Couples Counselling Radio Interview with Alex RyderSeptember 06, 2018
Alex Ryder was interviewed by Tony Kallegeros on The Daily radio show. He discusses why couples go to couple’s therapy, how he deals with some of the trickier situations that arise in therapy, and of course, what makes a perfect relationship.
You can listen to the recording here, or read a bullet point summary of the conversation below.
I’m now joined on the line by Alex Ryder of Sydney Couple and Family Specialist. Alex, good morning.
- Morning Tony. Thank you for having me.
What type of services do couples counsellors offer?
- Couples counsellors are focussed on improving relationships.
- Couples often come to couples counselling when they are in crisis. There might have been a particular incident like an affair or betrayal, or it might be something that has built up over time and they are just at the end of their tether. Perhaps communication has broken down.
- Couples might also come to couples therapy because they are going through a change in their lives and they are finding it difficult to adjust. They might have moved in together for the first time, or they’re about to have a baby, or their kids might be moving out, or their moving into retirement. All these life changes will change the relationship dynamic, and we often find this difficult to adjust to.
So not all bad things, which is good [laughing]
- No, that’s right. I run a pre-commitment and pre-marriage course as well, which helps couples that are commencing their commitment to each other. So couples come to learn about themselves and their relationship, and what makes a great relationship.
Have you ever known something that the other person in the relationship hasn’t’?
- Generally, couples therapy is done with both partners in the room, and one tries to mitigate against discovering things that aren’t known by both partners. But the reality is that if someone wants you to know something they will find a way to tell you.
How did you handle this situation? Do you tell the other person who doesn’t know?
- Well if it’s relevant to the health of the relationship, I encourage that person to bring that information into the therapy so it can be dealt with. I can support them to share it, and I can support the other person to hear it in the best way possible.
- If it is relevant to the relationship, it is affecting the relationship whether both partners know or not, so it might as well be spoken so we can deal with it.
Being a psychotherapist is quite an emotional job, how are you able to separate yourself from the job itself?
- Yes that’s true, it is emotional work, and plenty of therapists burn out because it is demanding work. You know Tony, we are attracted to the field because we care so much about people and we want to help.
- So the key for me is keeping good boundaries. That just means not taking it home with me so that when I’m at home I can be present with my own family, which is really important for me.
- But honestly, it doesn’t always work perfectly. If I have a suicidal client, for example, of course I’m going to worry about them.
- In actual fact what has helped me is that I spent a number of years working with Lifeline, and what that taught me was to have really good self-care. That just means knowing what is going on for you; looking after yourself, so you can look after your clients.
Do you ever think that one person is completely at fault? Has there been an instance where a couple’s come in and it’s clear that one of them is completely at fault, or is usually shared?
- No, it’s usually shared. I mean with the obvious examples aside of abuse or a fully-fledged personality disorders, it’s very rare, if ever, one person’s at fault.
- And to be honest Tony, thinking in terms of fault doesn’t really help me as a therapist, and it probably doesn’t really help my clients either.
- I like to remind my couples that whatever each person brings to the relationship will affect the end outcome, because that’s really true.
- The behaviour of one person can cause damage, but equally, the behaviour of one person can transform and change a relationship for the better. So both people have the power to improve things.
Having worked with so many couples and their relationships, what elements do you think makes a perfect relationship?
- Well gee a perfect relationship would be nice, wouldn’t it. [both laugh]. I think all relationships have their ups and downs.
- In the pre-marriage and pre-commitment course I run we talk about what makes a great relationship. And people raise things like love, kindness, trust and forgiveness. And they are all really important things.
- But to me, the number one most important thing in a relationship is respect.
- If you’re at the stage where you no longer respect your partner or feel they don’t respect you, your relationship is in trouble, and I would suggest addressing it straight away.
- But equally, when mutual respect is present, no matter what the stress, what the challenge you are going through, you are going to behave in a way that is supportive of the person you are in a relationship with. You’ll behave as if you’re on the same team. And that’s what respect gives you.
- If I could add one other thing too, it is the willingness to work on things. It would be silly of us to think that the relationships that work and last and are successful over the long term don’t have challenges. Of course they do. To be willing to work on things, and address things and improve them when you are going through challenging times is key.
Thank you for coming on the show
It takes a lot of courage to share a moment of crisis with someone you don’t yet know. Even more so, to entrust your intimate relationship over to them.
I have been in the fortunate position to be trusted with that responsibility many times and have helped people – through their own bravery, honesty and effort – to transcend their suffering and improve their relationships.
For more than a decade, I’ve had the privilege of being a Therapist. As a Lifeline Counsellor and Trainer, at the Jansen Newman Institute, and in private practice at Sydney Couple and Family Specialists. In that time, I’ve worked with people in crisis and those going through frightening intense and painful life events. I’ve seen what trauma, infidelity, anxiety, depression, adolescent struggles and suicidal ideation can do to an individual, a couple, and whole families.
Whether you’re a couple in a relationship that’s no longer fulfilling, or a teenager who’s frustrated and pushing boundaries beyond the level of safety, my therapeutic approach is fundamentally the same: You’re safe here. I know it’s lonely and frightening, but I’ll listen to you. I will help you understand what is causing your distress – and help you find ways change it. You’ll be supported, but you’ll be challenged too.
I want you to walk away, knowing you have the skills to deal with the problem at hand. But also having what it takes – as an individual or couple – to change, grow and improve all aspects of your life.
Both adolescents and adults have told me I am warm and easy to talk to, and therapy with me feels safe. Couples say they feel understood by me, and that I really ‘get’ both their perspectives. I’ve had people thank me because they feel their partner truly understands them for the first time in their relationship.
When you come to see me you can expect a warm and thoughtful exchange, to be genuinely heard in contained space, to get to the heart of the problem, and to receive practical skills to improve your life and your relationship.
Qualifications and Professional Membership
I am a member of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, the Counsellors and Psychotherapist Association of Australia, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.
I hold a Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy from Jansen Newman Institute Sydney, and a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney.
I have worked at Sydney Couple and Family Specialists, at the Jansen Newman Institute, and with Lifeline Australia.
If you would like to find out more, or book in for an appointment, please contact our receptionist today on 02 8968 9397 or contact us. If you are a new client you can book a free 15 minute telephone session with Alex.