Battles in the Therapy Room

All clients I see in my office have an idea (of sorts) about what they wish to achieve. Whether they are individuals seeking a means to bring some quietness and peace from their mind-chatter to the couple who recognise their latest challenge just isn’t resolving and choose to take that courageous step to bring the matter for consideration and guidance to an outside influence.

When the Motive is Clouded, or even Deliberately Misleading

Disclaimer: The following content is partly drawn from experiences. Any similarities to real cases, and individuals, can be assumed to be purely coincidental.

Emma calls the office to discuss whether I might be able to help with her relationship, and marriage, to Paul. She decides she is happy with the format offered, the terms around fees and times available and the location – and now wishes to book an appointment, having received agreement and permission from her spouse, Paul.

At the discovery meeting the couple are taken through an introduction to the service and are given time to explore any initial concerns. Next, each person is provided an uninterrupted period of time to express their position, and the IMG_4147challenges they see in the relationship. Then, each individual gets to respond, again, uninterrupted.

The three of us can now begin to hypothesise the possibilities, drawing no firm conclusions, simply beginning to see how things appear. If time allows, in this first session, we may begin to work on an issue and introduce a strategy to protect both from further distress during the break between sessions.

It might be easy to imagine, for some, that the fee charged is simply for the counsellor and use of the room for that session. The reality, is that whilst that is part of the deal, the counsellor will reflect and consider the relationship and what has been discussed in the time between sessions; having the benefit of experience and training, but crucially, impartiality and a non judgemental stance, un-emotively!

It is this ability, to view the challenges in the relationship, that allows a view for progression with clarity. The counsellor does not need to judge one person over another; he need not be tempted to ‘case build’ against one individual to validate a point. At the introductory session I always make it clear I am not a referee; my role will be to help the relationship by empowering those within that arena.

For many couples, they get to make progress choosing some form of acceptance in gaining a clearer insight around the dynamics of their lives together – whilst understanding more about their own expectations of each other, and where these might have come from. Of course, there may be other factors impinging on the relationship – family disparity to infidelity, addictions to abuse (emotional or otherwise).

Usually by sessions two or three, we can start to see themes developing. It is here, where we can collectively get to the nub of the challenges and explore them in greater depth. For the couple who are honest, and acting with true intent, this will often bring a catharsis – a letting go. For those couples where one, or both individuals, are intent on proving a point – one demanding to be ‘right’ the other refusing to ‘disclose’, the cause will be unattainable via the counsellor; he is becoming a pawn in the game being played.

The counsellor is trained to observe for this and, because he is emotionally outside of the issue, he can see quite quickly where the points of contention are clouded (consciously or unknowingly) by the participants. This will unlikely end well!

Another important aside to this, and a major deal for some, is the sex of the counsellor. For me, a chap (!), when matters become heated or intractable it can mistakenly be viewed by the female (within a heterosexual relationship) to think she is becoming discriminated against; the male counsellor is siding with the male. Again, counsellors have to learn this skill to assure and remind the person, who may be open to this type of false interpretation, that the relationship brought into the room is the only interest for the counsellor rather than one sides view or opinion. It’s not easy, I admit and requires constant vigilance!

I hope this provides a brief insight into some of the workings of counselling. It is perhaps worth pointing out that much of that discussed above is also relevant to the individual in counselling. If the client is unable to bring complete integrity to the process, they will stand every chance of proving themselves right, self-prophesying any outcomes!

Do you have a different experience or view? Do you agree? If you would like to learn more, or discuss (in confidence) your challenges, drop me a line.

About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).


  1. I have no doubt that working with couples is the biggest challenge a counsellor faces. Many counsellors just won’t do couples work because it can often be difficult and very short term work. I enjoy it immensely and have benefited greatly from Imago Relationship Therapy training. Even with this training things can get a bit tense at times. We counsellors really earn our fee when working with couples.

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