Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Break ups, Couple's counselling

Choosing a Therapist who can manage high conflict

A few weeks ago I was presenting a training seminar for Therapists who work with couples. The topic was working with couples where arguments erupt in the room or they are very hostile towards each other. Why? Because it can be a difficult thing for a Therapist to manage couples who get into arguments in a session, especially if the conflict escalates out of control.

Sometimes we have couples who scream and yell in a session – the noise alone can be an issue. Not to mention that it is usually impossible to get any therapeutic work done.

The couples I see say they come to see me because they feel safe and know I will contain the sessions and not allow things to get out of hand. They sometimes joke about me being strict. People don’t enjoy getting into uncontrollable anger or rage. And most people recognise this behaviour is not helpful and want strategies to manage this. If arguments escalate out of control at home, they certainly don’t want to pay for a therapy session where the same thing happens.

So how do I do it?

I am prepared to interrupt and stop people from moving into conflict. I am direct and will challenge the couples I see to say things in a different way. For example, to talk about how hurt they are about the issue rather than attacking their partner. If I can see someone is not managing their anxiety or their anger I will pause the session and do some work with that person. I won’t let couples go on and on about the same things they argue about at home – we go underneath that and look at what the real issues are about.

It is firm compassionate work – and most importantly it is emotionally safe for couples.

Specialist training is vital for a Therapist who works with couples and families. This is why it is important to see someone is who trained as a couples’ counsellor – not a person who happens to do relationship work with couples alongside their general work. You should be looking for someone who specialises in this area and who has post graduate qualifications to reflect this. After all, couples counselling can feel like the most dangerous and frightening of all the types of therapy you can go into.

But handled well, it can also be the most liberating and rewarding.

If you would like help with your communication and would like to experience something different with our highly trained Couples Therapists please contact us on 02 8968 9397.

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