As Abraham Maslow pointed out in his famous 'hierarchy of needs” loving relationships and a sense of belonging are a key contributor to mental and emotional health. While modern relationships come in a rich variety of textures and colours scarcely contemplated in the templates of even a decade or so ago, they continue to fill a deeply human need. Sometimes, however, they need help.
Psychology Melbourne's marriage, relationship and family services have provided help for thousands of couples and families as well as single and separated people.
What we can help with
Psychology Melbourne's team of relationship experts work with singles and couples and families of all ages, nationalities, and gender identities, at every stage of a partnership, from pre-marriage, through establishing domestic routines, addressing emotional labour issues, developing positive communications, addressing post-natal and parenting challenges to breaking up and post-separation.
They can help with a variety of different issues presenting in the relationship, including:
- Marriage and Relationship counselling
- Traditional Marriage counselling
- Couples Counselling Program
- Pre-marriage counselling
- Communication problems
- Sex therapy
- Sexual issues in relationships
- LGBTQI+ relationship counselling
- Managing the Mid-Life Crisis in relationships
- Managing mental health issues in relationships
- Managing conflict in relationships
- Divorce and separation
- Family violence
- Older adult relationship counselling
- Cross Cultural counselling
- Pre-marriage counselling
- Singles counselling
- Family counselling
- Intergenerational counselling
- Adjusting to the birth of a first child
- Managing post natal depression in relationships
- Parenting issues
- Adolescent counselling
Our Relationship Counselling Team
Psychology Melbourne has a strong team of experienced psychologists who work with marriage, relationship and family counselling on a broad range of issues.
The majority of our psychologists work in the Melbourne CBD Clinic and the rest in different locations across Melbourne. You can find out more about our Relationship Team below.
Assoc. Prof., Dr. Terence Bowles
Psychology Melbourne's couples counselling provides a fresh approach, and is often the last resort for many relationships where partners have delayed seeking help and separation seems inevitable.
Research indicates that couples counselling is more successful when the partners seek expert help early, but we have seen many relationships pull back from the brink, as partners develop new understanding and rekindle apparently lost love and affection.
To ensure the best possible outcome for couples in trouble, we offer both traditional couples counselling as well as our own Couples Counselling Program.
Traditional Marriage counselling
Traditional couples counselling works best for partners who can manage their emotions when things get tough. Arguing and fighting during sessions is counter-productive and slows progress.
In traditional couples counselling partners will attend sessions with the same psychologist through their treatment. It may include some sessions in which each partner attends a session without their partner present, but generally the couple will work together in most sessions.
"On Relationships" short course
Join our next relationships short course
Couples Counselling Program
Psychology Melbourne's Couples Counselling Program has achieved outstanding results with couples who feel stuck and unable to improve their relationships.
In this program, one or both partners may be assigned to an individual psychologist before working conjointly in couples counselling. This provides a team approach when working with difficult, entrenched issues.
For many couples, there can be individual issues that obstruct joint sessions. Our trained psychologists will assist you to deal with the personal issues that might be affecting your relationship, such as health or work problems, anxiety or depression and/or other social or family problems.
One or both partners may have difficulty regulating their emotions and be unable to express themselves clearly and coherently when working together in the joint session. Individual counselling can help prepare partners for their couples sessions.
Often past trauma experiences may affect how the couple relates to each other and individual therapy may be required to run concurrently with their couple’s sessions.
For your couples counselling, you will be assigned to one of our highly experienced couples psychologists, who will help you identify the problems and work out a plan of action for you. They will assess the changes that are required to achieve what both partners want. With your permission, your individual psychologist will speak to your couple’s psychologist to support progress.
How to get started
Your process begins with an initial personal matching session where your situation will be assessed during 40-minute session by a specially trained psychologist. At the end of that session the psychologist will recommend whether you would benefit from traditional couples counselling (with the same therapist for both of you) or refer you to our Couples Counselling Program.
In either case, you may be required to complete a screening test to help identify key areas of conflict or personality differences, or be asked to read helpful materials and practise some exercises at home.
Psychology Melbourne wants to ensure that your couples counselling experience is effective and rewarding for you both.
Our Relationship Therapies
Psychology Melbourne’s relationship psychologists use a number of different therapeutic approaches, depending on their particular practice background, the presenting issues and the couple’s concerns.
At times they might use a combination of techniques. They may need to address challenging behavioural and communication patterns, sexual, intimacy and other contextual issues which be affecting the couple’s relationship.
All of the therapies used in our practice have a sound theoretical basis and are supported by the evidence of research comparing different treatments and systematic reviews.
- Attachment theory in Couples Therapy
- Emotion focussed couple counselling.
- The Gottman Method for couples therapy
- CBT integrated into couple work
- Family Systems Therapy
- Psychodynamic Couples Counselling
- Interpersonal therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Narrative Therapy
When should you seek help?
Many couples and family members leave it too long to seek counselling. They feel ashamed or weak and try to manage alone. They soldier on, reading self-help books or trying to keep themselves busy, in the hope that the problems will somehow resolve themselves. They may constantly burden their friends with their troubles until their friends get tired of it.
Just like medical issues, the sooner you identify the problem and start addressing it, the more likely you will have a good outcome. Listen when a good friend suggests a therapist to you – and take action. People can lose decades suffering unnecessarily.
Research indicates that couples counselling is more successful when the partners seek expert help early. US studies suggest that the average couple endures six years of unhappiness before considering professional help. Too often, they will simply opt to split up. The sooner you can start working on improving your relationship, the more likely you and your partner will succeed.
Here are some common indicators that your relationship may need attention:
Communication is failing
Do you and your partner seem constantly to be on different wavelengths? Are you having the same discussions or arguments, feeling as if they are resolved, only to have them resurface and cause more damage? Or do you have things that you would like to discuss with your partner that you hold back on because you don't want to cause conflict? Do you often feel you are walking on eggshells around each other? Do you yearn for, yet struggle to have compassionate and open communication? If your conversations constantly deteriorate into heated arguments or wounded silences, it’s time to reach out for help. Sometimes having a skilled couples psychologist in the room can be the only way to get things moving in a positive direction.
You have stopped spending time together
Do you feel like you are just sharing the same physical space? Are you living separate lives, never setting time aside for you to bond and reconnect? If you aren't feeling the spark any more, seek professional help to identify ways to foster intimacy and care in your relationship.
A successful relationship should provide the space, security and support each partner needs to discuss the most sensitive things without feeling judged or exposed to retribution. Without that, one or both partners can feel tempted to seek intimacy outside the relationship. Generally, affairs only make things worse, destroying trust and more often than not causing deep emotional wounds that can spark resentment and tit-for-tat conduct. Working with a trained and experienced psychologist can help you and your partner find each other again and meet on a new level of intimacy.
Diminished physical intimacy
Have your intimate physical connections gone missing? Do you bicker over the frequency (or infrequency) of sex or one of you feels constantly rejected? Sometimes a partner's desires can be diminished by external situations like stress at work or being run down. An experienced psychologist can help a couple open a dialogue on sensitive issues that allow problems to be identified and repaired. Whatever the problem, the relationship and couples psychologists at Psychology Melbourne can help.
All families have their challenges and go through difficult times, whether they are developmental problems, communication problems or health and medical problems. Sometime these can be overwhelming.
Some families do not have enough support to help the parents manage their problems. Some are overworked and under-resourced. Problems can arise with children growing up, relationships between siblings, and with older parents needing more assistance.
Adult families can also have their problems: competition between adult siblings and their families, different values and politics, and conflict over managing ageing parents.
Here are some signs of trouble in family relationships:
- Intolerance of different opinions, beliefs, values or goals
- Different approaches to parenting
- Breakdown in communication and avoiding each other
- Repetitive arguing with no resolution
- Bullying, harassment and family violence
- Financial difficulties, bickering and inappropriate control
- Ageing parents and differences relating to their care
- Mental health problems
- Pressures relating to natural disasters and unforeseen events