Written By: Marlene Neufeld, MSW, RSW and Bob Neufeld, M.Ed.
We meet with couples two-on-two, which means that there are four of us in the room, the client couple and the two of us. We use this approach with couples in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships, using similar approaches and tools.
REDUCED TRIANGULATION IN THERAPY SESSIONS
There are two therapists in the room so there is less possibility of either of the partners feeling like they are being left out or blamed.
Clients often tell us of negative experiences in previous therapy where they believed that the therapist was siding with one of them. Typically males feel marginalized in a female-dominated profession.
One couple told us about a previous therapist who they believed had “fallen in love” with the female partner. This reinforced his belief that his partner was attractive and therefore unattainable to him.
THERAPIST AS A PARTICIPANT IN THE SESSION
One therapist can participate in the session while the other therapist facilitates, coaches and observes.
This may involve experiments in which one of us takes over a body sensation or voice. For example, we were working with a couple around the issue of support.
*Sam was expressing frustration that Miriam complained that he didn’t support her. He didn’t understand how he could be more supportive. We privately asked Sam if the following nurturing statement was mostly true for him, “I’m there for you.”
When he agreed that it was, we invited Miriam to get mindful and notice what happened when he said something. We then invited Sam to say “Miriam, I’m there for you.” Miriam reported a voice inside her head saying “don’t believe him.” Marlene asked if she could take over that voice, and Miriam agreed. Sam then repeated “Miriam, I’m there for you”, Marlene said “Don’t believe him!” and Miriam burst into laughter. She realized how ridiculous that voice was, and that it was a voice from her past.
STYLE & GENDER DIFFERENCES AMONGST THERAPISTS
In our counselling team, Marlene is faster paced & more direct while Bob is more indirect with broader focus.
We frequently point out our style differences to clients and ask them about their own differences. We point out that every couple has one person who is faster paced than the other; sometimes each person is faster in different areas.
This normalizes style differences as well as bringing them to the surface. With both genders in the room, we can also speak from our own gendered experience and help each partner feel more understood.
MODELLING AS A THERAPY TECHNIQUE
The clients get a model of securely-functioning relationship.
Many of our clients do not have a template for what a healthy relationship is. The only school for relationships they have ever been in is their families of origin. We interrupt each other, consult with each other and even sometimes disagree in front of them.
We model healthy touch and proximity. We look at each other during sessions. When we are talking about the importance of the long melting hug, we stand up and model it. We provide empathy by revealing aspects of our personal lives and relationship growth.
For many couples, the two-on-two therapy approach offers an attractive alternative to traditional couples counselling.
Contact Capital Choice Counselling Group to learn more. You can view Marlene and Bob’s profile and request a consultation with them here.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.