Couples Counselling – A Gestalt Perspective

Couples tend to come to counselling together after being repeatedly faced with the same issues which are proving to be extremely challenging to resolve., or feel as though they ran out of options, so they seek out a counsellor to present these issues to and get professional support.

A Gestalt approach to Couples’ Counselling requires joint effort of both individuals in the couple and the counsellor to explore issues collaboratively. The following are some aspects of counselling to give you a better idea of this delicate and beautiful process (Schulz, 2018).

When the couple starts counselling, they are both entering into another relationship with the counsellor. It is essential for the couple and counsellor to establish a safe and trusting relationship. Along the way, each partner’s support systems may be explored to see what kind of ground each individual stands on.

Each individual has their own complex way of being in the world, due to influences from their childhood, race, gender and education among others. So two people with their complex selves have created the couple-unit, with its own context and history. Within the couple-unit, a narrative has been created which includes each individual’s role or ‘way of being’ in the relationship. The Gestalt counsellor intends to help bring parts of the relationship into awareness for the couple to see how they are more clearly. From there, the couple and counsellor can explore what comes next naturally with new awareness. For example, it may become evident that one partner does not feel like their voice is important or being heard and so they are often quiet. This awareness will get the ball rolling for the couple to start adjusting themselves accordingly.

Whatever happens during counselling is a result of the couple’s attitude towards the counselling situation, even if it has not been said out loud. For example, if one partner’s attitude favours getting the counsellor on their ‘side’, this will inevitably influence the counselling process. If anyone’s intentions remains to ’win the argument’ or ‘to be right’, rather than to understand each other, working together will be that much harder.

When individuals in couple meetin conversation, while being brave enough to be vulnerable in front of each other, rather than trying to change one another, then more effective communication is possible. Fpr partners experiencing high stress levels, this is extremely challenging, especially after a long period of hurtful fight and not feeling cared for by the other. This means they would not be ready to meet or be vulnerable with each other when they begin the counselling process, thus, counselling would start by accepting how things are in the relationship at that moment and acknowledging what is. The counsellor values each partner’s subjective experience and works towards the couple’s perspective to ‘make sense together’ (Staemmler, 2009). While this process inspires individuals to appreciate the differences between themselves and their partners, it also serves as a model of cooperation in communication.

Change can happen when every partner’s perspective is understood and respected.

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