Group Couples Counseling?
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
In my work with couples, so much of what gets expressed are various versions of:
So-called communication issues: “you don’t hear me” or “we can’t communicate effectively” or “I don't understand you”.
Mismatched, unmet expectations and assumptions (spoken and unspoken): “I would never say/do_______, why did you!”
Thinking they ‘know one another’ and not practicing curiosity: “He never asks me how I’m doing” or “She’s always mad at me”
The damaging effect of pain and betrayals of all kinds: “How do we get past the affair” or “you abandoned me in my most vulnerable time of need”
These are hard issues. Part of what makes them harder is the societally - sanctioned privacy of couple-dom. The challenge of helping couples heal and grow is that partnerships develop an often impenetrable world of their own, with all the functional and dysfunctional rules of engagement, patterns of interaction and psychological traps.
The privacy of the couple can become like a mono-crop: depleted in nutrients and diversity.
The rich ecosystem of a couple’s group offers flexibility and vitality that can be so valuable in supporting partners to grow in new ways.
I am a practitioner of social therapy, which is a radically relational approach to supporting our emotional healing and growth. What we mean by radically relational is that we highlight our fundamental socialness. Dr. Fred Newman, founder of this therapeutic approach, would say our pain is experienced privately, the cure is social. Our tools of this trade include inquiries such as: “How are we doing?” “What do we want to be doing together?” “Are we choosing the relationship? What would that look like?” “What does the relationship need and want?”
Social therapeutic coaches and therapists have been practicing in innovative ways with couples groups which can include partners of all kinds (business partners, friends, family members) These groups make the discovery that working on MY relationship collectively is a growth accelerator. The partners group work is designed to focus on the group, making MY relationship ours.
My partner and I are members and builders of one of these partner groups. The practice has transformed our partnership. We are much closer friends, more curious about one another, and open to continuously creating new tools for living together. We don't take disappointments so personally, and don't use the partnership as a dumpster for emotional garbage or a ‘place’ to get all needs met or past traumas healed. We see the other group members as our collective partnership now, allowing all of us to grow in many diverse ways.
Focusing on the group we and the couple we brings an infusion of nutrient diversity. We all benefit from the many voices, perspectives, and emotionality that the group brings to the table.
My colleague Carrie Sackett and I have excitedly joined forces to offer couples group series throughout the year, join us for the next one!