• Sonia Neale

Understanding Couples Therapy

“The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother” ~ Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America.


The opposite is also true, the best thing a woman can do for her children is to love their father. The best thing a man and women can do when communication breaks down, when there is more conflict than resolution is to seek couples counselling. As a therapist and couples counsellor I love working with couples. It is most joyous to be a part of that healing process.


However, sometimes things don’t work out, and couples separate. When that happens, my role, as I see it, is to help them split up amicably, with respect for each other as much as possible. It’s not the divorce that hurts the children so much, but how Mum and Dad communicate and respect each other. Sometimes though, the hurt goes so deep, that this cannot happen, as each partner is surviving as best they can.

My role in couples counselling is to help couples rekindle what they used to have before houses and mortgages, children and pets, and life got in the way. I ask clients “What is the problem as you see it?” A great relationship litmus test is to find out how couples and families eat the main meal of the day. I hear about couples sitting next to each other on the couch, on their phone, eating take-a-way in front of the TV, avoiding or ignoring each other. I try to get couples to talk to each other in session. Doesn’t matter what you talk about as long as you are connecting at some level with your partner. Questions I ask can be:


“What is your unique repetitive pattern of arguments and behaviour?”

“How do you resolve (or not) high conflict?”

“What attracted you to each other in the first place?”

“When did you last hold hands or kiss each other?”


I also see other types of client couples, LGBTIQA, mother/daughter, sister/sister, father/daughter etc. Therapy can help break the endless cycle of hurt and criticism, feeling dumped on, unresolved issues and avoidance.


Most couples love each other dearly, they’ve just lost the art of communication and conflict resolution. My role as a therapist is to get couples re-communicating at a level where both feel seen, heard and validated by their partners. I do help people identify the patterns of communication and conflict and see where they can make an intervention, do something differently so they have a different outcome. Usually about six to ten sessions is enough.


My greatest joy is when couples or families are able to break their pattern and express their love for each other, and leave my therapy room.

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