Choose Couple Counselling

Couple counselling isn’t about making a couple stay together. It’s about assisting the couple (re)negotiate what they need from each other & learn how their relationship’s behaviour (the “system”) has become faulty. It might be about reconciliation or separation, so the first stage will be for us to discuss what counselling could focus upon. Choosing Dean Richardson is a smart choice because his experienced role is about getting in the way… of what’s getting in the way of you resolving conflicts yourselves… plus his aim is to become redundant! Suitable for couples, marriages, civil-partnerships, engagements, LGBT-mixed and platonic / business / family relationships. You could begin couple counselling soon…

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Private Couple Counselling.

What if something as simple as curiosity… could become a powerful tool that helps a couple take their relationship towards somewhere better?

Couple Counselling with Dean Richardson, in Portsmouth, is a distinctly helpful form of “marriage counselling”…  and, as a non-religious, integrated [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.'] systemic [/tooltip] and [tooltip text='Psychodynamics is the theory and systematic study of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, especially the dynamic relations between conscious motivation and unconscious motivation.'] psychodynamic [/tooltip] process, it caters very well for most forms of two-adult couple relationships including: platonic, business, family and room-mates / sharing accommodation.

The Couple Counselling process, offered by Dean Richardson, supports you both in identifying, addressing and working-through the relationship problem(s), helping you not only to put them to rest, but also to manage new problems should they occur in the future; all without doing this alone.

NEW: Gay Couple’s Counselling Exclusively for LGBTQ+ Couples…
Whatever type of relationship you’re in: intimate, marital, civil-partnership, living together, straight, LGBT, mixed-orientation, platonic, family (brother(s), sister(s), parental/offspring etc) or business… the choice to come into relationship counselling for couples may be the most courageous one you and your partner, family-member, friend or business-partner make together.
Dean Richardson MNCS(Accredited Registrant) is a professionally qualified & experienced systemic/psychodynamic couple counsellor. He will introduce you both to, and help you through, the couple counselling process.  You will be able to judge if it’s a suitable form of couple therapy for your relationship quickly & you only participate for as long as it helps.

Bonus Article: “How a Couple Counsellor Thinks” (Circular Questioning in Family Relationships).

Is Couple Counselling for you?

Do any of these situations seem familiar?

  • A sense that the reasons for staying in the relationship have become lost (to one or both of you).
  • Repeating patterns of unhappy behaviour that neither of you can shift.
  • Reconciliation seems to bring up problems, rather than resolve them.
  • You hardly talk to each other any more – and/or – when you do it sets off arguments.
  • You want to… and your partner doesn’t…
  • Sexual problems: physical or emotional.
  • Intimacy problems (as opposed to / or related to sexual problems).
  • Violence or abuse in the relationship (ranging from feeling bullied to physical and emotional abuse).
  • One of you, or both of you, have acted outside the relationship’s understanding (e.g. an affair, going against open-relationship agreement, social behaviour etc).
  • Relationship experimentation (Open relationships, sexual practices etc) not going well.

What Makes Dean Richardson’s Approach to Couple Counselling Distinct?

  • Dean's primary client is the couple's relationship (not the two individuals in the relationship). Inexperienced counsellors - or those untrained in relationship work - miss this important aspect when trying to work with a couple.
  • Dean's primary aim is to become redundant: the couple can end their counselling work without thinking that they've become dependant on a counsellor; nor feeling they will have to come back for 'top up' sessions in the future.
  • The couple stay only for as long as it's helping: meaning they might come to counselling for just a handful of sessions, or may choose to stay longer, until the couple can work on their relationship's needs on their own (again). Dean does not set a compulsory minimum (or maximum) period.
  • The couple work with just the one therapist: and Dean practices "neutrality" which means both members of the couple will be understood by a single therapist (no risk of multiple interpretations by multiple therapists in the room). Plus… the common factors that are underlying the couple's relationship problems can be understood and communicated back to them by a single couple counsellor as a single, consistent, understandable whole.
  • Dean does not solve the couple's current relationship problems.  Dean is not a "Relationship Expert", doesn't promote his services as being so, and doesn't claim to have solutions and answers for the coupleInstead, Dean focuses on assisting the couple to learn and understand their own problems so that they can address and resolve matters using their own solutions.
  • The couple develop their own unique approach that can be helpful for years to come. Looking at the relationship's problems as if they are a symptom of a system that has become faulty (say, like a washing machine that works until it comes time to rinse). Understanding… and then amending… the relationship's behavioural-system can help the couple understand what's at the centre of their problems. With understanding, the couple can learn to manage & resolve not only current problems… but future ones too… for themselves.
  • Dean involves & immerses the couple in the counselling, rather than operating as a pseudo-advice-giving consultant with-all-the-answers.
  • Dean's couple counselling approach integrates effective systemic and psychodynamic approaches. Rather than using whatever is the latest fad in therapy, Dean successfully applies methods that have been tried and tested for a long time (30+ years: systemic, 100+ years: psychodynamic). This helps the couple (through curiosity, hypothesising & modelling) learn what's happening in their relationship and then helps them develop their own 'fault' resolving strategies.
  • Unlike some couple therapists who respond to questions with 'answers' (whether such generic answers can actually apply to the couple's specific relationship), Dean empowers the couple into being able to answer their own questions by understanding & resolving their own relationship-conflicts. This helps the couple become independent of the counsellor.
  • Boundaries are important: the session is contained within 50 (or 90, optional) minutes, weekly, in a safe room, with the same counsellor. For example, the couple always knows that they can open up (difficult) topics but not fear getting swept up into long arguments… because the session's end time is set.
  • Future "top-up" sessions become unnecessary: the couple ends counselling when they don't need the counsellor any longer. Dean doesn't "fix" the relationship for the couple, he assists the couple in learning how to fix their own relationship problems together. Added bonus: the couple uses the same techniques to manage future difficulties.  Once the couple feel that they are more capable at addressing their relationship problems together, they can begin to bring couple counselling to a close without having to come back for "top-up" sessions (as if they'd somehow run out!).

About Dean Richardson – Registered Member MNCS(Accredited Registrant).

  • Practising since 1999.
  • Fully qualified & accredited by the National Counselling Society.
  • Diploma in Psychodynamic individuals’ counselling (2003), Postgrad Diploma in Systemic/Psychodynamic couple counselling (2009).
  • Integrates a Cognitive Behavioural Approach (CBA) where helpful.
  • Actively participates in Continual Professional Development (30 hours minimum annually).

Read more…

How Couple Counselling helps.

Sometimes couples can find their relationship behaviour has gotten stuck in unsatisfactory or unhappy patterns.  Couples who cannot get themselves out of these patterns may find psychodynamic & systemic couples counselling suitable in helping perturb the patterns.

It’s a common misunderstanding when people think that couple counselling is aimed at making couples stay together.  The couple counsellor actually follows what the couple both wish from their counselling; meaning that if the couple wish to work to stay together then the counselling will assist the couple in figuring out how this may be achieved.  Alternatively, if the couple wishes to separate then the couple counselling will support the couple in figuring out how best they may separate. A couple who is undecided / in disagreement can use the couple counselling process to assist them in figuring out a compromise of what they both might wish to do.

Surprisingly, the couple do not have to know how they’ll achieve what they want to change in their relationship.  Very often the couple think that they’ve tried everything to resolve their problems.  The couple counsellor has the skills to help the couple work through problems in their relationship using curiosity, hypothesising, inspiration & creative-thinking.

Counselling for Platonic Relationships.

Because Dean’s approach to couple counselling focuses on the relationship of the couple, rather than offering counselling to two individuals, couple counselling works well with platonic relationships too. The kinds of relationships that couple counselling can assist include:- [one_third]

  • Business partnerships.
  • Work colleagues.


  • Neighbours.
  • Room-mates / sharing accommodation.


  • Family relationships.
  • Members of a poly-amorous group.


Trust your Partnership with Dean Richardson.

It's common to think (or hope!) that the couple counsellor is going to prescribe - or provide advice upon - techniques and resolutions that will cure your relationship's problems.

However, as a systemic / psychodynamic couple counsellor, Dean Richardson has a much more effective resource than advice-giving: your own relationship's behaviour!

You see, because Dean doesn't prescribe normal ways of relating ("… what a normal couple would do is…") Dean uses his training and experience in psychology & family systems theories, combined with his observations of (and your telling of) the way the two of you relate together,  in order to help the three of you learn what might really going on underneath the conflicting behaviour.

The more that the three participants (yes, both of you too!) ask about how the relationship is working/not-working, and question & hypothesise about what we think it might be happening, the more that can be learned about what the relationship's system is really asking for (but, perhaps, not being heard… hence the conflicts).

When we know more about what the relationship is asking for, we can put in checks, measures, alterations and respond to the conflicts … instead of the relationship remaining stuck.

It's not always easy work in the beginning, but Dean has worked with many couples who have found that they have begun to enjoy the process, have made effective use of it, and sometimes even fallen about laughing when they've learned something new about their partnership.

The bad news is that there's really only two people who can fix your relationship - and that's the both of you.  But the good news is that it's Dean Richardson's role to get in the way… of whatever is getting in the way… of the both of you resolving your own relationship conflicts.

…and he does that very well.

What’s Involved in Couple Counselling.

[one_third] [testimonial company=”Jones & Asen, 2000″]…the therapist does not impose normative (or other) views about couple functioning in general, nor about the specific solutions that might be acceptable to this couple in particular. Instead the therapist maintains a stance of open-minded curiosity […] which leads to an exploration with the couple of the history and meanings of their current situation and of their previous attempted solutions and impasses.[/testimonial][/one_third] Initially, the couple meet with Dean Richardson for an assessment for couples counselling.  This usually takes four sessions:-

  • Session 1: all three of us meet to discuss an overview of what is needed from counselling.
  • Session 2: one partner meets with Dean separately.  This is to discuss their perspective on the couple relationship, and to discuss some personal history.
  • Session 3: the other partner meets with Dean separately as in session 2.
  • Session 4: all three of us meet again to discuss what we have learned in the previous sessions, and to begin to set a focus about what the relationship counselling should address.

Subsequent sessions are lead by the couple, with the therapist offering observations and therapeutic hypotheses on the relationship to help both partners learn what might be going on.  With new information the couple can make informed choices. A main intention is to help disturb the  relationship’s unhappy behaviour patterns by being curious and interested on the relationship system (what the relationship is doing), learning & finding new information and allowing inspiration to address what we are learning plus being creative with solutions that the couple will come up with themselves. The process encourages more space for thought and inspiration – allowing the couple’s relationship to become unstuck again.

Couple Counselling simultaneously with Individual Counselling.

Whilst it is not recommended that an individual be in therapy with multiple-therapists at the same time, a couple may be in couple counselling at the same time that one or both partners are in individual counselling.The main reason why this is acceptable is because systemic/psychodynamic couple counselling focusses upon the couple's relationship whereas individual therapy focuses on the individual.There is one important boundary, though, and that is the individuals must be in individual therapy with a therapist who is not the couple's therapist.  The couple's therapist will have no contact with the individual therapists (the relationship work remains protected) and whilst the individual(s) may speak about the couple therapy in their own therapy, they can only ever present their unique point of view (not their partner's), so the individual therapy remains focussed on the individual.Any matters effecting an individual that are brought out within the couple work can be looked at by the individual in their own counselling.

Individual Counselling within Couple Counselling.

Assuming that both partners are not in individual therapy, it is not unusual for couple work to focus upon an individual from time to time. This is a unique form of individual work because the individual's partner will be present for all the sessions (who may comment or listen through the session).This is individual counselling in the context of the couple's relationship, is often an important intervention during couple work, and is not offered as a substitute for individual counselling.

Responsibilities in Couple Counselling.

What is expected of the Therapist?

  • Ensuring the safety of both the therapist and couple (eg a quiet, confidential room that will not be disturbed, that the session time begins and ends on time).
  • To take an ethical stance on all matters, to follow the BACP's Ethical Framework, and to ensure his best practice for the client at all times.
  • To ensure that the couple can discuss their relationship in safety - albeit not necessarily always in comfort (i.e. discussing subjects that the couple have not discussed in front of each other before can be uncomfortable to begin with) - but ensuring the couple can stop at any time they wish to.
  • To listen without communicating judgement or prejudice and to not take sides with one partner or the other (the relationship is the therapist's client, rather the two individuals).
  • To assist the couple in perturbing the conflicting relationship patterns through use of curiosity, new knowledge, and a disturbance of current unsatisfactory behaviours ... initially on his own but being active in inviting the couple to participate at their own comfort level,
  • To try and use the couple's own language to discuss matters where possible (e.g. if one partner doesn't speak in 'emotions' and the other does, to assist the relationship in negotiating a common-enough language so that what is being spoken of can be understood).
  • To recognise and work with social, sexual, ability and cultural differences (that the therapist is not giving advice from his position ("What I would do is..."), but is being effective in helping the couple find their own resolutions and/or management of problems).
  • To not meet with one partner without the express knowledge and permission of the other partner - and to not engage in individual therapy with either partner whilst the couple's therapy contract with the therapist is in effect.
  • To be earnest on assisting the couple out of therapy either when they are ready to leave, or by helping them recognise that what they initially came into address has been so addressed (i.e. not keeping a couple in therapy beyond a legitimate need & not ousting a couple before they are ready to leave).

What is expected of the Couple?

  • Initially, the couple needs simply to being willing to give the therapy a try - even if sceptical or unsure of the therapist's approach.
  • To be aware that couple counselling cannot help with a conflicting agenda, but if the couple wish the counselling can help the couple negotiate a mutual agenda for the therapy.
  • To bear in mind that couple counselling is not done to them as a couple, that they will not be cured by the therapist's approach alone. They are both active participants in the therapy (albeit this may not be possible at the start - and sometimes not during - due to emotional states).
  • To be willing to embrace the idea that they will be invited to be creative & inspired towards other approaches in their relationships and to open to hypothesise about what's happening in their relationship ... and that the therapist will assist them in this process until they can do it alone.
  • To ensuring that they tell the truth in all matters but also to be aware that either partner can decline to discuss anything uncomfortable.
  • To take responsibility for bringing up concerns or dissatisfaction about the therapist with the therapist (e.g. the therapist's conduct, something he said, something he does etc.). All therapists appreciate that this may take courage ... but as the therapist has the best of intentions, and whilst his experience may often tip him off to the couple being disturbed by something he does or says, he may not always be aware of any deep or hidden irritation.
  • When the couple agree an exercise between sessions is appropriate, to be willing to find the time to address the exercise, or be willing to discuss matters if the exercise was not completed (or, say, not completed to the couple's satisfaction).
  • Be willing to bring up ending counselling when the couple feels that time is approaching.

Care when unbalancing relationships.

[one_third] [testimonial company=”Unknown”]…the thing that’s driving you crazy might be the thing that’s keeping your partner sane.[/testimonial][/one_third] Systemic couple relationship counselling consists of – amongst other things – perturbing the unsatisfactory relationship system sufficiently to allow for knew knowledge, inspiration and change. However, the system that the couple brings to therapy is the one that the couple have created themselves. They may not be aware of their involvement in the creation, or why. The way the relationship is working is doing so for very good reasons, even though the couple may not be aware of their own involvement. Sometimes, couples don’t communicate for very good reasons.  Their non-communication can have purpose – whether it may be to protect the relationship, protect feelings, or is a way of avoiding further conflict.  When couple therapy begins to stick its nose into the relationship, more unhappiness can be brought out than before the therapy began.  The couple’s relationship can feel worse before it can feel better.

Why Separating Relationships use Counselling to Break-Up.

During the initial years, a couple’s relationship will go through a process of joining and blending.  When one partner decides that they wish to leave the relationship, the separation can be experienced as terribly painful. The relationship may have introduced assets – children, pets, possessions, property; the couple will have to decide how to manage the division of what the relationship has created. In relationship counselling, the couple can find a safe, secure place in which to discuss how the relationship divides the assets, and discuss the responsibilities of managing children and pets.

Does Couple Counselling Work?

An important question for many couples will be: “Will couple counselling work for us?” I’m writing from the perspectives of the ‘systemic’ & ‘psychodynamic’ theoretical frameworks of couple counselling:  a relationship gets into trouble because of what both partners are both contributing to the relationship’s conflicts (contributing unconsciously… as well as consciously).  Whilst it may seem that just one partner is doing all the trouble-making, I would also suggest to the both of you that it takes two partners’ combined-behaviour to bring a relationship onto conflict. There has to be reasons for the conflict to occur … even if those reasons are not understood, or the couple is not even aware of them. Couple counselling aims to help the partners perturb the conflict.  Initially the couple counsellor will take the role of actively getting in the way of the stuff going wrong, and later the couple can begin to take on this role.  The purpose of getting in the way is so that the couple can stop to become curious and interested in the ‘going wrong process’ so that they can (eventually) introduce stuff to go right. This can have an important consequence: whatever the reasons for the conflict being introduced… will also be effected by the conflict being removed.

The thing that’s driving you crazy, may be the thing that keeps your partner sane.

Couple counselling can be a respectful – even friendly – process.

I don’t want to give the impression that the therapist will wield a huge blade, cutting away conflicts and disturbances.  Counselling is not surgery.  The couple are being helped by the therapist to – metaphorically – diagnose where the injuries lay and are being helped to discover for themselves treatment that the couple believe may help treat the injuries.

From the therapist’s position, he is actively learning about how the relationship works (even when it is unhappy) to help the couple discover matters which they are blind to (or cannot talk about to each other).  With the couple’s position, he may actively assist in perturbing the conflicts too.

Seriously – does it work?

If you and your partner believe you may have the courage and a strong desire to address the problems that are contributing to the relationship’s conflicts… if both of you are prepared to face the consequences of what undoing-unhappy-behaviour may reveal… if you both might be able to support each other during the counselling, and both of you can contribute (or at least try to contribute) curiosity to lead towards new ideas & inspiration for changing relationship behaviour… then yes, couple counselling can work wellregardless of the couple wanting to reconcile or separate. If, however, the couple are looking for some third-party to fix them, or the couple’s behaviour may (unknown to them) be protecting matters that cannot be addressed (at least, cannot be addressed yet…), or you and your partner are not very interested in discovering newer ways to relate and a desire to address the unhappy behaviours (and some relationships manage just fine in this way)… then couple counselling with Dean Richardson may not be for you both.  In which case, individual counselling might be of help instead. It’s perfectly legitimate to begin couple counselling without knowing if it will be successful or not.  The process is an investment in your relationship, and like any investment: what you get back may be more – or less – than you had hoped for.  But, unlike investing in a third-party process (like stocks and shares) you’re investing in your relationship… something that you and your partner have an influence upon … and by involving an experienced couple counsellor, you will not be doing this alone.

What Couple Counselling is not suitable for.

Long Distance Relationships.

Couples who are separated by distance – but who still need relationship counselling – may find Dean Richardson’s Skype Relationship Counselling Service useful (read more…)

  • A couple who are seeking to be fixed – and have little interest in working the problems themselves.
  • A couple who have separate mutually-exclusive agendas cannot be helped by this process (albeit the couple may wish to discuss their separate agendas with a view to finding a common goal).
  • Families – relationship counselling is not family therapy (ie groups of more than two people).
  • Adults who wish someone to change their partner to their satisfaction.  Couple counselling is a mutual process that will involve both partners.
  • Domestic Violence – excepting if both couples wish to change the violent relationship.
  • One partner coming to help the other / has nothing to contribute to the work – relationship counselling involves both partners.
  • One partner was not informed about the other partner’s desire to come to relationship counselling – both partners have to wish to take part in the process.

What do to now…

If both of you are interested in experiencing couples counselling (systemic/psychodynamic model) with Dean Richardson in Portsmouth or online via Video Counselling, make a no-obligation one-off appointment to see how well a single session of couple counselling can work for you both.

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Other sites of interest: Counselling via Skype, Online Zoom Counselling, Havant Counselling & Counselling for LGBT Couples