What people say (and how therapy can work)


“We argued constantly. We never laughed together. It was over. As a last ditch attempt to save the marriage for the children’s sake, we saw Carla. That was five years ago. We are still going strong!” - Catherine and Mark.

How therapy can work

Here are some examples from the clients I have supported. Their stories should give you a better idea of how enhanced CBT couples therapy and counselling can help, and the various directions the therapeutic journey can take.

Sample 1: male and female in constant crisis

This couple came to me unsure about whether they wanted to be in a relationship or not. Quite typically, emotions were running high, and the two were unable to function as a couple even on a day-to-day level. They couldn’t agree, for example, on who would put the bins out.

We began with crisis management, uncovering present here-and-now problems, and where they came from. We strategised new, functional ways of day-to-day living to stabilise the situation

We processed hurt. For him, this meant violence, emotional and verbal abuse; for her, this was domestic violence, verbal and physical abuse.

I trained the couple in communication and taught them problem-solving skills.

In this way, the couple learned a lot about each other and gained a deep understanding of why the other had reacted in the way they did. We engaged in forgiveness and trust work.

The couple decided to stay together and built a relationship based on the couples’ needs. They still come see me for sessions every six months, to check in to a safe, neutral and non-judgmental environment.

Sample 2: gay males with HIV

A gay couple came to see me. One had contracted HIV and passed it to other. Their goal was to stay together but they needed help coming to terms with and managing their shared lifelong illness

This was more of a general counselling approach rather than CBT. The men are still together and are living a fulfilled life.

Sample 3: male victim of domestic violence

This man came to consult me on his own. He was the victim of his wife’s physical, emotional and verbal domestic violence and had suffered in silence for years.

Despite having a high-profile, senior-management job in London and being viewed as a pinnacle of society, he was a victim of domestic violence. He was very well respected by all around him, and it was important for him to be seen as strong, capable and in control. However, as his home life was so very different from his public persona, he felt immense shame and embarrassment. His wife constantly belittled him, and also attacked him, both verbally and physically. He had no one to talk to.

Therapy had two strands. First, he needed an outlet to process his feelings and feel heard, with a neutral non-judgmental person. Secondly, he needed to understand how he had ended up in this difficult marriage, and to find practical strategies to manage life on a day-to-day basis. It was not an option for this client to leave the marriage at the present time.

After just eight weekly sessions, life was more manageable. He then attended sessions fortnightly for three months, monthly for a further six months, now I see him approximately once every eight months.

Sample 4: male has an affair; wife has depression and OCD

A married heterosexual couple came to see me. The husband had had an affair. The wife was unable to forgive or move on, although she wanted to. Both wanted to remain in the marriage but could not see how.

Therapy included helping them both to process and understand why the affair had happened, strategise a new more healthy relationship, forgive and rebuild trust so that they could move forward. The female was also suffering from depression and OCD. We worked simultaneously on the affair and the pathological illness (depression and OCD).

All is well now. They are still together.

Sample 5: male with depression has affair

A famous male sportsman consulted me. He wanted to access therapy on his own at first. He’d had an affair but also suffered from depression, which he was finding very difficult to acknowledge due to the positive mental attitude required in his field. But also, suffered shame and embarkment which stopped him telling others and accessing help, which in turn impeded his recovery.

We began by working on his depression. Later on, his partner joined him in the therapy sessions. They overcame the affair and remain together.

Sample 6: seperation and parenting appart

A couple, often in the public eye, had decided that they would separate but wanted help managing this very difficult period of time.

We worked with the practical issues surrounding separation and divorce as well as the expected and unexpected emotions this throws at the couple.

Both are managing parenting apart very well, and able to move on emotionally into more happy lives.

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