Couples Counselling Wellington

There are different times and contexts in which couples may seek therapy. Some involve counselling at the beginning or changing stages of the relationship and some are to deal with chronic (long-term) or traumatic issues that may develop between those in an enduring relationship.

Pre-Marriage Counselling

If I had to suggest counselling for any major stage of life, pre-marriage counselling would be very high on the list! Why? When two people from differing backgrounds begin a life together, there are a lot of assumptions that each brings into the relationship. Some assume they will have children. Some assume they will not. Some have professional goals that involve amassing personal wealth, while others prefer a more Spartan life in which service to others is a central life purpose. We all have gaps (sometimes very large ones) in our understanding of others and love can blind us to things we might need to consider before starting a life with someone. A pre-marriage therapist – I use “pre-marriage” as this is a common term, but the relationship may not involve marriage – will help you understand your life goals, assumptions and ambitions and help you to consider how much these might be in alignment with the person you want to marry. This can be one of the most valuable things you consider in planning to get married.

Couples Counselling When Expecting a Child

This therapy can be for those who are waiting for the birth of their own child, those who are going through medical procedures to help with the birth, those who adopt a child or any other situation in which a new life is about to join the couple in a family relationship. Having a child can cause us to reflect on our own childhoods – both the good and the bad. Having someone to discuss these things with can help ease the transition to parenting. There are also expectations each parent has for the other and expressing these openly in a safe environment can help to create a nurturing environment for the expected child.

Couples Counselling for Trauma

Trauma can include may causes, but if a couple is able to talk through their difficulties together – and learn coping strategies for when times are tough – this can help both recover from the traumatic experiences.

Couples Sex Therapy

There are many sorts of compatibility between two people and sex can be a very significant consideration. Some people want to have it a lot and want to explore. Others may want to focus on emotions and familiarity. Seeking counselling when you are struggling in this area can require a bit of bravery, but help to strength the relationship of couples.

Couples Grief Counselling

Just as we might need counselling individually when someone we love dies, if the death deeply affects both people in the relationship, couples counselling can allow both people to share their grief openly. This can help the couple to grow stronger through difficulty, rather than drift apart – or look for understanding or companionship outside of the relationship which might weaken the couple’s bond.

Couples Counselling for Changing Life Stages

Children leaving home, long-term illness, retirement, one or both people moving to a nursing home – having someone to facilitate these conversations can help couples adjust to the changes that are ahead.

Couples Counselling Wellington

If you are a couple in Wellington who might be experiencing difficulty or want to strengthen your relationship, contact us to see how we can help.

Addiction Counselling in Narrative Therapy

Addiction Counselling Conceptualised

The founder of Narrative Therapy, Michael White, had an interesting approach for conceptualising the journey for those wishing to free themselves from alcohol and other substance dependencies. White used the analogy of a rite of passage, where the person would go from a separation phase to a liminal phase – where there was a great deal of displacement and confusion – to finally reaching a reincorporation phase, where life without the substance(s) becomes the new norm.

Addiction Counselling as a Process

Many people fail initially in their goal to break free from substance abuse. This can be incredibly disheartening. There is a tendency for many to minimise our successes and maximise our failures. Those who are not immediately able to give up alcohol or other substances can become discouraged and give up on their attempts at freedom. White attempts to get clients to conceptualise freeing themselves from addiction as a process.

Perspectives on Freeing Yourself from Addiction

Few of us would be able to attempt a marathon without rigorous training. If we attempted to do so, we might make it a few kilometers, but would we become despondent and say negative things to ourselves? Likely not, as we know that running a marathon is a significant task and requires training for all but the most advanced atheletes. Comparing to addiction, I have known a couple of people who have given up alcohol “cold turkey”, but in both cases they were told they had months to live if they did not. That is inspiration that most of us wouldn’t want!

Preparing to Free Yourself from Addiction

So, in this conceptualisation, the client realises that preparation and training are required. The finish line may not be reached on the first attempt. There is a lot that supports addiction, from friendship with others also caught in addictive behaviours, to social gatherings that focus on addictive substances. Preparing for a marathon requires getting up earlier in the morning to exercise, changes in diet to meet new energy needs, having appropriate shoes, seeing your doctor to make sure there are no immediate physical risks in you training for a marathon, etc. White’s separation stage involves consideration of what re-enforces addiction and planning for success.

Understanding Your Feelings While Freeing Yourself

The liminal phase is what is to be expected when life has changed dramatically and you are trying to get your footing again. Perhaps you have lost friends who are still addicted to substances, perhaps you don’t know what to do with yourself when you have all of these now free hours that you used to spend drinking or perhaps you are looking for a new focus for your life. This phase is going to be unsettling. You need to be ready for this. Knowing that this is a normal transition will help you get through it.

Celebrating a Life Free From Addiction

Finally, the reincorporation phase arrives when you have started to get settled in a life of being substance free. This is what you have been longing for. You have prepared for this journey and you have struggled through the hills, heat and exhaustion of your marathon of freeing yourself from addiction. There can be a number of ways to celebrate crossing the finish line, including Narrative Therapy’s Definitional Ceremonies.

Perhaps you will want to help others, once you are free?

[While I referenced my Narrative Therapy text in writing this article, White’s original article is (at publication date of this article) available online at https://dulwichcentre.com.au/articles-about-narrative-therapy/deconstructing-addiction/challenging-the-culture-of-consumption/.]

Wellington Grief and Bereavement Therapy

When someone we love is gone from our lives, it can leave a massive emptiness which seems will never be filled. When someone we feel we should love (but do not) leaves, our feelings can include grief, guilt, relief and a lot of things we cannot process. It is not weakness to seek help. We are social beings and sometimes need someone upon whom we can lean.

If you are in Wellington and seeking grief and bereavement therapy, you might want to consider:

  • Do I need to go to therapy alone, or is this something that should be shared (e.g. if you have children who are also grieving, you might want to consider if they too would need to go to therapy with you)?
  • What are the differences in therapeutic approaches that might make a difference in how I continue on after this grief? Narrative Therapy, for example, has the concept of “Re-Membering”, in which the efforts are not on “moving past” the loved one, but valuing them in your life going forward.
  • Do I want a therapist who has a specific orientation to religion – for example, a religious or a secular therapist? Many therapists would never mention religion within therapy and if you want that, you need to be clear on this when seeking a therapist.
  • Should I wait until the loved one is gone to seek help? While some clients in Wellington will find bereavement and grief therapists after the death of a loved one, some will begin grief counselling before the death of a loved one, such as when a family member is terminally ill.

At Narratives Aotearoa Ltd, we counsel those in Wellington seeking grief and bereavement therapy in a secular environment, with our services focusing on the positive effects of the person in our lives (when that has been the case). We focus on re-membering the loved one, encouraging clients to reintegrate the lost significant other into their continuing lives.

It can be difficult to go on with our lives when someone we loved is gone. If you are in Wellington, contact us to see how we can help.

Wellington Family Counselling

Working with families can follow a different path to individual counselling sessions. If you are looking for a counsellor in Wellington (or online or by phone), some things to consider might be:

Counselling Session Length

Therapy sessions can be longer for family or other group work, as there needs to be time for all people to share. While 50 minutes to an hour is a norm for individual therapeutic work, couples and larger families can need an hour and a half or two hours. Two hours would be the maximum advisable, as fatigue can become a problem and distract from therapy.

Counselling Family and Couples Individually

While it is common to have all or most family members present, there are sometimes reasons to see individual members separately. Why? This can differ from one situation to the next, but sometimes the therapist will want to see (for example) a husband and a wife separately for a session in order to help with processing of strong emotion. After this, the couple will again come to therapy together.

Counselling Confidentiality

While clients have a right to confidentially, subject to normal practice for therapists (e.g. having their own counselling supervision sessions, where they see a senior therapist themselves), family therapy adds some complexity to confidentiality. When I begin counselling couples, for example, I will begin by noting that while their session is confidential externally, there is no confidentiality between the therapist and either partner. This is both logical and practical. If the therapist assists one partner in keeping a secret from the other, this “aligns” the therapist with one partner over the other. It can also make the therapist avoid needed conversations. The therapist should never be a party to keeping a secret from one partner in couples and family work. The clients need to understand that what they say is private from the outside world, but not within the sessions. So, if one person attempts to whisper something to the therapist, this is not communication protected from the other client involved in the family counselling session.

Differing Counselling Therapy Approaches

Some approaches lend themselves to groups, couples and families. Concepts of family scripts – where it is conceptualised that people follow scripts developed with significant others in past relationships – can bring insight and assistance in some therapy. Sometimes Narrative Therapy can be the preferred counselling modality, as it attempts to look at family stories. What is ultimately used depends on the circumstances, including the therapist’s preferred and competent modalities.

Wellington Family Counselling

The list above is not exhaustive, but should give a glimpse into some of the additional considerations for those seeking family and couples counselling. Find the best therapist for you and your family in Wellington by looking into what therapy involves. Resources are being created on this site to help you do just that – to be informed.

An Audience to Reflect Preferred Stories

When I was in primary school, a small number of other students and I were put in a room where the school counsellor spoke to us. At the time, I didn’t understand what a counsellor was and I didn’t realise that he was more than simply interested in us. Were we the “problem” children? I don’t know. I don’t remember being a problem, but I do remember the conversations and changes that happened over the following weeks.

The discussions we had as a group allowed us to reflect individually and we also had the benefits of an audience. We listened to each other and perhaps related to the challenges of the others in the group – I don’t remember if this was the case, but could imagine it was. What I do remember is that we encouraged and re-enforced for each other our stated goals and aspirations. I also found myself being more outgoing with other students. My outgoing nature that was nurtured in this group became a source of many friendships and of positive study and work environments during the years that followed. I was able to create a new, preferred identity.

The founder of Narrative Therapy, Michael White, noted the significance of these group interactions, observed during his years of working with children, stating:

As with the development of many other narrative practices, it was in my consultations with children that I first explored the contribution of the audience or the outsider-witness group to the authentication of the alternative and preferred identity claims that are routinely derived in narrative conversations. It was in this work with children that I became conscious of the extent to which it is the therapist’s business to arrange therapy as a context for ceremonies of redefinition – to arrange social areas in which there are opportunities for people to step into alternative and preferred identity claims and to perform them, and in which these claims can be acknowledged by an appropriate audience. (p 8)

White, M. (2000). Reflections on narrative practice. Adelaide, South Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.

From less formal group settings – including family therapy – White was able to explore and eventually develop more formal definitional ceremonies. These ceremonies became central to Narrative Therapy.

For some issues, individual counselling sessions are ideal, but for many others, group work can provide an optimum environment in which clients can have opportunities to perform preferred narratives, trialling the fit of new stories in front of those considered peers. Group responses can provide feedback that encourages or suggests other perspectives – giving the therapy client responses which might suggest how narrative changes would be accepted more broadly.

This is not a one-way street. Others watching and taking part can themselves be encouraged to make desired change, can be inspired by the bravery of others and can develop greater empathy and insights into the lives of others.

In case it is not obvious, I enjoy facilitating group work! Perhaps this might be a therapy environment you want to consider when you need assistance?

That your evolving narratives will bring you strength and joy!

Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns
Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns