My partner had an affair: When is the best time for Couples Counselling?

Last week I attended a 2 day training session for clinicians working with couples in the Gottman Institute method. It surpassed my expectations. You may have noticed I repost a lot of Gottman Institute articles, and the reason for this? They are the most evidenced based relationship researchers, in the world. And so it is with their couples counselling methodology. Level 1 training is about ‘Bridging the Couple Chasm’. It was really inspiring and particularly practical two days. I learnt the foundations of this particular therapy, but most of all, I learnt the answer to the question “My partner had an affair, when is the best time four couples counselling” and I answer this in the blog below.

bell curve.jpg

Now the thing about me is that I am a bonafide nerd. You may have worked this out already. And I like a good map, of how things work and what intervention works best, when. The Gottman methodology is a particularly robust therapy. Of the evidenced based couples therapy available for couples to access, the highest effect size is .5.  Looking at the bell curve on the right – this would mean that if you were in crisis you would be say at -2. After completing an evidenced based couples counselling treatment with a .5 effect size, you would move from -2 to -1.5.

This means that if you are a couple in crisis and seek therapy (and let’s be honest you only seek couples counselling when you are in crisis) the therapy will move you up towards the happiest couples by .5. In contrast, the Gottman method has an effect size of 4. So if you are in crisis, effectively you will move 4 increments taking you from the bottom into happy couple territory. So back up to the Bell Curve and you start therapy at -2, you would move to +2. TIf you consider that between 2 and 3 is the happiest couples on the planet, it means you have moved your relationship a (very) long way. The Gottman methodology is so robust there is a guarantee that when training is finished, there won’t be a couple who comes through our door we won’t know what to do with. How wonderful is that.

So, let me answer the question posed above: “My partner had an affair: When is the best time for Couples Counselling?”

Part of the content we covered was infidelity in relationships, and I learnt something really important for you to know. Couples who experience cheating in their relationship need to seek therapy immediately after it is revealed

Why? Gottman Institute research has repeatedly shown that couples trying to work through this type of betrayal on their own will hurt their relationship even more. Despite a couples best intentions, it is particularly difficult to overcome this type of betrayal, and couples seeking counselling together sooner rather than later avoid additional wounding and conflict that requires repair on top of the workrequired to move through a betrayal. To put this in therapy terms, if you seek therapy straight after a betrayal has occurred, you will save around 20 hours of therapy versus if you spend a year trying to sort it out yourselves. Fascinating eh?

You might not know that I currently work in private practice and see couples there, which is how I found my passion for this work. Additionally, I have plans to complete level 2 in February and will be opening my own private practice doors to see couples in the new year. 

I couldn’t be happier to be doing this kind of work, than I am right now.

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