Our Q&A, exploring training as a psychotherapist, an introduction to counselling and some of the experiences of a therapist
David Smith trained with Tavistock Relationships and has been working as a psychotherapy counsellor for over five years. We asked him about his training in psychotherapy and why he chose working with couples.
Q: What attracted you to train as a couples’ psychotherapist?
A: I wanted to do something that really made a difference to people’s lives. I thought about how important my relationship was to my own life and decided to train as a psychotherapist helping couples. Relationships are so important – they have such a bearing on every aspect of our lives, happiness, families and general wellbeing. Nearly everyone wants to have a partner, but relationships are quite challenging - there are so many powerful external and internal attacks on our most intimate relationships - so people often need help.
Q: What sort of qualities do you think are required of a counsellor?
A: A real interest in people and what makes them tick. And a curiosity about how to engage with them to help them with the difficulties they are facing.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a couples’ psychotherapist?
A: I’d say it’s helping people to rediscover their connection. Very often people turn up to therapy in despair and are unable to talk to each other. It’s really rewarding to work with a couple and see them do better by the end. Over half the couples who have undergone counselling together with us have recovered by the end of the therapy.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of being a couples’ psychotherapist?
A: When people first arrive for counselling, they bring the problem right into the therapy room. It’s usually something difficult and painful – very often one partner might feel the other is unavailable to them and not responding to them at all, or they believe them to be too pushy. As therapists, we need to help them find the courage to talk about the things troubling them and to dig deep to get to the root of the problem.
Q: What is different about the psychotherapist approach compared to that offered by other relationship counselling providers, like Relate?
A: Couples come to us because they haven’t been able to fix the problem themselves. They might have been struggling for a while, but often the reason why they can’t fix it is that there’s something deeper behind the current problem. Psychotherapists are trained to help people come to an understanding of deeper things that can affect our relationships. Every couple is different and we treat couples on an individual basis and work with them for however long it takes, so that they can work through their problems.
Q: What are the most common areas of disagreement for couples today?
A: Sex, money and employment do come up a lot. Complaints about who does or doesn't do what, and complaints that a partner isn't available for some reason are common. Major life transitions also often cause conflict, like the birth of a child, loss of a job, children leaving home or death of a parent. But every couple comes with their own particular problem that they want help with.
Q: Why do you think some couples might be reluctant to seek therapy and what do you say to them?
A: Clients are often anxious about feeling exposed and don’t know what to expect. They haven’t been able to fix it themselves so they think maybe no one can fix it. But relationships are complex and multi-layered so it’s actually very sensible and wise to turn up for therapy and to invest in that relationship. We say that it is a sign of strength and commitment to the relationship, to look for relationship support, rather than of weakness and failure.
You can read more about our counselling and psychotherapy training here: https://tavistockrelationships.ac.uk/courses