Working through problems together in a therapeutic setting

While they can be a great source of love, pleasure and support, we all experience difficulties in our personal relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners at some time: misunderstandings or disagreements can escalate into persistent feelings of tension and upset that sometimes require an impartial sympathetic third party to help navigate through.

Relationship counsellors are trained in these very skills: their aim is to listen to and respect the differing feelings and opinions of those involved in a troubled relationship in order to find a way to reconcile them and facilitate mutual understanding and fulfilment. At The House Partnership we have years of experience in helping people to put their relationships back on the right track together, or developing the courage to move on from unions that are simply no longer working. we all experience difficulties in our relationships with family, friends, and partners

Relationship counselling didn’t really exist until after the Second World War. Until that time, all counselling work was carried out with individuals, and relationships were only considered relevant in terms a Freudian consideration of their past impact on the person’s development.

The movement towards considering the important role of relationships with family, friends and lovers in our emotional well-being can be considered as beginning with the research of Gregory Bateson (husband of the distinguished cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead) in California in the 1950s. He was interested in communication processes in families and led a research team looking into the effect of the family system on people diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

He developed the ‘Double Bind Hypothesis’ in which he proposed that Schizophrenia was a learned confusion in thinking stimulated by emotionally distressing communications with family in which they receive two or more conflicting messages, in which one message negates the other. This was followed by Brown’s theory of ‘Expressed Emotion’ in the early 1960s which proposed a negative impact of high emotional expression in close relationships upon the prognosis of people recovering from mental illness.

Since this time of course we have learned much more about the biological basis of conditions such as psychosis and the concept of the ‘Schizophregenic Mother’ has fallen out of favour not only because of a lack of firm evidence for it, but also because of the blame that this can tend to place on the family members of those who are struggling with their emotional health.

Modern relationship counselling—although in debt to figures like Bateson and Brown for their acknowledgement of the importance of relationships in our lives—in no way seeks to place blame or pin a cause for problems upon any individual or group. The emphasis rather is on identifying the negative cycle particular to the relationship, which is often bidirectional pattern of action and reaction. Relationship counsellors create a space free from judgement in which the members of a relationship can form a confidential dialogue, being enabled to be heard and to hear themselves. The counsellor provides a mirror with expertise to reflect the relationship’s difficulties and allow its participants to understand the potential and direction for change.

The House Partnership, 12th May 2012