Lee BernardCouple therapy
Are you part of a relationship that just isn’t working as well as you had once hoped? What we read, what we observe and what we experience often informs us that relationships should be easy and plain sailing but this is an illusion.
We, human beings are incredibly complex individuals and coming together to form a partnership substantially adds to that complexity; so rather than ‘plain sailing’ relationships are anything but; and more akin to a matchbox on a stormy open sea. However, with support in helping you both to make sense of the dynamics of your relationship and navigate a way through, there is a way to establish (or to reestablish) real togetherness, and happiness as well as to further find ways to enhance and build on the foundation that you have both built together thus far.
I am passionate about supporting people, finding ways for them to thrive in their relationship. As my profile picture shows, I help to make sense of the complexities and to help you and your partner to untangle what has gotten in the way of ‘enhancing’ each other’s lives - which no doubt was the plan when you decided to embark on your relationship?
The focus of the work is not to analyse you or your partner; that is what takes place in individual counselling. Instead, I analyse the relationship interface; how you both present yourselves to each other and how you interrelate. It is true that, in part, each individuals personality, shaped by all of their ‘past experiences’ will influence both positively and negatively the relationship dynamic; and some of this cannot help but feature in the work that we may go on to do. However, I actively facilitate and maintain a clear focus on how you affect one another in the here and now, that is what will address the relationship issues and therefore the majority of the work focus is on the ‘present experience’.
This will be to arrange an initial consultation so I can hear from both you and your partner and understand where the relationship is in difficulty.
The areas for focus we shall explore are:
*Meetings each other’s needs
*Context and Commitment
*Sex and sensuality
*A change of circumstance
*Monogamy and Affairs
It may be that you and your partner see the relationship challenges differently and that is understandable. The aim of the initial Consultation is to gain clarity on the work that needs to be done from both perspectives as well as discuss how I work and what can be expected from working with me; as well as answer any questions or concerns that you may have. We will then conclude with a next step recommendation for you both to consider.
The initial consultation, and ongoing couples sessions will last 90 minutes. Sessions with each individual, as and when necessary to the work, are 50 minutes.
I have elaborated further on the areas for focus, which you both may find helpful to consider before we meet:
Areas of focus:
We work on what is said, how it is said through voice tone, body language, conscious and unconscious cues and gestures as well as what is not said. I also analyse how information is received. ‘Understanding’, it is said, solves all problems, which for a successful couples relationship relies on an effective interface; the giving and receiving of information rather than restriction and deflection which prevents relationship growth and development. This area of focus will assist in balancing communication flow ensuring both individuals are strongly expressing themselves to each other. This ensures ‘difference’ is embraced, rather than suppressed and ‘reciprocity’ rather than compromise is an active element of the relationship.
We work on how well the couple understand and appreciate their own needs as well as the needs of each other and I explore how those needs are being met; physically, practically and emotionally. I focus on those needs which are known and shared, needs that are known and unshared as well as those needs which surface through the work that we do. There also can be present in the relationship fantasy needs, those that are perceived, where it is otherwise uncomfortable to ask or to articulate, and as these needs do not exist, the effort is made is not valued or recognised. Work in this area reintroduces and or brings about an increase of emotional intimacy into the relationship dynamic.
Context and commitment
We work on ascertaining a joint understanding of the fundamental meaning and value of the relationship to each individual; a relationships value can be primarily physical in nature, or the value could be to serve as a distraction and a preoccupation to escape the challenges of life; therefore a romance. Or, it could be to commit and build something far more substantial over the long term with someone, to gain a sense of belonging of ones own; that is separate and better than the environment (family) that one was raised. A misalignment or misunderstanding here between the couple gives rise to confusion, doubt and concern regarding the perceived level of commitment. These difficulties can be further impacted by the over involvement of others outside of the relationship; friends, family and colleagues. The work here is to analyse the context of the relationship until clarity and consensus is gained. The couple either gain a confident and clear commitment to invest and work on developing the relationship from a realigned understanding of the relationship or, agree to amicably uncouple and work to a planned (emotional, physical and practical) permanent separation.
Sex and Sensuality
Here we work on an understanding and resolving the underlying cause of physical dissatisfaction and unfulfillment in the relationship dynamic. Issues relating to commitment, communication and meeting needs can be the cause of losing what was once a fulfilling physical relationship and these aspects are explored. However, difficulties with arousal and sensuality can also be caused by physical, psychological, physiological, and spiritual factors; as well as being relational rooted and therefore all of these areas are explored. The aim of the work is to improve understanding, confidence, desire and bring about a more fulfilling sexual and sensual aspect to the relationship dynamic.
A change of circumstance
Here we work on supporting a relationship to manage and work through the tension placed on it by a significant impact; this could be a promotion opportunity, a redundancy, a geographical move away, a pregnancy, a death or retirement. Whatever the change might be, the bedrock of the relationship will be, or, already has shifted that creates uncertainty and vulnerability that might be difficult to talk about and navigate through. I facilitate the couple to make sense of what is taking place, work through and gain clarity on the meaning and priorities for both in an nonthreatening way, whereby both individuals can regain a new understanding of certainty. The outcome is either to stabilise and reset the foundations of the relationship with a new normality or to support the couple to comes to terms with a separation and sensitively work to bring the relationship to a close.
Monogamy and Affairs
The work here is to establish what has taken place and how the relationship has been impacted. Sometimes an affair can be the wake up call the relationship needed or it can be the final straw for one or both of the individuals; coming to couples therapy, this may be what we first need to establish. What is certain, with the relationship at stake, this will be an incredibly sensitive and difficult time for both individuals and whilst the pain can’t be taken away it can be given meaning. If the relationship is to survive and thrive then we must establish the trigger and the cause which can be due to unfulfilled expectations, unrealistic ideals, boredom, lack of excitement, unavailable partner, lack of sexual desire, unresolved family trauma, problems with emotional expression and intimacy. Identifying and working on the cause of the affair places power and control back into the hands of the couple and with this understanding we can begin to establish a new framework for a relationship that can be committed to, and invested in for the longer term. It is also sometimes the case that identifying and working on the causes of the affair leads to a realisation that a new framework for a relationship cannot be found and we decide to work towards an uncoupling and a permanent parting; one whereby that supports both individuals to move forward into single living with clarity, strength and confidence.
How we confront conflict with our partner in a relationship is shaped by our family backgrounds and where a couple is struggling to cope with being in constant conflict. The work is to first gain an understanding of the different conflict styles of the couple. Conflict is often based on a fear; of rejection, or of abandonment, a fear of being a failure, of not being respected, of being criticised, of being unsuccessful, of being controlled, being made fun of, being abused, remaining unfulfilled or overwhelmed by emotion. Indeed as a couple become closer more emotionally intimate they also become more vulnerable and these uncomfortable feelings can begin to spill into the relationship dynamic and cause conflict. Such can be the strength of underlying unresolved pain that when it cannot be named and worked through by the couple, frustration increases which can turn to rage which can then lead to physical violence; either to the self or to others. The work we do here also focuses on introducing coping mechanisms that will support the couple as we address the underlying issues causing the conflict.
Issues often worked with
I charge depending on joint income level
Upto £40,000 - £90 per session / £50 individual session
Upto £70,000 - £110 per session / £60 individual session
£70,000 + - £130 per session / £70 individual session
Training and qualifications
Advanced Certificate in Couples Therapy (COSRT and BACP approved)
Post Graduate Diploma - Psychodynamic Theory and Practice (University of Roehampton / WPF Therapy London).
Registered Member of BACP - British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy