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All about ePsyClinic Marital Therapy

14 Nov 2016

ü  Are you facing difficulties in your marriage?

ü  Do you find that a discussion with your spouse over the tiniest issue, soon escalates into a shouting contest, with no real communication or solution to the problem?

ü  Do you question how your spouse feels about you or your relationship?

ü  Do you wish you could just sit down and communicate, and somehow understand each other, like you used to do in the past?

Then, marital therapy is needed for you.

Disagreements and arguments are a part of all interpersonal relationships. The more intimate a relationship, the more likely it is that differences of opinions, or harsh words spoken impulsively, can affect the individual emotionally. The reason for the conflict can differ from one couple to another, however, the nature of conflict tends to be similar. When conflicts in a close relationship become more frequent, or more intense, they begin to take an emotional and psychological toll on both people involved.

Discordant couples may be at any stage of a dysfunctional relationship depending of the level of conflicts. At the most basic level, a couple’s conflicts may arise from practical problems they need to solve, or decisions they need to make, about which they may be at loggerheads. This may lead to short-lived frustration and anger. The couple may feel that they would arrive at a solution, if only they could communicate better. However, the differences in needs, goals and plans may be quite real, and impossible to ignore. As anger and conflict around these differences grow, feelings of disappointment and loss of trust in the relationship can become more prominent. At this stage, couples can significantly benefit from marital therapy, as several positive aspects of their relationship may still be preserved, and therapy can prevent further deterioration in the relationship.

For some couples, conflicts are more severe, and reach a stage where partners start to behave in specific patterns of emotionally charged or withdrawing behaviour. Anger outbursts, threats, emotional or physical abuse, screaming contests, slamming doors, moving out of the house may be quite frequent. Each partner is more concerned with winning the fight or causing hurt, rather than solving the problem.

This is because both partners have exhausted their resources and can no longer cope with the conflict constructively. Such a situation is a constant strain not only for the marital relationship, but also affects the emotional, physical and psychological well-being of both partners, and may also spill over into their work and social life.

Children are very vulnerable to the effects of such marital discord, especially as parents sometimes use them to communicate indirectly, or get back at their partner. Although, at this stage, damage to the relationship has already occurred and partners are low on trust, marital therapy can still benefit the couple to stop the escalating cycle of conflict and hurt, and help rebuild trust in the relationship. However, what is important in this stage is that the couple must be willing to work on their relationship and have a commitment to continue the marriage. This commitment can be rooted in any reason, such as staying together for the sake of their children, or deciding that divorce is not an option.

What is marital therapy?

Martial therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy in which both partners are predominantly seen together in sessions, unless there is a specific need for an individual session. The therapist acts as a mediator to assess the pattern of conflict between the couple, provides them feedback, trains the couple in communication and conflict resolution skills to help them deal with conflicts more constructively, and increase emotional intimacy.


What does a marital therapist do? 

What the therapist does

What the therapist does not do

The therapist is neutral

The therapist does not take sides

The therapist conducts a detailed systematic assessment with both partners together and provides the couple feedback about his/her hypothesis about the problem

The therapist does not rely on any partner’s version of the reason for conflict

The therapist trains the clients in communication and conflict resolution skills so that they can solve problems on their own

The therapist does not give advice or a solution to the problem

The therapist helps the clients negotiate and a find common ground on things they disagree about

The therapist does not impose his or her values on the client or decide who/what is right or wrong

The therapist encourages the clients to reduce the blame-game and accept responsibility for their own role in the relationship

The therapist does not blame anyone for the problems

The therapist is emotionally attuned to both partners and provides a safe atmosphere in sessions so that clients can open up about their feelings

The therapist does not abandon a client in an emotional experience which is too overwhelming, without offering help about how the client can soothe and calm themselves

The therapist sets certain rules and boundaries in sessions and outside of sessions to help clients de-escalate conflict and put a stop to emotional and physical violence

The therapist does permit continued physical and emotional violence during the course of therapy

The therapist offers individual help to clients to improve their coping skills for emotional problems such as depression, anxiety or anger issues

The therapist does not offer individual sessions only to one partner. Individual sessions are offered to both partners.  However, based on individual needs, one partner may have more individual sessions than the other by choice.


Should I come alone for EPSYCLINIC VDEO THERAPY?

It is important for both partners to come together for marital therapy from the first session itself. This ensures that they are aware that the therapist does not have previous information or bias towards any one person as this can weaken their trust in the therapist. Hence, it is not advisable that a spouse approach the therapist individually, share information, and then request non-disclosure of such a meeting to the partner before beginning marital therapy.

The therapist cannot oblige such a request, as it will lead to a breakdown of trust with the other partner. Although, initially, partners may feel hesitant about speaking about certain issues in the presence of their partner, it is important that they put their trust in the therapist to decide if and when individual sessions are needed. Research shows that couples who undergo marital therapy value therapist neutrality as it lets them know that the therapist has the interests of both parties and the relationship in mind.

If an individual does approach a therapist for an individual session before beginning marital therapy, the therapist will request him/her to let the partner know that they have met the therapist, and that the therapist would also like to meet the partner for an individual session, before beginning conjoint sessions.

If my partner has refused for Marital Therapy?

If, however, your partner still refuse to undergo marital therapy, you can approach an EpsyClinic marital therapist for individual marital therapy. For this form of therapy to work, it is important that you are willing to accept responsibility for your own role in the relationship, and find ways to bring about a change in the relationship, by changing your own emotional and behavioural responses to situations.

How can I prepare for marital therapy?

Marital therapy is not easy. You may find it difficult to imagine how you can sit on a video session together with your partner for a session, when you are not even on talking terms, or feel so much anger that it is difficult to keep yourself composed.

To prepare yourself for marital therapy, it is important to remind yourself about the reason for seeking help, i.e. the need to work on your marriage. Secondly, you need to trust the therapist as an expert, and as someone who would be able to help you deal with situations that come up in sessions. These may include arguments and fights that are replayed in the sessions, however, in the presence of a referee, a neutral person, you will be able to fight in a different manner, i.e., with rules and boundaries.

You need to be patient as it may take some time to see a change through marital therapy, although, some changes may occur from the first session itself.

Most importantly, you need to have hope and be ready to look inwards for changes that you can make within yourself to help you bring about changes in your marriage. 


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Written by Dr.Ashmeet Nagpal

Senior Family Therapist & Trainer,


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Tags: #maritaltherapy #coupletherapy