Some of you may have seen my October 2015 newsletter where I announced that I’d started doing couples intensives, one couple at a time, to help couples fast track the decisions they needed to make or for a two day relationship fix.
Since that newsletter, I’ve received lots of inquiries from interested people, including other therapists, all wanting more information about my couples intensives.
Because of this, and the great feedback I’ve had from the couples who completed my intensives (thanks guys!), I want to say more about why I started to work in this way and to help you get a feel for what happens in a couples intensive.
Since 1981 I’ve been counselling people, and I’ve noticed an interesting pattern. Many people raised their really important issues and questions only in the last few minutes of the session! Unfortunately by then, there was no more available time. Another client would be waiting, so I had to finish their session.
This was frustrating for them and for me, because we had to wait for the following session to explore their issues in more detail. That meant they often had to put their issues hold on for weeks until we could schedule a mutually available time. You can see how maddening that was for them, especially if something urgent was at stake.
Not only that, it was also distressing for me because many people had just started to connect with difficult feelings and thoughts as we got closer to the end of the session, which left insufficient time for deeper exploration or adequate closure. People left sessions feeling exposed and incomplete.
This meant that people had to shelve their intense reactions to be able to get on with their normal lives. Their next sessions were also frustrating because it felt like we were starting from square one. It took a while for them to “settle in” to the session, for us to catch up with all that had happened in between and then begin to delve deeper into the issues that had come up at the end of the last session. Sometimes we never got back to those because other issues had come up. Life doesn’t stand still.
My typical 90 minute couple therapy format had another inhibiting factor. A number of sessions were needed to fully comprehend their unique relationship. Couples need time to tell their story and I need time to “get” each partner’s valid perspective. Without all this, it was difficult to effectively work together to guide them in deciding what help they needed, which issues to work on or how change their interactions.
There is a sad truth that couples who are in crisis or on the verge of separating often can’t wait weeks or months to get relief from their intense problems. Nor can they wait to get a sense of hope about their relationship.
There had to be a better way. That’s why I began to do week-end and /or 2 day intensives, one couple at a time.
So for the past year, I’ve been working with couples who fly to Sydney from all over Australia to spend two full days with me. Their ages range between early 30’s to late 60’s. They come from all walks of life and have a variety of experiences. Their problems are all unique, but usually are difficult and long-term. They feel stuck and generally hopeless.
It’s a satisfying privilege to have a whole two days to deeply explore and help these couples work through their issues.
Two days means having time to really join with each couple, find out about their disappointments, frustrations, pain, fears and to hear about the problematic ways of relating that have got them to this stuck place. It allows space to help them sincerely share emotions, discover hidden strengths and resources, put into words their dreams and hopes for the future, develop empathy and understanding for each other, and witness the breakthroughs. In this process I teach many concrete, easy-to-apply relationship skills, and develop a tailor-made, written plan to help them hold on to the hope and new discoveries that emerged during our intensive week-end.
Couples said that the two day format let them achieve more than months of therapy would have done!
Here’s some feedback I got from a few participants of my intensives. I have their permission to share it with you:
“Vivian is an absolute professional, yet she had great empathy for both me and my husband as well as us as a relationship.
The experience has left me with a hope that we can move forward and have a great relationship and start afresh with Marriage No. 2! I was really ambivalent in the beginning and especially prior to the weekend intensive retreat, however my experience with Vivian has left me happy and hopeful and with a set of communication skills to improve our marriage.
Every couple in a long term relationship or marriage would benefit from some time with Vivian.
Thank you Vivian – I cannot speak highly enough.”
“We were given exercises that assisted us to feel safe to communicate truthfully with each other knowing that Vivian would be assisting us to ‘hear’ what the other said. This got us closer to understanding the other’s viewpoint. Also very useful was being greatly assisted to formulate a plan.”
And a third:
“Vivian was interested in what my partner and I both wanted to achieve. I felt I could trust her. She was very gentle with our feelings”.
This sort of feedback is very precious to me. It confirms that even though situations may feel hopeless, they can be worked through in satisfying ways for both people in a couple.
Prior to the intensives, couples often strongly clash about how much life or hope there is in their relationship and even in what they want from the intensive. It’s not unusual for one partner to want the relationship to work and the other to clearly want out.
So intensives can help couples decide between three alternatives:
First, and this is the most frequent outcome, breathtaking advances occur where the partner who wants out chooses to recommit to their relationship. They decide to stay and co-create a new relationship with their partner.
Second, if ambivalent partners aren’t prepared to reinvest in their relationship for the long-haul, they commit to giving the relationship a second try for a contracted period of time, like 3 to 6 months. They agree that during that time, all talk of separation is off the table. They leave the intensive with a detailed and concrete plan, as well as a commitment to review their progress at the end of that 3 or 6 month period.
Third, there is a small minority who decide to separate. Both partners view the intensive as a priceless experience because it laid the foundation for emotionally moving on, harmoniously co-parenting and maintaining a friendship.
After they return home, we usually do follow-up work over the phone, Skype or in person.
Fellow therapists have asked me, “Don’t you feel burnt-out after a two days with one couple?” So far, I’ve always answered: “No way! I feel truly inspired and humbled. It’s such a privilege to be allowed this type of access into a couple’s relationship and to be able to help them in such deep and meaningful ways.”
Is your relationship in need of an overhaul? Are you stuck in a rut or feeling desperate to get out? Do you want to sort out something quickly instead of doing weeks or months of counselling? If so, a couples intensive may be just the thing for you.
Call me on me on +61 421 961 687 or email me. I have three ways I can help you and your relationship, by:
1) regular in-person sessions
2) online couples coaching, if you can’t make it to either my Newtown or Faulconbridge practices
3) attending a two day couples intensive, where you get 16 hours of couples coaching to quickly boost your relationship happiness.
You deserve the best if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call me on (0421) 961 687 to book a FREE 10 minute phone consultation to discuss how I may be able to assist you.