Couple Counselling for Gay & Lesbian Couples.
What if something as simple as curiosity… could become a powerful tool that helps a couple take their relationship towards somewhere better?
Adult lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and mixed-orientation couples – whether in equal-marriage, civil-partnership or not – may seek counselling from an LGBT-specialist couple counsellor for several reasons.
- Primarily: the counsellor must have specific qualifications & experience in counselling couples (qualifications in standard/individual counselling, for example, do not cover the distinct needs of therapy for couple relationships).
- Secondly: an LGBT couple must feel assured that the counsellor understands, has experience with the psychology of, and practices counselling in a way that empathises with the unique needs of an LGBT couple: socially & sexually.
STOP PRESS: New website dedicated to LGBT Couples in Counselling in Havant, Hampshire – https://LGBTCoupleCounselling.co.uk/
Dean Richardson MNCS(Accredited Registrant) would be your choice as a professionally qualified, experienced, lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans* 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.
These are some of the main qualities that LGBT couples seek from an understanding LGBT Couple Counsellor… qualities not always available in a general- or inexperienced/in-training counsellor who’s primarly qualifications are not couple counselling, or from a couple counsellor who is inexperienced with the relationship needs of gay, lesbian or mixed-orientation couples.
Couple Counselling with Dean Richardson is 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.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_therapy'] systemic [/tooltip] / [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.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychodynamics'] psychodynamic [/tooltip] form of relationship therapy – ideal for gay, lesbian and mixed-orientation couples who wish to learn how to resolve their own conflicts.
Is LGBT 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 … or shift for very long.
- Attempts to reconcile after a breakup keep failing (old problems keep bring brought up).
- You don’t talk any longer… or when you do it seems to lead to arguments.
- You seem to relate like brothers/sisters now, instead of lovers like you used to.
- You want to… and your partner doesn’t… (or doesn’t want to any longer).
- Sexual problems: physical or emotional.
- Intimacy problems (which can be different from – 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 (eg an affair, behaviour outside of an open-relationship agreement, social behaviour etc).
- Experimentation in BDSM, S&M, Open Relationships not going to plan… or have brought up difficulties that the couple cannot manage on their own.
What Makes Dean Richardson’s LGBT Couple Counselling Methods Distinct?[custom_list]
- Dean's primary client is the couple's relationship (not two individual people in the relationship). Inexperienced counsellors miss this important aspect.
- 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.
- Dean doesn't simply re-employ "heteronormative" couple counselling methods: this is couple counselling that specifically caters for unique needs of lesbian & gay intimate couple relationships.
- Dean does not solve the couple's current relationship problems. Instead, Dean concentrates on assisting the couple learn & understand their current problems in the context of the problems being a symptom of a system (one with faults and triggers). Understanding… and then amending… the system can help the couple manage & resolve not only current problems… but future ones too… by 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 they may-or-may-not apply to the couple's 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 a therapist for solutions.
- 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.
Trusting an LGBT 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.[iC_SideComment type='right' style='clear:none']Read Why Some Couple Counsellors aren't actually qualified… and then consider Dean Richardson.[/iC_SideComment]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.
Why choose Dean Richardson for LGBT Couple Counselling?
A significant number of LGBT couples in Hampshire, (Portsmouth) and on Skype video choose to work with Dean Richardson as a Specialist LGBT Couple Counsellor for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & mixed-orientation/mixed-gender relationships-in-distress.
Dean Richardson’s Qualities as a Professional LGBT Therapist.
- Practising since 1999.
- Fully qualified therapist plus post-grad Diploma in Systemic/Psychodynamic Couple Counselling (2009).
- Accredited member of the National Counselling Society
- NCS Registered Counsellor/Psychotherapist.
- Studies LGBT couple counselling with gay & lesbian relationships & therapeutic approaches as a speciality.
What do we mean by “LGBT Couple”?
An LGBT couple is one where two people are involved in an intimate relationship, which has some definable exclusivity (regardless of there being an open-relationship or polyamourism), who are either of the same gender & sexual orientation (e.g. a gay male couple, a lesbian female couple etc) or who are of mixed sexual orientation and/or gender (such as a straight cis-female & a gay male; a transgendered male-to-female women and a straight male etc.) and all other combinations of gender and sexuality.
Civil Partnership / Equal Marriage
Civil partnerships were granted under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (UK) and Equal Marriage became legal on 29th March 2014.
Sometimes the formality of civil partnerships or equal marriage have unpredicted effect on an LGBT partnership.
This is where meeting with Dean Richardson can help a gay or lesbian couple determine what they want to do to change – or bring to an end – about their relationship.
How LGBT Couple Counselling can help.
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 shift the “unstuckedness”.
It’s a common misunderstanding when people think that couple counselling is aimed at making couples stay together. Instead, the couple counsellor actually follows what the couple wish from their relationship therapy; meaning that if the couple wish to work to stay together then the counselling will help the couple to figure that out how that gets done. Conversely, if the couple wishes to separate then counselling will help the couple to figure out how they want separate. A couple who is undecided or in disagreement can use the couple counselling process to assist them in figuring out a compromise on what they both want from their relationship.
The couple doesn’t have to know how they’ll achieve what they want from their relationship. Often, the couple believe that they’ve tried everything (and failed).
The couple counsellor has the skills to help a couple-in-conflict become unstuck.
What’s Involved in LGBT 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 couple counselling should address.
Subsequent sessions are lead primarily by the couple, with the therapist offering observations and therapeutic-hypotheses on the relationship to help both partners learn what might be going on. By gaining new information, the couple can make new informed choices and make changes to their behaviour.
A main intention is to help unbalance 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 Couples 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 Therapeutically-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.
Separating Couples can use Counselling too.
Couple Counselling isn’t about making sure a couple stay together. It’s about helping the couple figure out what they want, then providing therapeutic support to help it happen. During the initial years, a couple’s relationship will go through a process of joining and blending. So, when partners decides that they wish to leave the relationship, the separation can be experienced as terribly painful – and therapeutic support can be helpful.
The couple may have built up “assets” over the years: children, pets, possessions, property; the couple will have to decide how to manage the division of what the relationship has created.
In couple 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 LGBT Couple Counselling Work?
An important question might be: “Will couple counselling work us?”
Thinking from a systemic & psychodynamic point of view: a relationship gets into trouble because of what the partners are both contributing to the relationship-conflicts. It may seem that just one partner is doing all the trouble-making, but I would suggest that it takes both partners’ combined behaviour (whether conscious or unconscious) to keep conflicts alive … you throw, your partner catches.
There has to be reasons for the conflict to occur – even if the reasons are not understood.
Couple counselling aims to help the partners perturb the conflict (actively get on the way of stuff going wrong, so that they can introduce stuff going right). This can have an important consequence: whatever the reasons for the conflict being introduced will also be effected by the conflict being removed.
[one_half] [box type=’iCBox’]
The thing that’s driving you crazy, may be the thing that keeps your partner sane.
Couple counselling can be a friendly, socially-respectful process. I don’t want to give the impression that the therapist will wield a huge blade, cutting away conflicts and disturbances. This is not surgery.
At the same time, 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.
[/box][/one_half] [one_half_last][box type=’iCBox’]
No, Seriously – does it work?
If you and your partner believe you may have the courage and a strong desire to address the problems that undoing the unhappy behaviour may reveal… if you and your partner might be able to support each other during the therapy, and both of you can contribute (or try, and then get used to contributing) new ideas & inspiration for changing relationship behaviours… then yes, couple counselling works well – regardless of the couple wanting to reconcile or separate.
If, however, the relationship behaviours may 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 may not be for you together. In which case, individual counselling might be of help.
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 (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 are not doing this alone.
What LGBT Couple Counselling isn’t suitable for.
Long Distance Relationships.
[iC_Thumbnail id=4404 width=52 height=52] [/iC_Thumbnail]LGBT couples who are separated by distance but who still need couple counselling, or are a long distance from Dean Richardson’s Portsmouth consulting rooms, may find Dean’s Skype LGBT Couple Counselling service useful (read more…)[/box]
- The couple do not identify themselves as LGBT – thus this form of therapy is not required.
- 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 – couple 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 – unless both couples wish to change the violent relationship.
- One partner coming to help the other / has nothing to contribute to the work – couple counselling involves both partners.
- One partner was not informed about the other partner’s desire to come to couple counselling – both partners have to wish to take part in the process.
What do to now…
If both you and your partner are interested in LGBT couples counselling, contact Dean Richardson to make an initial appointment and we’ll have a conversation about options.