Below is an article written by a counsellor to illustrate what a typical working day at Relate might be;
She begins; “To be honest, there is no such thing as a typical day for me, because people and relationships are not typical.”
I could be working with a same sex couple, an individual man or woman, or a straight couple; every client brings something different. Even if I’ve been working with clients for some time, I don’t know how their week has been, or how they are feeling about sitting down to talk about things on that particular evening.
First consultations are also unpredictable as I am meeting with people for the first time and some clients arrive in the therapy room at a time of crisis or high anxiety. It is up to me as the counsellor to manage and facilitate all the emotions in the room, as well as getting the administrative side of things completed.
We don’t judge
All kinds of people come for relationship counselling; at Relate we don’t judge people’s relationships, tell you what is right or wrong, or what to do. We work with what you bring.
I would say, the most common things we see are couples transitioning through life stages, stuck at a stale-mate on a particular issue, or perhaps after an affair or perceived betrayal of some sort.
To give you an idea of some of the cases I have in an evening, here are some examples:
I recently worked with John who was seeing two women at the same time and wanted to get some clarity on which relationship to choose. He felt unhappy in his primary relationship, yet ambivalent about leaving.
John was worried that I would judge him for cheating on his girlfriend, but once we started working together he felt relieved he could finally unburden his secret to someone in a confidential setting. Through the course of our work, John realised that his real issue was that he was scared of hurting people’s feelings.
Because he could never truly say what he felt or ask for what he wanted in his relationship, he was not getting his needs met. It was this difficulty that was making him look outside of his relationship for a connection with someone else, but ultimately was also causing his unhappiness.
Once he recognised this, he quickly ended his affair and asked his partner to come with him to relationship counselling. In his sessions he felt secure enough to be more honest with himself and his girlfriend about his true feelings and she was able to better understand what he needed.
James and Alison *
Another couple that I worked with had both been having individual counselling for some time.
James had found out that his wife had been having a sexual relationship with another woman and was devastated. Alison, although also distressed, had been resistant to take up counselling as a couple because she was worried the therapist would take her husband’s side.
It took some time for her to open up, but as we built trust with each other over the course of the work, Alison confessed that she had always felt an attraction to women.
However, she also made it very clear that the love she felt for her husband was not affected by her curiosity. She didn’t want to leave him or lose their relationship; she just hadn’t been able to talk to him about these feelings.
They decided to stay together and work things out. Through the safe space of the therapy room, we were able to explore a very sensitive and complex issue and negotiate some boundaries around what would be ok and not ok for them going forward.
Sometimes clients like to return to counselling to review their progress, or to think about other issues in the relationship. Either way, we can discuss the next steps together and decide if more relationship counselling might be helpful.
Nicola and Josie *
Nicola and Josie had come to us a year ago, stuck in a pattern of miscommunication, breaking up and making up. When they came back for their check up they told me, since ending therapy they had decided to get married! I love these stories.
They had been telling everyone about their counselling experience and how great it had been for them as a couple. Nicola said counselling had helped her realise she had an amazing partner all along but she had just never recognised it.
These are the moments that make this work so rewarding.
As the receptionist turns out the lights and locks up, I look forward to a late dinner and some reflection time on everything I have seen and heard tonight.
It truly is a privilege to do this work and be invited into people’s relationships at such a deep and personal level.