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Describe the stages in couple counseling.

Describe the stages in couple counseling.

The institution of marriage is inherent in our civilised social system that ensures
commitment and constant support to cope up with the ever changing
circumstances and demands posed in the course of life of an individual and,
thus, fulfilling the need for companionship and ensuring psychological, social
and emotional well being of the two persons forming a couple.
However, in the present world many forces are at work to lessen the importance
of marriage (Scharf, 2003). Particularly the factors, such as, each partner trying
to self actualise and grow as a discreet individual in life thereby undermining the
needs of the couple as a unit; open expression among partners with regard to
differences in opinions that breeds mutual disliking; weak commitment patterns;
impulsive decisions regarding keeping or calling off a relationship etc. result in
quick break ups and divorces. More women are opting to become single parents.
On the other hand, children of divorced parents do less well at school, in
employment, and often, suffer from depression, low self esteem and neurotic
symptoms more commonly than those with parents staying together (Dominian,
1968). In fact, the impact on divorcing partners is also multifold and cannot be
undermined in the light of an end to an unsuccessful and distressing relationship.
Given the above stated scenario, marriage itself is becoming less popular, and
instead people choose to stay alone or involve themselves in live-in hook ups
that might or might not continue for long. Whether a marriage has solemnised
between two individuals or they are in a live-in arrangement, the two people are
trying to address the need for companionship and invariably form a couple. Any
couple relationship is vulnerable and might go through its difficult and challenging
phases wherein the need for professional help can be felt to save it.
Helping couples to stay together, however, is not the sole purpose of counseling.
It can also be effective in dealing with many of the diverse problems that affect
partners in a relationship. Intervention of this kind is usually sought because
conflict in a relationship appears to be the cause of emotional disorder in at least
one of the partners such as depression or because the relationship is unsatisfactory
and is likely to break up, and both the partners wish to save it
Couple counseling focuses on the problems existing in the relationship between
two people. These relationship problems might involve individual symptoms or
psychological problems in one or both the partners, as well as the relationship
It is important to realise that couples counseling, marriage counseling and marital
therapy are all the same. These different names have been used to describe the
same process, with the difference often based on which intervention theory is
favoured by the psychologist or counselor who is using the term, or taking up a
case for intervention. Although we use the term couple counseling, this approach
is not limited to married couple, but can be provided to unmarried couple, same
sex couples, and others.


Couple counseling is often seen as different from individual counseling and
psychotherapy because a relationship is the focus of attention, instead of one
individual diagnosed with a specific psychological problem. All psychological
problems, and all psychological changes, involve both individual symptoms
(behaviour, emotions, conflicts, thought processes) and changes in interpersonal
relationships. For example, if one is constantly arguing with ones spouse, one
will probably be chronically anxious, angry or depressed (or all three). Or, if one
has difficulty controlling ones temper, one will have more arguments with ones

Couples or individuals seek counseling to address a variety of problems associated
with the dyadic relationship with each other. Couples may seek counseling due
to the:

1) Increased frequency of arguments between partners due to poor
communication pattern;
2) Emerging differences in opinions or value system;
3) Strained relationship between couple due to certain emerging familial issues;
4) Dissatisfaction in sexual relationship;
5) Feeling of being trapped in stale relationship due to lack of common interests
and shared activities;

6) Constant dispute between the couple leading to excessive distress or Couple Counselling
psychopathology such as depression or alcohol abuse in one or both the  partners;
7) Extramarital affair;
8) Few or frequent instances of intimate partner violence.



The systems approach to couple counseling derives partly from concepts
developed by therapists such as Minuchin (1974) and Haley (1980) in their work
with families, and partly from a more detailed understanding of the couple’s
interaction such as that of Sluzki (1978). The approach is particularly suitable
for couples because it addresses the relationship as such, in addition to the two
partners who comprise it. The focus of treatment is on the hidden rules that
govern the behaviour of the couple towards one another, on disagreements about
who makes these rules, and on inconsistencies between these two levels of
interaction. A central concept here is enmeshment, an excessive involvement of
one person with the other person. It is most common in relationships between
parents and their growing children; this type of enmeshment is also seen in couple
relationships where one partner wants to be more intimate in couple relationships
where one partner wants to be more intimate than the other. The concept of
intimacy may relate to many aspects of life including sexual, physical, emotional,
and ‘operational’ (Crowe and Ridley, 1990). The term ‘operational’ here refers
to sharing of plans and information about each other. A conflict may arise between
partners on how close or distant they wish to be in respect to one or more of
these spheres. Systemic counseling attempts to clarify the degree of optimal






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