“Implementing the WDEP system of reality therapy can
be life changing and has been validated Wubbolding, 2011) and is applicable to
a multiplicity of clients from various cultures and ethnic groups with
presenting issues in relationships.
However, counsellors must maintain an awareness of cultural issues such
as racism, discrimination which can have a direct impact on clients and alos of
cultural values and norms that may prevent clients from asking assertively what
they want in a relationship. (Corey, 2017)
Each partner is asked: What do you want in your
relationship or what are you willing to settle for?
Each partner is asked to tell how their current level
of commitment will help them improve or prevent them from improving their
relationship and to describe what you mean by trying and whether trying is
Evaluating quality world pictures, both partners are
asked to discuss if their expectations of each other are realistically
attainable? And whether they will able to gain what they want from the
relationship? and to share with us your thought about need satisfying this
relationship will be in the future
In couple’s therapy, the use of the same open
questions to both partners ensure fairness to both partners. Questions that were asked? What do you want
in your relationship? What are you willing to settle for? Describe how you have helped or hindered your
relationship? Can you elaborate on behaviours you bring to this relationship? How
do you communicate with each other that brings you closer to each other? and in
ways that damage your relationship?
The counsellor assisted the couple to self – evaluate the
helpfulness of their wants or quality world, the various components of their
total behaviour and their viewpoints or perceptions.
Each partner was assisted to self-evaluate their
perceived locus of control as well as what is outside of their control and
explain how they perceive themselves and their partner in the relationship. Advice was given to both partners regarding the
use of the seven deadly habits within the relationship
Both partners were asked to examine their own level of
commitment to the relationship,
In the triad, as the counsellor, having respect for
the cultural/family values of the partners in the relationship, I assisted the
couple to evaluate their own behaviours (not the behaviour of their partner),
the attainability of their wants, and whether their own actions are bringing
them closer together or further apart
Discussing Total Behaviour:
Partners who were silent were
able to listen and seek a clear understanding of what the other partner wants
in the relationship. After both partners
have shared their wants, together they create a new shared quality world.
Being congruent, showing
accurate empathy and acceptance to both partners during the session enabled
them to feel respected, heard and understood.
In the couples therapy session, I facilitated each member of the couple to
self-evaluate and explore the negative and the positive aspects of their
relationship. As the counsellor using
immediacy, I acknowledged the anger and upset that was felt in the session and
observed in the body language in partners as they interacted with each
other. As counsellor, in the initial
stages it was unpleasant listening to both partners being critical and
aggressive towards each other before they understood that the use of the deadly
habits were no longer permitted.
As counsellor I sought agreement from both partners that
each party would respect and enable all persons to answer questions without
interruption. It was important that everyone was treated with respect and
dignity regardless of their values and beliefs
In the triad, as counsellor, it was important for me
to establishing a trusting relationship with both members of the couple, by
being honest, congruent, sincere, acceptant, respecting of clients and willing
to be challenged. The next task was to
elicit a high level of commitment from both parties. This involved interacting with both
individuals in the relationship, being fair, firm, friendly and trusting.
Both members were informed regarding the process
involved using Reality Therapy and I communicated a sense of hope for positive
changes as Choice Theory/Reality therapy is based on the belief that
relationships can be improved. I worked
to ensure that the needs of both individuals in the relationship are met
equally and that the primary objective is to treat the relationship between the
The couple were welcomed to the session and made aware
that each person has their own unique personality that bring different
qualities to the relationship having regard to own social and cultural
backgrounds and their own basic needs. The
couple were advised that the relationship was the third entity present in the
In the initial session, issues relating to duration of
counselling and confidentiality were deemed to have been agreed.
Skills in Simulated Couple’s work
Through the use of choice theory/reality therapy,
structured reality therapy and the solving circle, issues that caused conflict
in Lou and Sid’s relationships were dealt with and replaced with the use of
caring habits. The couple negotiated and reached a compromise on actions they
would undertake to improve the relationship.
the triad session, Lou wanted Sid to come home earlier so that he could be a
good father to his children and help put them to bed in the evenings. Sid was not happy to agree to Lou’s request
and felt that it was not his job as he was the main breadwinner for the
family. After negotiation and discussion
with both partners and mainly between the partners without using the seven
deadly habits, the couple reached a compromise where Sid agreed to put the
children to bed two evenings, one evening during the week and the second night
at the weekend. It was important for
both partners to respect the cultural family values, beliefs and backgrounds for
each other and to agree on a plan that was consistent with their values. Lou places a high importance on family and wants
to fully integrate her mother as grandmother into family life in addition to
her partner as father of her children. Sid wants to help out but also wants to have a
good relationship with his wife. He is
willing to agree that his mother in law can help out but that he should be able
to have time with Lou on her own when he gets home in the evenings.
explained that where a symbolic solving circle is created within the home or
elsewhere, this circle provides a safe space for both partners to make a commitment
to work on the relationship with one another using only the & caring habits
(See Appendix __). When the couple wish to deal with problems in
the relationship, both individuals enter the solving circle in which three entities
are present: each individual in the relationship and the relationship. They acknowledge that the relationship needs
are more important than individual needs.
Both individuals must state clearly what they will do to improve the
relationship. The main aim is to get
both partners to compromise on what they can do.
the triad, when Lou and Sid returned for the second session, as counsellor, the
“Solving Circle” also known as the “Marriage Circle” was introduced for dealing
with conflicts in the relationship.
Different family/cultural values were held by both partners- Lou stays
at home and enjoys having the company, support and assistance of her mother to
mind the children. Lou also wants Sid to partake in minding children like
reading story at bedtimes. Sid believes that it is Lou’s responsibility to mind
his children and that it was his responsibility to be the breadwinner for the
family and not be the caretaker. Sid feels
that his wife should not work outside of the home and should raise the children
until they finish schooling and that his mother in law should not be resident
in his home as she was interfering and not welcome.
When a couple commits to do something positive to
improve their relationship and they follow through every day for a week, the
dynamics of the relationship improve almost immediately. Both individuals get what they need, and the
relationship grows stronger because of going through the process of
prioritising the relationship over each perso’s individual needs. (Glassser
Question 5: Tell me one thing that you can do each
evening this week that will improve your marriage? After a lot of negotiation
and dicussion Lou agreed with Sid that she would speak to her mother and that
she would arrange that she could visit the house earlier in the evening before
Sid returns home from work. Sid was
happy to hear this, responding that he will avoid using any of the deadly
habits and that he will be home and have tea with his family. Both partners recognised that wanted to do
something and they were both internally motivated, for the good of the
relationship. Both members of the couple
agreed to return for another session.
Question 4: This question was asked of both partners
to find out in their opinion, what is good in the relationship. This shifted focus from a negative to a
positive aspect and enabling the couple to see what is working in the
relationship. Lou said that Sid worked
hard to provide for the children and family.
He can be funny and at this point, both partners lightened up. Sid found it difficult initially to say that “Lou”
was a caring wife and that she is very open about her feelings.
Question 3: This question was asked to understand the
perceptions of what each partner believes is wrong with the relationship. Partners were enabled to listen to the other
partner outlining what they think is wrong in the relationship and get an
understanding of partners perspective.
In the triad, Lou was very defensive and critical of Sid and says that he
is being selfish not wanting Lou’s mum to be in their home and not looking
after his children. Sid was very angry
as he feels that he cannot come home to his own house without interference from
his mother in law and that his partner Lou is not interested in him.
When both partners acknowledged that they could only control themselves,
as the counsellor, information was provided to the couple about external
control psychology, how external control work and what relationship habits
people use to exert control over others.
Both partners admitted using behaviour trying to exert control ever each
other and they were asked to avoid using any of the deadly habits (See Appendix
_). Glasser (2002) advises that we
should stop trying to control and change others, especially important people in
our lives. (See Appendix _ ).
When a couple cannot
convince the counsellor that both partners want their relationship to succeed,
then structured reality therapy will not work (Glasser, 1998). In that case, it is best to work with the
person who is least happy with the relationship to help him or her to find a
way to change his or her behaviour, accept the behaviour of the partner or
leave the relationship to alleviate his or her unhappiness. Glasser & Glasser (2011) states that
there are basically three options in a relationship: change it, accept it or leave it. If the behaviour is non-negotiable, such as
infidelity, domestic violence, child abuse, the choice may be to leave.
when both partners in the relationship answer yes to wanting help in
their relationship, this was the first step moving forward in the use of
structured reality therapy. (Glasser,2000)
The general aim of couple’s reality therapy is to help
both partners in the relationship to gain a sense of inner control. Using Structured Reality Therapy in the triad
emphasised that marriage is a partnership and that the only way to help a
couple is to focus on what’s good in the marriage, not on what may be good for
one or the other. In the Triad Group,
counselling using Structured Reality Therapy involved asking a list of six
questions to both partners in the relationship. (See Appendix _)
When counselling couples, it is important for the
counsellor to ensure that the needs of both individuals in the relationship are
met and that the primary objective is to treat the couple. The use of
structured reality therapy and the solving circle can be applied ( Glasser ,2000)
of Interventions used.
Before each partner agrees to participate in couples
therapy the counsellor should provide details on the purpose of therapy,
typical procedures, the possible negative and positive outcomes of therapy, the
fee structure, rights and responsibilities of clients and the option of any
partner to withdraw at any stage and what can be expected from the therapist
and limits of confidentiality.
information can be a major ethical issue in couples counselling. Dealing with secrets divulged by individuals
whilst undertaking couples therapy is a dilemma that couple’s counsellors may
need to deal with. On obtaining
information from one member of the couple in individual sessions regarding an
extramarital affair, counsellors need to decide as to whether to break
confidence based on the Davis Seven-step guide to ethical decision-making
guide. (See Appenidix __)
Clarifying what confidentiality means
and how it will be maintained are two main issues part of informed consent
which should be discussed documented at the contracting stage. Informed consent is a critical ethical issue
in couple’s therapy. Both individuals
have a right to be informed about conditions and limitations of confidentiality
before they consent to a professional relationship. If this does not take
place, clients lose their rights to make autonomous decisions regarding
entering the relationship and accepting the confidentiality risks (Corey,
Corey, Corey, Callanan, 2015).
Counsellors may face the
dilemma of serving one partner’s best interest at the expense of the other
partner, it is essential to work in serving the best interests of the
relationship and not that one of the partners in the relationship. It is important for the counsellor to
maintain a high level of own awareness to avoid bias in counselling. Working with issues off infidelity, requires
counsellors to have an open mind, to be aware of their own values/beliefs about
affairs and to acknowledge that what is problematic for one couple is not
problematic for another (Robey, Wubbolding and Carlson, 2012).
shall work within the boundaries of their professional competence. Counsellors must identify and be clear on
their own values and perceptions. The
overemphasis on or denial of race as an influence in a relationship can be an
indication that a counsellor has biases related to these issues. Counsellors working
with multicultural couples shall seek supervision to seek assistance in
processing biases when issues arise.
Working as a counsellor with couples or individuals,
ethical dilemmas may arise that need to be dealt with. As a counsellor, work is undertaken within
the IACP Code of Ethics and Practice for IACP Practitioners 2018 (See Appendix __) and the Law of the Country. This code of practice provides a guiding
framework, and an agreed commitment to best ethical practice and
accountability. Its underpinning principles include: autonomy, beneficence, non- malfeasance,
justice and care. These five principles
inform and shape the core values of respect for the rights and dignity of the
client, professional responsibility, competence and integrity.
Olver reports that as counsellor, it is important
that you are clear in own values, beliefs, perceptions and biases. If as counsellor, a person is viewed as being
from a “Right or “Wrong” perspective, then the counsellor should switch to a
curiosity, seeking understanding from the person whose perceptions are
different. Where counsellors find themselves in this position they should also
seek supervision to assist in processing biases and return to a neutral
position. Extensive focus on issues of
race may cause the counsellor to lose focus on the clients themselves. Counsellors shall maintain the balance of
exploring cultural issues whilst avoiding the use of culture to explain
everything that is going on in the relationship. (Robey, Wubbolding and
Multicultural couples can
experience challenges related to how to communicate, roles assigned by gender,
parenting styles. Forming one’s values
and beliefs throughout the acculturation process is a natural developmental
process. People can develop a sense
that the values and belief as that have been adopted are unequivocally correct,
instead of one’s unique interpretation of the world. A sense of righteousness ensues, which then
lead to conflict between individuals who do not share the same. “Bustamante et all (2011) found that
cultural values related to time and family connections also created stress for
intercultural families. Couples stated
that their relationships with their spouse’s family members were strained and
that they often felt marginalised when in the presence of in-laws.
Challenges can occur not only between individuals in
the couple, but also between the counsellor and the person whose culture is
dissimilar to his or hers (Robey, Wubbolding and Carlson, 2012)
As a counsellor undertaking couples therapy, it is
vital to consider equally the needs, thoughts and emotions of both individuals
in the relationship having due regard for their unique cultural values. It is important there is parity of esteem,
equal respect and equal acknowledgement of both individuals. The counsellor facilitates this by enabling
both individuals to speak, to be heard and not interrupted.
Growing up, we develop
awareness of self, a sense of our own identity and personality through
interaction with other people – attitudes, needs, traits, feelings and ways of
behaving. The family of origin is where
individuals in the relationship learn about intimacy, emotions, power, culture,
social structure, language, norms and values.
The family provides us with our social position in society and
determines statuses such as race, ethic background, religion and social class. (Sullivan,
the relationship bring with them their own subjective frame of reference. As individuals, we have our own beliefs,
values and behaviours that are shaped by our own upbringing within our family
of origin, peers, community and society.
“Multicultural couples are likely to face challenges
due to diversity of their values, beliefs and attitudes (Hsu,2001) No two individuals
have identical cultural experiences. “Understanding
and accepting this diversity requires a willingness to communicate and
understand the other’s cultural perspective (Waldman & Rubalcava 2005)”
(Robey, Wubbolding and Carlson, 2012).
underpinnings to the relationship.
The role of the counsellor in individual therapy is to
enable the client to make decisions that will improve the quality of their life.
Counsellors enable couples to identify what they are
doing, to assist them to evaluate their present behavioural patterns and to
encourage them to make the changes that they deem necessary. The counsellor will assist the couple to
negotiate the values they wish to retain, modify or discard.
In couple’s therapy, the individuals in the
relationship may have very different goals, level of motivation for attending
A difficult challenge in couple’s therapy is managing
multiple alliances in an environment where there may be conflict, emotionality,
vulnerability, and threat. Couples therapy can be more openly conflictual than
Unlike the therapist in individual therapy, the
counsellor must be able to join and manage skillfully an alliance with each
member of the couple, as well as the couple as a unit. The counsellor needs to
be able to move freely back and forth between members of the couple.
First, the bonds component of the working alliance can
be facilitated by the counsellor expressing warmth toward, respect for, and
interest in the client (Safran & Muran, 1998b).
The core conditions model
proposed by Rogers (1957) has been incorporated into a broader
conceptualization of the therapeutic alliance which was defined by Bordin
(1979) which identified three dimensions to the relationship: bond, goal and
tasks (McLeod, 2013). The construct of the working alliance was defined as a
collaboration between the client and the counsellor based on the development of
an attachment bond as well as a shared commitment to the goals and tasks of counselling. It is thought that the working alliance makes
it possible for the client to accept and follow through in the counselling
process based on a sense of ownership (Horvath & Symonds, 1991). (Lustig, Struaser, Ricce and Rucker, 2002)
In couple’s therapy, the counsellor can witness the couple’s
dynamics in the therapy room and can endeavour to mediate and work out issues
talking to both individuals in the relationship ensuring fairness and
impartiality. Counsellors must be
cautious to the risk of too much empathic understanding to one person in the
relationship to avoid manipulation.
In couple’s therapy, the
counsellor deals with two subjective frames of reference, where individual’s in
the relationship have two different quality world pictures and the counsellor
is assisting the couple to build a shared quality world picture for their
relationship (Glasser, 2000). This is in
contrast with individual therapy where the counsellor is dealing with one
subjective frame of reference and exploring the individual’s own needs and
of the relationship
Re-framing situations for couples can enable an
individual or a couple to see a situation in a different way.
As counsellor being congruent, showing accurate
empathy and acceptance and communicating this to the client enables them to
feel respected, heard and understood in both couple’s therapy and individual
therapy, interventions having structured approaches such as Glasser’s
Structured Relationship Approach, the Gottman Safe relationship House approach
and Emotion Focused Couples Therapy can be used.
Counsellors are more
interactive, directive and facilitative in couple’s therapy and bring awareness
to dynamics in the relationship and provide commentary on the process as an
observer. More immediacy skills are used in couple’s counselling by the counsellor
to pick up on what’s happening in the relationship in the room such as anger/
tears and name feelings attached. The
counsellor enables the individual who is silent to observe and listen to the
other partner when therapist is talking with him or her. In contrast to individual therapy where the
individual is the client and the work is client led.
In couple’s therapy, the relationship is defined as
the client and the focus of work is to improve the couple’s relationship as
opposed to the needs satisfaction of the individual and the self-actualization
of the individual.
The main difference
between couple’s therapy and individual therapy is that the counsellor provides
a therapeutic experience to two people at the same time, who may have differing
expectations about therapy, different goals, and different personalities. Whereby, in individual therapy the counsellor
is providing therapy to an individual with their own specific needs and wants.
released by the Central Statistics Office for 2016 (CSO) revealed that 103,895
people living in Ireland were divorced. Data
available revealed that in Ireland there were 3,289 divorces granted by the
Circuit Court and the High Court in 2015.
These figures are a testament to how difficult it is for people live
together in harmony. Families are more
diverse than ever making the challenges even greater. Working with couples in a therapeutic setting
can be a challenging endeavour.
The marital relationship can be a major source of
unhappiness. Marriage is legally,
morally and often religiously binding.
When marriages breakdown, individuals are faced with penalties such as
spousal support, child support visitation rights. Unlike friendships that
depends on both parties agreeing to honour it. There is never any attempt at
control ( Glasser 2000)