In Psychology and Psychotherapy, it is typical for practitioners to specialise. Couple and Family Therapists have post graduate qualifications and training that’s specifically relevant to relationship issues which impact couples and families. The field is big and there’s an association (AAFT) which sets a professional code of conduct and works to ensure training standards in this specialisation remain high. To be eligible for AAFT membership, practitioners have to demonstrate both theoretical knowledge and practice experience to a high standard.
Practitioners need post graduate training in this specialty because working with more than one person in the room is complex, challenging and at times risky – a well-meaning but poorly trained counsellor can actually make the problem worse for the couple or family.
Many Counsellors and Psychologists work with couples. Some have done a lot of post graduate training in couple work. But most have not done family therapy training. That’s partly because it is very difficult to find post graduate study and training for aspiring family therapists in NSW. A proportion of the practitioners who complete appropriate study are employed by NGOs and government-funded organisations.
We therefore have a short supply of highly trained Family Therapists in NSW who are in private practice.
Couple and Family Counsellors are people who are attracted to working with clients in a fast paced, highly energised way. They must be able to manage conflict and even hostility. They need extensive knowledge of paediatric and adolescent development. They should also be astute at picking up psychological problems or conditions (in children, adolescents and adults) that might be impacting relationships. They should also have a working knowledge of Family Law, insofar as it affects issues such as child access and marital separation. It takes many many years of training and experience to become what is called a senior Couple and Family Therapist in this field. And a great deal of professional confidence.
How can Couple and Family Counsellors help yous?
Couple and Family Therapists or Counsellors will assess the problem on intake – the first meeting. The initial task is to develop a plan for the presenting problems. This early phase of work can be a bit slower as the practitioner needs to assess what each person’s concerns are and what they would like see changed. After this, the pace typically speeds up as the
Therapist works with the couple or family actively on their relationships – this is considered the middle phase of the work. Finally, work is consolidated and plans are made to terminate the therapy.
Couple and Family Therapists work systemically. This means they view the problem as a shared problem between everyone rather than a problem within an individual. This helps everyone to stay engaged in the process and reduces the blame, shame or defensiveness an individual might feel. It’s an approach which often results in much better relationships –
and better outcomes for the individuals concerned. Another important feature of couple and family work is that unlike some other types of therapy, clients will receive direct feedback, suggestions and advice on how to manage situations. The Therapist in this work is never in a passive position with clients. Therapists are always active and engaged in helping you improve your situation outside of the therapy process. For this reason, it is crucial that the person you see is actually trained to do this.
How do you know if a therapist has the right training and experience?
All Couples Counsellors should be able to tell you what post graduate training they have undertaken. Ask them what training they have – here are some examples of modalities that would tell you they have sound knowledge in the area of couples counselling:
Training in: –
- Systemic Theory
- Emotionally Focused Therapy
- Solution-Focused Therapy.
All Family Therapists should have a post graduate degree (Masters or Post Graduate Dip) in Family Therapy. If you ask them they should have the above listed training plus:
- Structural Therapy
- Strategic Therapy
- Milan and Post Milan
All Couple and Family Therapists should be undertaking regular professional development training and also attending conferences to keep their knowledge up to date. They should be a member or be eligible to be a member of the Australian Family Therapy Association (AAFT).
Recommendations by other well known Family Therapists are also another good way to ensure you are seeing the right person.
All Therapists at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists have had extensive training in couples work. You will only be referred to a Therapist to do family work if the practitioner has extensive training and appropriate levels of experience in family therapy.
We often hear negative stories from clients who have seen inexperienced or inadequately trained therapists for Couple or Family work – and regretted it. Remember, if you sense the Therapist is not skilled enough they probably aren’t. Never be afraid to try another Therapist or question the direction of the work.
Quotes we have heard from our clients:
“We (family) did go and see someone when we separated but it’s obvious they were not of the same calibre as you. We are so grateful you could see us.” – Jenny (41) Step-Mum to a 13-year-old and mum to a five-year-old, and partner Paul (48) – clients who see Jacqueline McDiarmid for blended family work.
“Our last couples counsellor didn’t seem to know how to manage us, in fact they looked scared to see us. We need someone like you who is confident.” – Brian (45) and Sarah (38) who saw Jacqueline McDiarmid for couple work.
We have the skills and expertise to help your relationship in ways you didn’t know were possible.
Don’t put up with an unsatisfying partnership. Do something positive to get the love, connection and excitement you both really want, by booking a session now.