What signs professionals offering couples therapy should look for, in order to help.
By Marian O'Connor, Relationship Therapist and Head of Training, Psychosexual Therapy, at Tavistock Relationships
While some families and couples are enjoying the opportunity to spend more time together during lockdown, evidence is emerging that many are facing mental health challenges at this time.
A survey* measuring the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of adults suggests anxiety, depression, loneliness and self-harm are on the increase. The reported surge in calls to domestic abuse helplines points to an increase in couple conflict and since lockdown began, and here at Tavistock Relationships we’ve seen a 2oo per cent uplift in traffic to our online ouple counselling web pages.
Many of the couples we are working with are struggling with increasingly distressed relationships. Some of the most common problems people are reporting to us during their therapy sessions include:
- Risk analysis - Conflict is occurring where one partner is very concerned about the virus, often due to their health, but the other is less so. Some are more relaxed about taking certain risks, while their partner doesn’t agree. Sometimes people are asking their partners not to touch them, further raising tensions between them.
- Increased phone use – insecurities in the relationship are being triggered where one partner is excessively using mobile phone and social media.
- Lack of space – couples are finding it harder to create space for themselves to be alone as a couple with children being so constantly in the house and needing attention. The lack of space can feel claustrophobic even when there are no children, with individuals reporting the lack of opportunity just to be on their own without the constant presence of their partner.
- Financial worries – many people are finding it hard to contain their anxiety over the uncertain future of their work and finances.
- Home schooling – home schooling is a new source of tension for many couples, with disagreements about its importance and the sharing of childcare responsibilities.
- Nowhere to hide - some couples have managed to avoid tensions in their relationship by leading very busy, separate and functional lives. Now they are faced with the constant presence of their partner under lockdown, they feel they can no longer avoid these tensions and are seeking therapy to talk about the need for change or separation once lockdown ends.
Tavistock Relationships was set up to help families in the wake of the Second World War, when traumatized families were in crisis, devastated by separation, loss and displacement.
During this current period of compressed domestic living, brought about by the war against coronavirus, couple-based counselling is more important than ever, and we urge people to seek support and intervention before it’s too late.
The overlap between depression and troubled relationships is much higher than many people realise. In fact, people living in trouble relationships are at least twice as likely to suffer from depression as people whose relationships aren’t troubled. And arguments can have long term damaging mental health consequences for children.
So it’s vital for people who are concerned about stress in their relationships to seek professional support to help understand the feelings they are experiencing and take steps to ease their anxieties.
To help people take their first steps into therapy, we are currently offering couples and individuals four online meetings with psychotherapists, at a cost based on their ability to pay.
To find out more, go to https://www.tavistockrelationships.org/living-with-lockdown-help or call us on 0207 380 1960.
*Research being undertaken by the University of Glasgow, Samaritans and the Scottish Association for Mental Health with 3,077 adults.