In a country where approaching a psychiatrist/psychologist brings with it all kinds of taboos, fears and the unknown stigmas, reaching out to a family therapist by a couple simply can be a big uphill task. Most often the couple would prefer suffering in silence in their day to day disagreement and dispute rather than approach a professional family therapist. Approaching a therapist is often looked at as a step to lodging complaint against the partner. Couples shy off from reaching for the professional help because they do not want to disclose the problems they are having in their marriage to the family for one simple reason,”What would the people say “.
Let’s understand when do you need to approach a therapist and what process would couple therapy involve.
When you feel your communication with the spouse ends up into irritation and leads to the stomping of feet and rushing out of even a normal discussion quite regularly, the time to reflect is now.
When you feel your love has vanished and your acceptance of each other has been going down day by day, you need to be in touch with a family counselor.
When you carry strong resentment towards your partner on any account ,you should know,it is time to explore a session with a good family therapist.
When you feel you or your spouse has been losing interest in all kinds of spousal activities ,it is time to get a professional help to explore, understand, reflect and reconcile the challenges to your marriage .
Professional help can be available from an approved professionally qualified family therapist and not the usual agony aunts writing columns or providing readymade prescription to all problems.A good qualified professional family therapist necessarily should hold recognised postgraduate qualifications in family therapy in addition to a post graduate degree in psychology. The therapist should have a good standing in dealing with family therapy and counseling.
When you decide to eventually consult such a therapist you can be assured of total privacy and confidentiality of any discussion with the therapist.The professional code of privacy and confidentiality is absolutely sacrosanct for every therapist ,belying the fears “,What will people say”.
Let us now understand ,what would the therapy involve.
Usually the first session begins with the introductory process wherein the therapist is keen to understand as to what kind of issues,problems and disputes have been occurring in your family life and /or marriage.
The session involves knowing about your family history, the systems and the units of inner family circles within the family ,the communication system in your family and the power systems of the family.
The therapist is keen to understand the reasons for your contacting him/her i.e. the problems you are facing as a couple.How long has the problem been occurring and whether you have been consulting any other counselor earlier,if so what has been the impact of such counseling.
The therapist in this session evaluates the relationship the couple shares only on peripheral level as the depth of understanding and the misunderstanding would be assessed only in subsequent sessions and that too with a complete unbiased mind .It is not the task of the therapist to judge you,nor does the therapist acts as a complaint centre. The major task of the therapist is to understand the underlying emotional upheaval prevailing within the relationship of couple ,or amongst all other members of the family .
Though the families of the spouses or / and the spouses obviously look towards the family therapist as the complaint lodging centre ,but that definitely is an absolute misunderstanding of the process of family counseling .The therapist lends an unbiased ear and attention to every dispute,difference of opinion and misplaced emotions. The therapist is not a judge but a facilitator for bringing about better understanding of the misplaced emotions and feelings amongst the family members . It generally happens that the therapist is looked at as the mediator of the disputes by the family members,but mediation definitely has never been the scope of any family or couple counseling.
The therapist would also try to learn from you ,your career graph if working or in own business,the money position,the spending habits,financial interests if any and of course about the extended family members’ financial interests if any in connection with your finances.
Then again sometimes either of the spouses who has contacted the therapist,expects by default that the therapist would align with her or him ,but a true professional therapist approaches the counseling without any kind of preset mindset.The main task of the family therapist is to understand the tensions ,stresses and hindrances prevailing within the marital /family relationships and evolve better perception of the problems prevailing between the marital partners and other family members.
The couple issues could relate to any of the following:
Relationship of either spouse with in laws and other family members.
Household responsibility and commitments of members in honouring their responsibility.
Daily chores and spousal attitude towards sharing the chores.
Relationship of the spouses within and outside marital boundaries .
Marital compatibility of thoughts and emotions.
Sexual adjustments and acceptance.
Sexual orientation and attitudes towards partners.
Parenting plans ,children and parenting issues.
Communication pattern between the couple and the problems being faced in the communication.
Setting up priorities for the marriage and providing needed priority,time and space to each other in the marriage.
Modern couples also look for personal space in marriage as otherwise the relationship often gets suffocated with too much closeness .
Having understood all that has been delineated above, the therapist has to understand personalities of both the spouses ,the acceptance level or non acceptance levels of each others habits ,attitudes,opinions and daily functioning.
In fact a good therapist will help the couple evolve a new outlook and perception of their respective relationship provided ,the partners have the patience to continue with the sessions conducted over a long period of time varying from three to six months .the session may be conducted once or twice a week depending on the convenience and availability of both the spouses.
Though initially every session appears to be an exercise in raising grievances by the couple against each the other . The therapist’s intervention helps the partners read positive and negative cues of each others emotions in the right perspective and the couple soon moves from the warring zone to the negotiation levels. The negotiation is often done by the aggrieved partner to secure future as assurances and promises .The understanding levels though still remain far fetched and many more sessions will be needed to gradually establish a trusting common bond ,wherein an acceptance of each other is re-established amongst the family.