I am passionate about working with couples. Couple therapy is very dynamic, with small changes in either/both individuals often having a profound effect on the relationship. I practice Psychoanalytic Couple Therapy. I am an accredited and active member of the Association of Couple Psychoanalytic Therapists (ACPP).
I find Psychoanalytic couple therapy effective in that it offers the emotional space to process difficult feelings, the thinking space to generate an understanding of the why these feelings emerge in this relationship and the potential for destructive patterns of relating to change.
By providing a calm, holding space where the overwhelming feelings generated by the relationship can be felt with less destructive consequences, the therapy can be soothing and allow for a positive experience of the relationship, even if just for a moment. Psychoanalytic couple therapy also offers the opportunity to think about the relationship. A curiosity about what is happening between you and your partner, along with interpretations of your couple dynamic by the therapist, offers the possibility of viewing things from each other’s perspective and of realising how your own personal history impacts on your experience of your partner. The following fictitious example of this process will help to illustrate the above:
Angela and Michael are very unhappy. What emerges in the early sessions is that Michael was attracted to Angela because she was very driven and independent. His parents had a poor marital relationship, with his father always working and his mother needy, insecure and financially dependent. Michael struggled to see his mother getting hurt in the relationship. He also felt dismissed by his father, who was always too preoccupied to take an interest in him. Michael was delighted to choose a partner who was not as vulnerable and they were initially very happy. However, since Angela has been promoted to the job she has dreamt of, he has begun to experience Angela as rejecting and unloving. Angela feels Michael is demeaning and critical.
In the calmness of the therapeutic space and with the help of the therapist’s interpretations, Michael and Angela begin to realise that Michael’s experience of Angela is similar to how he imagines his mother experienced his father. Indeed, it reminds him of how his father made him feel. Similarly it emerges that Angela is driven in part because she comes from a very critical home. Michael is able to reveal that his criticisms aren’t heartfelt, rather that this is the only way he feels he can get a response from her. In witnessing Angela’s realization that she is very critical of herself, he is able to be more compassionate toward this vulnerability in her and to try and communicate without attacking. Understanding why he was attacking her, Angela is able to have more compassion for Michael and to show him more affection. In this way, the couple are able to see each other more clearly, rather than as clones of their caregivers.
This example of couple therapy shows how early relationships with caregivers shape the way an individual chooses and relates to his/her partner. The couple therapist helps the couple identify the behavioral dynamic that results. Part of the therapy entails a processing of the feelings that emerge, both with regards to the couple and the couples’ caregiver attachment relationships.
Psychoanalytic couple therapy is thorough, in-depth and effective. It requires a commitment to a therapeutic journey that will not always be comfortable, yet will lead to a deeper understanding of yourself, your partner and your relationship.