Couples therapy or marriage counselling is designed to help individuals recognize and resolve difficulties occurring in their relationship. Most often, when people first come for help they find themselves polarized around one or more issues which seem to be “the problem”. The first step in resolving such issues is a clear empathic understanding on both sides. As the psychologist I show the couple of to use language to facilitate their disruptions.

Empathy can be defined as the capacity to recognize the feelings of the other. In Marshall Rosenberg’s words, it is the “understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person … the life that’s alive in them.” Empathy is the true foundation of relationship.

Sadly, empathy often gets covered over by unresolved negative feelings of hurt, anger, resentment, and disappointment. When this occurs, this tends to undermine the relationship; sometimes the bond may be in danger of crumbling altogether.

This is where therapy comes in. My primary task as a therapist is to provide a ‘therapeutic space’ in which mutual empathy can be re-established. With my own empathic grasp of the predicament from both points of view, I am able to help each of the partners gain a deeper empathic understanding of the other.

Couples therapy helps people develop respect for, or even appreciation of, the conflicts which occur with their partners. As both gain skill in constructively examining themselves, this process begins to smooth out the rough edges in the relationship and helps both people to grow.