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THE RELATIONSHIP TRIANGLE – COUPLE COUNSELLING

Healthworks Couples Counsellor Michael Hawkins shares his passion about the benefits and challenges of couple/relationship counselling. Michael was trained in couples counselling at the University of Strathclyde….and through his ongoing work with couples.

“I remember the warm summer evening and the feelings inside me well, as I stood outside the red Regency building with its steep stone steps. Two flights up, a marriage guidance counsellor was waiting for me. I stood there questioning why I was there alone – the marriage was over. Aren’t you supposed to go to couple counselling as a couple? Wasn’t this too late? Somehow the steps drew me up to where a kind faced elderly lady was waiting for me.

In my mid-twenties, meeting someone in her sixties, my heart sank but the hour soon passed and the surprise was she asked only about me; my upbringing, my self-awareness. I didn’t return, yet the hour has stayed with me, and years later I see how accurate and astute her explorations were.

Decades on and swapping careers, I became a Counsellor and was quickly drawn into couples counselling. I had climbed some inner steps to resume, perhaps, what I hadn’t finished. This time I was the one welcoming nervous couples.

The stigma around Counselling has long passed and nowadays couples and singles of all ages and stages of relationship – either a few months into a relationship or thirty plus years into a marriage – come to confide their relationship dilemmas. “I want a baby,” “I’m thinking of leaving”. “She has changed”, “It is hard since his illness”, “Should I leave her/him”, “Pornography has come between us,” and of course the very many more issues that span the everyday range of the human experience.

While I enjoy one-to-one counselling, Couples Counselling is, perhaps, more rewarding and something I am passionate-even radical-about. Couples have the space to listen to each other in a safe, held environment and receive equal time, without being cut off or walked out on. It gives opportunity to let go of the patterns and habits we fall into at home, where it is hard to contain our hurt, frustration and anger, and try to listen and speak honestly. Often new information emerges that can transform the relationship. I listen, facilitate, empathise and, above, all don’t judge one as the angel, the other as the sinner.

I help them focus on the pain each feels rather than the pain each causes. People come – of all ages – recognising that relationships are a lot of work and eager to try and resolve things before a breakdown occurs. And, of course, they come when in crisis. Some come for months, some years, others for a ‘Marriage MOT’.

The modality I am trained in is the person-centred approach to counselling, where the goal is to create an atmosphere in which couples are safe to be truly honest, able to listen and show each other acceptance. If these conditions are created, the couple can understand, solve their problems and become clear on what needs to happen.

It is a privilege to do this work, to enter into a couple’s world, in a way becoming part of the relationship and therapeutic triangle during the time we are together.

We live in complex and challenging times with a recent article in the Independent newspaper claiming that “Brexit arguments causing rifts between couples, counsellors say.” But every day I see, that the old maxim about talking things through and listening, can be the best way towards a healthy, balanced, more intimate relationship.”

Michael Hawkins can be contacted on 01309 671552 or email: michaelhwkns1@gmail.com