Couples Therapy

Relationship issues and Couples Therapy

At Mood Disorders Clinic, we understand that issues occurring in the relationship can be a major factor in the development of other issues, including anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, grief, fear, etc. This is why we see great value in couples therapy.

We believe that when a relationship is good, it can have a positive impact on other areas of life. Several of our clinical psychologists are passionate about providing couples therapy, including Dr Ea Stewart, Dr Vanessa Bruce and Tracy McLean. They all utilise a range of approaches to help people improve clients’ relationships. MDC is also LGBTQIA+ friendly – Ea, Vanessa and Tracy welcome this population and enjoy working with anyone who struggles in any type of relationship.

What classifies as a relationship issue that could benefit from couples therapy?

There are many ways in which a relationship can experience problems. These can range from minor issues that require a bit of tweaking, or moderate issues requiring some in depth work, to major issues where one or more people may feel threatened in the relationship. No matter how big or small the issues appear, letting them continue and escalate is often the start of the downhill spiral for most relationships. Therefore, seeking couples therapy as early as you notice issues (however minor) is often beneficial, as having someone at that stage who can see objectively without bias what issues each person is bringing to the table, may be exactly the thing that can lead to positive change.

What types of relationship issues exist?

  • Communication issues
  • Manipulative/control issues
  • Jealousy
  • Sexual issues (high sex drive vs. low sex drive)
  • Blended family issues (e.g. two existing families coming together)
  • Parenting issues resulting in relationship problems
  • Abusive patterns
  • Lack of emotional support between the partners
  • Lack of focus/effort placed on the relationship
  • Affairs/lying/other forms of being unfaithful

What do the statistics say about relationship breakups?

Relationships can be difficult to maintain because each individual is unique, has a specific way of communicating, deals with issues in a different way, and has a range of needs. This may be some of the main factors leading to the statistics of marriage breakups. In particular, relationships that have existed for nine years or less are the largest proportion of couples separating or divorcing. Specifically, statistics suggest that in 2017, 56% of this group of couples separated and 43% divorced.

Interestingly, there has also been a rise in separation and divorce in those couples that have been married for 20 years or more. This can be seen according to statistics from 1980 to 1990 showing that only 20% of this group were separated or divorced; whereas in 2010 this increased to 28% and remained similar at 27% in 2017.

So what factors are involved that may impact relationship issues?

  • Differing communication styles
  • Past issues related to childhood and upbringing that influence how people interact
  • Opposing ways of tackling problems (e.g. head on vs. pulling back to consider in more detail)
  • Incongruent ways of showing love to one another
  • Differing expectations of lifestyle once children are part of the picture
  • Each person’s self-esteem, how they think and feel about themselves, and the doubt this can create
  • Major stressors or lifestyle changes that were not planned for adequately
  • Differing core values and morals
  • Mistrust issues resulting from past issues in the relationship (i.e. being unfaithful)
  • Lack of emotional closeness

What types of treatment are available?

Treatment options depend on which factors from the above list might be going on and what type of relationship issues are being experienced. Sometimes treatment can involve predominantly communication skills training specific to the couples needs, at other times, more in depth work is required for each individual to understand both their own reactions and that of the other person.

There are a range of approaches to address relationship issues:

Interpersonal Therapy

Emotion-Focused Therapy

Schema Therapy (adapted for couples)

Positive Psychology

Communication skills training

Sensate focus therapy (specifically for sexual issues).

The above therapies are described in more detail on our treatment page.