Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Coronavirus, Couple's counselling, COVID-19, Family counselling, family therapy, support, Telehealth, Uncategorized

The benefits of marriage counselling by Telehealth

How do we maintain our mental health and continue to work on our relationships in the time of COVID-19 and social distancing?

Most mental health practitioners are now conducting sessions via teleconferencing, using either Telehealth or videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom. As a Couple and Family Therapist, I often work with more than one person in a therapy session. I can tell you with confidence that effective therapy work can be done using digital – rather than in-person – connection.

As a result of the coronavirus, marriages, relationships and parents are under more stress than ever before as they manage home schooling, increased financial pressure and work-related pressures (whether that’s having to both work from home, one person having to manage kids while the other is working offsite, or single parenting).

At this time in my Sydney Eastern Suburbs-based practices, we are being contacted by many couples seeking marriage counselling to help them get through. And we are finding that counselling via Telehealth or Zoom is not only just as effective as face to face sessions, but in some ways even more productive.

Here are ten surprising benefits to Marriage and Family Counselling via Telehealth:-

  1. The Marriage Counsellor can see the couple in their own home and is able to gain a greater understanding of the challenges the couple may have as a result. This also enables the Marriage Counsellor to observe how the couple interact with their children and help them with some parenting strategies.
  2. Most couples can set themselves up in different rooms and on different devices which helps if they are finding it difficult to be near each other. Doing a session this way actually gives people some space away from each other.
  3. The Marriage Counsellor can easily give a person ‘time out’ if the conflict in the session becomes too high or the subject matter too intense (the therapist can even mute a person or both people if they are talking/fighting over the Marriage Counsellor). Funnily enough, this is easier to control using technology than it is when everyone is in the same room together.
  4. The couple can talk to the Marriage Counsellor about intimate or difficult subjects like sex from the comfort of their own home. I have found that the screen ‘distance’ can actually make people more confident about raising these issues.
  5. If one person or both people are high profile, they do not have to worry about coming into a practice to receive marriage counselling – there is complete privacy and confidentiality as they are not seen by a receptionist or other clients in a waiting room.
  6. Marriage counselling by teleconferencing is time efficient because couples don’t need to travel to the practice, and in most cases don’t even need a babysitter (unless the children are very small). I am even seeing couples where one of the people is overseas and one is here in Australia. We just sort a time that works for both parties – and there we all are on a single call and in a single ‘place’.
  7. The interventions by Marriage Counsellors are direct and practical and are perfect for couples who are in crisis. There are many couples who are living in extremely stressful situations right because of the COVID-19 situation – they could benefit from learning strategies to manage this difficult time together.
  8. Communication skills are just as easy to teach via a Telehealth conference as they are face to face. There is no reason to put your marriage counselling on hold just because you are not in the same room as your Marriage Counsellor – more than ever, couples who are stressed need to manage the way they communicate with each other.
  9. If you are a couple who have children and you have decided to separate, working by teleconference allows you to access professional support to guide you through this process now. You don’t have to wait until the coronavirus situation is over.
  10. Accessing your Marriage Counsellor during the coronavirus situation provides accountability to ensure you keep doing the work you are supposed to be doing on your marriage. A Marriage Counsellor can help you both work out what is contributing to your current relationship stresses, and they can provide suggestions on what to do to help you stay connected. And support you to stay married at the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

In order for marriage counselling to work well by working through Telehealth, it is important that you access someone who is not only good with technology but is used to working with the online platform. A Marriage Counsellor working online actually has to work a bit differently to one who is in a practice room – it takes a particular skill set and it’s important you find someone who can manage this.

It is worthwhile asking your potential Marriage Counsellor how much experience they have working online. And also asking them how they are ensuring privacy and confidentiality requirements are being met from their end.

If you would like to book in with one of our experienced online Marriage Counsellors at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists, please contact us on 02 8968 9397 

About Jacqueline

Jacqueline has been in private practice for more than two decades, helping individuals, couples and families.  She has extensive experience in couple and family therapy and is considered a specialist in these areas. In her clinical practice, she has helped people deal with complex trauma, affairs, complex mental health issues, eating disorders, adolescent behavioural problems (including self-harm and suicidal ideation), behavioural issues in young children which are impacting parents and families, relationship issues and post-separation work.

Jacqueline works with many different dynamics: couples, parents, families with young children, same-sex couples, foster/adopted families, families with teenagers and also adult families.  She is particularly interested in helping parents of children with behavioural issues, or with diagnosed conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, ASD and so on.

Although Jacqueline’s work is supportive and friendly, she will challenge her couples and families to make the necessary behavioural changes, to repair relationships and to move towards healthier communication styles in the future.

Jacqueline’s style is direct and fast paced and she is known for quickly getting to the heart of the matter.  Clients report that they feel safe and understood with Jacqueline.

Qualifications and Professional Membership

Jacqueline has a Masters in Couple and Family Therapy (UNSW). She has a Bachelor degree in Counselling and Human Change, and a Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling.

Jacqueline is a Clinical Supervisor for Counsellors and Therapists. She lectures in couple and family therapy at Masters and Post Graduate level, and is currently Head Lecturer for the Couple and Family Therapy course (Masters) at the Jansen Newman Institute.  She has been a Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and Sydney University, and continues to guest lecture at other tertiary institutions.

Jacqueline is also the Director of the Couple and Family Training Centre where she runs regular professional development workshops and seminars for Therapists, Counsellors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Health Industry Workers who are looking to gain skills in this specialist area.

She is a Clinical Member of the Family Therapy Association of Australia and a Clinical Member of PACFA.

“Thank you for seeing me today. Your help with all our family issues and all your advice has been invaluable.
I don’t know how other families do it, without a Jacqueline in their lives.” – Anna (43) step-mum and mum to four children.

If you feel as though you could benefit from talking with a Therapist please contact  The Sydney Couple and Family Specialists on 02 8968 9397 or email info@sydneycoupleandfamily.com.

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