FAQs

Marital and relationship therapy is a big commitment and we want to ensure you have all the information you need to feel comfortable in discussing whether our services are a good fit for your relationship. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we respond to.

Is relationship counselling right for us?

There are telltale signs that signal you and your partner could benefit from marriage or relationship counselling. Some of these include:  

  • Escalating conflict and nasty communication habits.
  • Emotional distance and loneliness.
  • Falling out of love, i.e. “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”
  • Trust and commitment issues, such as difficulty relying on a partner.
  • Insecurities that effect feelings of low self-worth and trigger fears of abandonment (i.e. Extreme dependence that can lead to intrusive behaviours or extreme independence which can make a partner feel like they’re not a priority).
  • Feeling unsupported and emotionally dismissed. Difficulty with opening up emotionally.
  • Sexual intimacy is practically non-existent, there is a lack of desire, and/or it’s rarely talked about.
  • Difficulties with in-laws, friendships, work, or life stressors including health issues. 
  • Abuse, affairs, and addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn, etc.)
  • Differences in parenting styles that lead to conflict. 
  • Mismanagement and disagreement on finances.
  • Things feeling unfair in the division of household chores.
  • Untreated anxiety and depression, or other mental health issues that complicate aspects of the relationship.

What is The Gottman Method & how does it work?

The Gottman Method is a gold standard form of couples-based therapy and education that draws on over 40 years of research by psychologists Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The Gottman Method includes a thorough assessment of a relationship and integrates research-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory, a model that endorses nine components of healthy relationships. Couples who do these nine things well endorse feeling satisfied within their relationships.

The goals of Gottman Method Couples Therapy are to disarm conflicting verbal communication; increase intimacy, respect, and affection; remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy or gridlock; and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship. It is a structured therapy focused on developing understanding and skills so that partners can sustain positive change well beyond relationship therapy.

The Gottman Method is suitable for all types of relationships across all phases of life. This means it is suitable for committed partners in the early stages of a relationship, as well as to restore healthy functioning to distressed couples, whether stuck in chronic conflict, coping with infidelity, or engaging in other destructive behaviours or patterns. The Gottman Method is predicated on observations and predictions demonstrating that there is a real science to the most ineffable of experiences, love.

The Gottman Method focuses on being realistic with therapy sessions rather than practicing methods that can only be done in a therapist’s office. Some couples will enjoy this about the Gottman Method, and some will not. It is important to find a method both you and your partner find useful and effective.

How long will therapy take?

Proper relationship therapy is a commitment and thus requires couples to hold reasonable expectations when it comes to timing. It is not possible nor practicable to expect that you will repair or correct a poor relationship in a ‘couple of sessions’ or with a spattering of sessions ‘here and there’. The Couples Clinic tailors your treatment plan to your relationship and therefore, the length of treatment depends on a number of factors. These include what your presenting issues are, how committed you are to the process, and if you both undertake the between session activities (homework) tailored to your presenting issues. Following the assessment phase, we typically indicate the following as a treatment guide for relationship counselling:

For those seeking relationship enhancement or pre-marital counselling, it averages 5–10 treatment sessions; for distant and / or distressed couples, 15–20 treatment sessions; and for couples with serious co-morbidities or a recent extramarital affair/s, therapy averages 28+treatment sessions. Termination is handled in our therapy by talking to the clients in the first session about phasing out the therapist toward the end of therapy and following couples for 2 years after termination.

What is the success rate of marital and relationship counselling?

Fortunately, empirically-based couples therapy such as The Gottman Method has demonstrated that couples therapy provided by an appropriately trained professional can create a positive change for 70% of couples. And these changes actually last.

Gottman Certified Therapists have the highest level of therapeutic training in relationship counselling and are able to predict with 90% accuracy which couples will likely stay together and which will separate or divorce. They have been trained in how to remedy relationships of all presentations and challenges based on destructive patterns of conflict, communication and disconnect.

What’s involved in treatment at The Couples Clinic? How does it work?

An assessment phase precludes all treatment at The Couples Clinic and this involves a comprehensive history taking process by your Certified Gottman Therapist (CGT). More information about this process can be found here.

Following the assessment phase is the Treatment Phase, whereby your therapist will work collaboratively with each partner to agree on session goals and treatment planning. The Treatment Phase session plan depends on the intensity that is required and the complexity of the challenges that we are addressing. Typically, the first several therapy sessions run for 2 hours each in a weekly or fortnightly schedule.

Once the relationship is showing improvement in line with treatment goals, we move into Maintenance Mode, whereby sessions are spaced out further until therapy is no longer needed beyond a check-in, sometimes once or twice each year, to the couples’ preference. These serve as relapse prevention sessions, and spaced 6 – 9 months apart, have been scientifically demonstrated to improve skill-retention. 

We’ve been in a bad place for years, is it too late for therapy to help us?

It is painful for partners to acknowledge that their relationship hasn’t turned out the way they might have planned for and often most will try many informal strategies in an attempt to ‘fix things’. Given this, the average couple waits for just over 6 years before asking for professional help. Most couples have never been taught how to deal with conflict, communicate influentially, show insight to your attachment needs and integrate opposing beliefs and values in a way where understanding a compromise is possible. This is where a trained marital and relationship therapist offers great benefit and support in helping you both identify and address core issues and regain a deeper and more lasting positive connection.

Do you work with LGBTIQ+ couples, polyamorous, intersex, kink, etc. relationships?

In short, absolutely. We work with couples of all presentations, complexities, backgrounds and needs. Our therapists are diversity-trained, open-minded, inclusive and non-judgemental. Our client is always the relationship, in whatever form it is presented to us.

Do you provide pre-marital counselling?

Yes. Our therapists enjoy working with committed couples who are preparing the foundations for a lifetime together. We can support you both in implementing strategies and tools to change the way you communicate, as well as shift unhealthy dynamics in your relationship prior to seeing through your commitment by marriage.

Do we need a referral to see you?

No referral is necessary or beneficial for you or your partner to engage in relationship counselling. Medicare do not currently provide rebates for marital and relationship counselling. Private Health Insurance funds can provide a rebate and you can contact your fund to understand your eligibility. The item number for marital and relationship counselling is 300 for ease of reference.

Will relationship therapy solve all of our fights and issues at once?

Dr. Gottman’s findings show that 69% of conflicts in relationships cannot be resolved because they are perpetual. The Sound Relationship House Theory focuses on managing the conflict that will inevitably arise in relationships and bettering communication skills. Many studies show that the Gottman Method is effective for helping couples move past their perpetual issues and enjoy their relationship again. Anecdotally, Brett and Kasia achieve remarkable results for relationships of all challenges through integrating their wide training in The Gottman Method and other therapeutic modalities including Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples.

Some common misperceptions attached to relationship counselling that we like call out

That it represents failure. Thinking that going to couples therapy means that we, as a couple, are not strong enough to work through issues on our own. That there is something inherently wrong in our marriage. It’s a shame game. 

Living in denial. Pretending the issues don’t exist and avoiding admitting and confronting problems that peek out of the closet in the relationship. Examples include nasty fights, emotional disconnection, or an affair. 

The blame game. Convincing ourselves that the real problem is our partner. So why go to therapy when they are the reason this marriage sucks? (Hint: Every relationship requires two people and so inevitably you are also involved). 

The myth of unconditional romantic love. Believing the myth that “if love takes work, then it wasn’t meant to be.” A no-effort relationship is not a great relationship. It’s a doomed one. Dr. John Gottman says, “Every [relationship] demands an effort to keep it on the right track; there is constant tension…between forces that hold you together and those that tear you apart.”

Fear of the therapist ‘taking sides’. There is often the misconception and fear from one or both partners that the therapist will side with one partner or gender over the other. Your therapist at The Couples Clinic views your relationship as the ‘client’ and we work in a positive and constructive way for the relationship. Choosing or taking sides is not at all part of our process with any couple and we work to make you both feel incredibly comfortable, heard and valued in the clinic space at all times.

Fear that the therapist will tell us to break up. Professionally trained relationship therapists will never make the call on the success and / or failure of your relationship and they will only work with you both on developing healthy communication, connection and conflict management. We are specialists in this space and no relationship is too hard or too complex for us. We have heard stories of couples having experiences where they have been told to ‘end their relationship’ or that ‘they won’t last’ and this has absolutely not been the fault of the couple. Often this comes down to a couple engaging with a therapist who has felt overwhelmed by the couples dynamic or presentation. Most often the therapist do not have the relevant skills, knowledge and / or formal training and experience to navigate the couples issues competently or safely. We submit that no therapy is at times better than bad therapy. We urge all seeking relationship counselling to ensure they are working with a specialist who has undertaken extensive training in the space of relationship therapy and not a generalist who merely has an interest or passion for the space.