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Oct 2014 by PCI College

Effective Interventions to Guide Couples

Mary O'Loughlin, Programme Leader of the Professional Certificate in Couples Counselling highlights the need for therapists to understand key factors in counselling couples, and the skills required to counsel relationships rather than individuals.

As therapists why are we afraid to take on couples or families in our practice?  Is it due to our own inexperience or do we feel threatened in some way?  If a gay couple asked you to take them for therapy would you say No or feel unsure? Are you comfortable talking about sexuality?

If the answer to the above questions is that you would not be comfortable in these circumstances then the forthcoming Couples Counselling CPD Certificate is for you.  In Couples Counselling we work with the relationship and psycho-educate the couple as to how they can improve their communication and interactions.  It is important that as a therapist, we are effective in helping our clients understand family systems and how they operate.  We are all part of a family and are sexual beings so whether you are an 'old pro' or an amateur in the field you will find the upcoming Couples Counselling Certificate will have something to offer in the area of skills and techniques.  The learning will be experiential as well as theory based.

There is a real need for interpersonal skills to understand and resolve the differences between parties.  Tolerance, understanding, negotiating skills and the ability to resolve conflicts are all important.  To be able to remain part of a couple rather than thinking of oneself as an individual who happens to be in a relationship is key.  The foundations of a good relationship are mutual attraction, clear communication, emotional understanding, clear boundaries, negotiation and compromise, commitment to each other and both parties compatible with intimacy, both sexual and other.
Family of origin factors contribute in a very significant way as to how a couple interact.  There is often a similarity between the partner one chooses and the parent of the opposite sex. The psychoanalytic view is that there is a kind of unconscious drive in everybody of the sort of partner they would like to have, based on their experiences from parents. Many difficulties in relationships come from the expectations that the partners come with.  For example, if one person's experience was that her father was a good DIY man and if her partner is not any good in this area it may cause tension and frustration for her because her expectations are not being met.
Factors such as being realistic and working through problems from the beginning; communication, tolerance and compromise are vital to sustaining long term relationships.  Encouragement, understanding, and acknowledgement cannot be underestimated.  Communication can, of course, be non-verbal and body language is a vital part of this process.
Many couples are shy about talking about their sexual feelings and it is important that the therapist is as open as possible in discussing sexual issues while at the same time respecting a partner's sensitivities.  Many sexual difficulties arise from poor communication and lack of trust within the partnership and it is important that such issues are teased out.  Good effective interventions on the part of the therapist are vital and will help to guide the couple through their difficulties with tenderness.

Mary O’Loughlin (MIACP)
PCI College Lecturer & Programme Leader, Professional Certificate in Couples Counselling

The next Professional Certificate in Couples Counselling begins on Saturday 8th November at PCI College, Dublin West. You can book your place now by clicking here.

About Mary O'Loughlin:
Mary holds an Honours Degree in Counselling & Psychotherapy from Middlesex University. She also has an Advanced Certificate in CBT and specialises in Couples Counselling having extensive experience in this area. She has been tutoring in PCI college since 2006 and has specialist training in the areas of sexuality and family therapy.  Mary is also a Couples Counsellor and Supervisor with Accord and a Counsellor with the Rape Crisis Centre. Mary has completed Modules at Masters Level in DCU on Sexuality and Psychodynamics. She is also a Qualified Mediator with Friary Law, Dublin.


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