benefit.

By being deeply interested and curious into how a relationship works, a couple (who may arrive with the story “we’ve tried everything already, how can counselling help us when we’ve already tried everything?”) can be assisted in seeing new avenues and new approaches that they had not been able to see before.

And, for platonic partners intimacy & sexual congress will likely not be a topic for discussion – though if the couple wish to discuss this too them this is available in couple counselling.

What we do in Counselling for Platonic Relationships.

  • Conversation: we use verbal communication to discuss the relationship and the changes to be negotiated.
  • Diagrams: we can use drawings (such as the Ishikawa Diagram) to visually outline how the relationship works.
  • Genograms: we can diagram family trees to document the individual’s relations’ behaviour, allowing us to identify patterns from our families of origins that are being replayed in this relationship (see Wikipedia Genogram article).
  • Role playing: we can act out different scenarios to see how they work (or don’t work).  The therapist may take on the role of one or the other partner in order to participate in changing the current relationship patterns (the observing partner can watch a different approach & be invited to comment).
  • Role Reversal: inviting both parties to swap seats and repeat something (such as a recent argument) playing the role of the other partner. This helps both parties see how they are perceived (and misunderstood/understood) by the other, inviting a conversation about what has been mis-communicated.
  • Separation: couple counselling is not bound in keeping a couple together.  If the couple are looking for a way to separate whilst negotiating responsibilities in the separation, couple counselling will support this process too.
  • Perturbation: whilst learning how the current relationship works, we aim to disturb (or ‘perturb’) the relationship behaviour to make room for new ways of behaviour and relating.

Couple Counselling is not Facilitation, Mentoring or Mediation (and vice-versa).

… but there are similarities and important over-lapping areas (in this table ‘counsellor’ refers to a [tooltip text='Systemic therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate and platonic relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_therapy'] systemic [/tooltip] couple counsellor).

Mediation.Counselling.
Mediation is a structured process that can be restricted to a small number of sessions.Counselling can be structured too, but tends to invite the couple to decide upon the structure they wish to work in. The work tends to work on the focus of the relationship problem, rather than a set number of sessions, ending with both parties agree the work has been done.
Mediation focuses on the future: how both parties would like things to be rather than have any detailed knowledge of the past.In addition to looking to the future, counselling includes a curiosity towards how the relationship came into being how it is now. This is to support couple’s learning what contributed to the relationship’s current status, in order that the couple can put in places processes to manage recurrences.
A mediator does not overtly try to influence the participants or the outcome.The counsellor keeps the same neutral stance, but may also opt (with the couple’s permission) to “play” the part of one partner in a discussion with the other.  This allows both partners to witness a process different to their own, and invites curiosity towards the different approaches.
A mediator relies on both parties being present.The counsellor also requires both parties be present, but if it has been discussed with the couple first, meeting with one (either or both) partner on their own can be helpful provided that the other partner is brought up to date about what was discussed later on.
A mediator doesn’t explore a person’s feelings in any depth.The counsellor may explore feelings to the depths acceptable by both partners, so that either partner can learn something of how the other partner functions in response to their partner.
A mediator aims for clear agreement between the parties and how they will deal with specific issues.The counsellor also aims for clear agreements between the couple, except to get there the counsellor would assist the couple in helping them learn & understand how their relationship currently works; by being focussed on the couple’s relationship the parties can learn how to change behaviours to alter the relationship.
A mediator remains neutral.The counsellor also remains neural, whilst also being supportive of both individuals and the relationship.

It’s interesting to note that a mediator’s professional role appears to be a subset of a professional couple counsellor’s role and, of course, a couple may choose one approach over the other:-

Marriage counseling typically brings couples or partners together for joint therapy sessions. The pathology of the marital breakdown is explored and analyzed.

Marriage mediation is practical, agreement-oriented and detail-oriented. When a couple identifies specific areas of conflict on which to focus, they learn to use the mediation process to find points of agreement and negotiate conflict-reducing resolutions. Through the process of marriage mediation, couples will be developing and practicing cooperative, respectful, constructive ways of communicating and reaching accord.

(Citations from http://marriage-mediation.com/ sourced February 2nd, 2012).

… and as I am writing as a systemic & object-relations orientated couple counsellor, Marriage Mediation’s expression of marriage mediation is precisely a subset of the skills that I include in my professional role as a couple counsellor.

Dean Richardson’s development from Non-Counselling to Counselling Professional.

As this article’s author, it is my position that mediation skills are a subset of counselling skills (albeit both approaches have an important place on their own).  It is therefore interesting to notice my own development as a mediator/facilitator/coach towards practising as a professional couple counsellor…

I began as an IBM-trained business facilitator and coach.

Originally trained in the mid 1990s, my role as business facilitator was to attend meetings that had nothing to do with my own department/business (hence maintaining neutrality) and assist the meeting attendees to identify problem that got in the way of work issues and work through the problems to a resolution that the meeting attendees wanted. By the end of the 1990s, I took the role of head of the IBM UK Facilitator’s Network.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, IBM UK introduced the concept of coaching & mentoring.  I trained to became one of a team of business coaches; the role of the coaches was to meet with certain IBM employees, whom management had identified, to support and assist the employees in aspects of their careers.

It was these roles that began my journey into becoming a BACP accredited counsellor/psychotherapist – and it’s these skills of a counsellor – and in particular my qualification in couple counselling – that I offers to couples (platonic or intimate) who are seeking assistance with their relationship (read more about Dean’s professional qualifications & experience as a couple counsellor…).

Where is Couple Counselling for Platonic Relationships Available?

Couple counselling for platonic relationships is available from Dean Richardson as follows:-

  • Portsmouth & Southsea (Hampshire): face-to-face meetings centred on the south coast in Southsea (click for location information).
  • Skype: video camera conference meetings using three Skype devices – idea for people who are in separate places, even remote countries (click for Skype information).

 

What to do next…

If you are involved in a platonic relationship with another person, that relationship is causing distress and both you and the other party would like to work on changing the relationship, make contact with Dean Richardson today to discuss options.

Categories
Therapies

The A, B & C of Working with a new Counsellor.

When you have the opportunity to begin therapy with a counsellor, the initial meeting will bring up anxieties for many therapy-newbies.  Even experienced patients can get the heeby-jeebies before the assessment, and whilst this is probably the same social anxieties as you might experience when meeting with anyone new, the counselling assessment may be just that little more distressing.

It’s untrue that counsellors, psychotherapist and psychiatrist can read into your very soul!  At the same time, it’s particularly true that many experienced counsellors do gain the experience of being able to understand where a new client is coming from during the client’s story.  Counsellors call it empathy, and the more ethical ones of us counsellors use it to try and help you understand yourself. But, this isn’t going to be an article on how kind and amazingly helpful we, as therapists, are! 

Because of recent reports of counsellor/client imbalance (who knows – maybe it’s always been so) I’d like to give you three tips that may help you face your new therapist for the first time.  I’d like you to feel a little more empowered than you may normally do.  Introducing my A, B, C of working with a new Counsellor.

 

A is for Authenticity

[dropcap style=”font-size:52pt;color:black”]A[/dropcap] is for Authenticity.

During the first meeting with a counsellor, you’ll probably be asked a series of questions.  This isn’t always true, though.  Some therapists pride themselves in being able to work therapeutically without asking any questions at all. Amazing (even frustrating) as thatm ight be, we’ll save that discussion for another time.

So – “A” is for authenticity – meaning: be true as yourself to yourself as you can be in any of your replies to the counsellor.  The counsellor isn’t trying to trap you or catch you out.  The therapist is trying to learn about you and your story, primarily so that the therapist can judge if they are the right person to be working with you.  If you don’t know an answer, say so.  If you’d rather not answer a question, you can say you’d prefer not to answer that.  The counsellor may be curious (and hopefully respectful of your reply too) and may ask you to say a little more.  Again, if you’d prefer not to go into a subject area you can decline to do so.

An assessment should be a mutual one – you’re assessing the therapist too. Being authentic means that you will get a better experience from a counsellor who is, too, trying to be as authentic with you as possible.

 

B is for Behaviour

[dropcap style=”font-size:52pt;color:black”]B[/dropcap] is for Behaviour.

Don’t change your usual behaviour.  Or, if for reasons of social niceties you feel you do have to change your behaviour, share with the counsellor your change in behaviour and try to describe how you might normally behave.

Socially, we humans can have a whole series of different behaviours that we bring out depending on what situation we’re in.  Sometimes we’re the life of the party.  Sometimes we’re the businessman that invites new business orders.  Sometimes we’re the dad picking up his kid from school surrounded by female-conversation we feel awkward to join in with. But meeting with a counsellor is about you, the inner person, and behaving just as your true, authentic self is best.

If your behaviour is effecting your life, and it’s something you want to change as part of the therapy, then it’s useful to discuss this with your counsellor too – your counsellor may need to learn about those behaviours … and you’re the tutor

 

C is for Challenging the Counsellor

[dropcap style=”font-size:52pt;color:black”]C[/dropcap] is for Challenging the Counsellor.

You’re meeting with a counsellor, presumably, to find to help.  If the counsellor is asking questions that make you uncomfortable, or the counsellor says something that disturbs you, challenge the counsellor.  You don’t have to feel that you must comply with the counsellor because you’re feeling forced to do so.  If you’re not receiving help, you have the right to point this out.

Challenging doesn’t have to be confrontational or impolite.  It can be a simple way to show that you don’t agree with the counsellor, or that you would like the counsellor to be somewhat more clear about what he or she has just said.  if we remember that counselling is a partnership there are a vast number of studies that it is the relationship between counsellor and client that makes the difference – not what the counsellor does to you. 

So, if you feel uncomfortable about what’s been said to you, challenge the counsellor to explain more.

Addressing Client/Counsellor Imbalance.

This article has had a hidden agenda – it’s been about addressing a reported-increase in the imbalanced between the some counsellor/client relationships.

At the present time, Increased Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) at the NHS has introduced an increase of newly trained CBT counsellors.  Whilst this is a good thing, unfortunately the practice of IAPT low-level CBT intervention offered by newly-qualified IAPT therapists has, somehow, embraced the medical approach to therapy.  Doctors practice the role:  “there’s something wrong with you, and I have to cure you.”  This is leading to an unfortunate counselling-practice of “I am the counsellor, so I have to cure you.”

Studies show that counselling and psychological therapies are effective because of the relationship between the therapist and client.  The effectiveness is not because of being given instructions-to-follow in order to be cured by the counsellor.

This is not an attack on CBT.  This therapist incorporates CBT in his private practice.  I incorporate CBT from a position of collaboration and empathy between myself and my client – we’re in this shit together.  In my professional opinion, the client experiencing a newly qualified therapist’s sometimes-dominant instruction is counter-productive.  You cannot be cured of anything by being told what to do (except, perhaps, allowing for a sadistic/masochistic relationship being played out between the counsellor and client – a discussion for another articl).

This article offers you, the client, the very legitimate and very real approach that you’re a fellow in the therapy. You are not a subordinate, and I hope you won’t feel like you are when you next go to meet with a new counsellor.

A, B, C and meet your counsellor with the expectation of equality & collaboration.

Enjoy your first meeting with your new counsellor!

Categories
FAQ

I want to Change our Counselling Arrangement

From time to time the need for changes may come up whilst you’re in counselling.

For example:

  • The appointment time may become difficult for you (or your partner in couple counselling).
  • You feel that you are ready to end counselling.
  • You wish to discuss alternative therapies.
  • Your financial circumstances have changed making counselling fees difficult to manage.

All matters of change are worth having a conversation about.

Sometimes what seems to be an obvious resolution to an obvious problem (e.g. changing an appointment time) can sometimes look quite different having discussed what’s going on around the need for change.  Sometimes the need for change is unavoidable and we can discuss how we manage change in as straightforward – and safe – way as possible.

Telling your counsellor you want to make a change…

It may sound surprising, but until your counsellor knows there’s a need to make a change, he/she can’t know what changes may need to be made.

Sometimes, a client doesn’t realise this; the counsellor may have seen so insightful before that realising the counsellor needs to be told of client’s needs and desires may not be obvious.

Discussing the needs for changes within counselling – with the counsellor – is a good first step to managing change in the therapeutic relationship.