Every relationship requires work, and often face challenges of various sizes. Everyday stressors can put strain on a romantic relationship, whether it affects the couple as a unit or one of the individual partners. This can include a chronic illness, communication issues, polar opposite political views, or anything in between. Relationship difficulties can also stem from parenting or severe stressors like infidelity.
When going into psychotherapy, it’s important to know that a counsellor is unlikely to take one side over the other or even recommend that a couple end their relationship. A trained psychotherapist will help partners communicate their needs with each other, express thoughts and emotions more clearly, and improve listening skills that help them see their partner’s point of view.
Depending on the specific issues that each couple faces, your psychotherapist might use a variety of different techniques and tools. This often begins with a series of questions and difficult discussions that focus on personal histories, your story as a couple, and the current state of your relationship.
This is meant to facilitate meaningful discussions, while focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship. Couples might be asked to reflect on shared qualities, such as hobbies, strengths in the relationship, and common goals. It also provides an opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses as a couple and find out whether they are on the same page with both long-term and short-term goals.
Couples will also learn about techniques and behaviors that they should be doing at home in order to improve their relationship. These cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques are meant to identify negative thought patterns and behaviors that impact the relationship, and replace them with more positive responses. This can include taking time to cool down during an argument, considering the other person’s point of view and intentions, and apologizing when needed.
For many couples, a major focus during these sessions is active listening. This practice gives partners their full attention, instead of planning your response. Many relationship problems occur when couples are not communicating effectively or enough. By learning how to listen deeply, partners learn how to show appreciation, identify relationship problems before they flare up, and encourage the sharing of emotions.
As one of Canada’s top 10 best psychotherapists, Melissa Cutler has spent the past 20 years gaining clinical and research experience across hospital, community, and public sector settings, including as a social worker. With advanced training in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), trauma counselling and chronic pain management, she helps clients navigate rough patches in their relationship and emerge stronger and more connected.
Book online for a psychotherapy appointment at her office on Yonge and Lawrence near the subway.