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Creating Safe Space for Couples

As a couple’s counselor I am privileged to witness daily the deepening of emotional connection with the couples who join me in creating a very unique kind of space for growth—the counseling room. Couples who come to therapy are looking for a change, for a deeper connection to each other. They come because they feel stuck and desire to find ways to change their relationship into something more meaningful. Thus they are in need of a certain kind of transitional space to help them move from one place to another. Carl Jung of Jungian Psychology speaks of this kind of space as “liminal space”—the emotional space of transition between where you’ve been and where you are going.This is the kind of space that is made up of both uncertainty and possibility, which often creates both feelings of fear and hope in those who find themselves entering the therapy room. This is a room that offers opportunities for growth but as with any gain, there is often going to be some pain. When an individual or couple reach out to me for help, I immediately assume that while they may be feeling a bit anxious or afraid, they are actually feeling tremendous courage. It takes courage to choose to enter this kind of space. And of course it helps tremendously to have an experience couples therapist to provide the kind of emotional holding of the couple while they work through the various issues and concerns that they bring with them. Whether their issues are something more basic like communication, or whether more complex like dealing with infidelity or perhaps other forms of a breach of trust, there is immense value for a couple to have a trained and experienced therapist in the room with them to work with through the intense feelings of anger or disappointment they are harboring, and sometimes, have been harboring for years. Many have lost confidence that their partner can hear them and understand them and so it can be a bit terrifying to bring their thoughts and feelings to each other when for so long it’s only left them disappointed and feeling alone. There are so many things can be helpful for a couple struggling to reconnect, such as various tools, strategies, techniques, etc, but in my experience, the most vital requirement is quite literally, the safe space of the therapist’s office and the holding presence and guidance of the therapist. There is something profoundly helpful for a couple to know that someone is there to hold their emotions with them, so that they can more openly and fully share what they think and feel.

In the field of relational psychology, it is well known that clients need to “borrow” the self structure of the therapist in order to help them move into what are often painful and vulnerable places. Leaning on the therapist’s self-structure enhances their capacity to move into such vulnerable and painful places. So many times in my many years of practice couples have told me, even after just one visit, that just being in this kind of space with the therapist has provided them with some relief. Sometimes this relief is experienced simply after talking with me and scheduling an appointment! This is not magic. This is science. We are relational beings to the core. A person’s emotional stability can be hindered or enhanced by the state of being of the people around them. The kind of space that couples counseling provides results in giving a couple the strength and calm necessary to work through difficult issues. There is no better way for a couple to establish intimacy and connection than to move into the deeper places of their hurt and heart with each other. To share hurt and disappointment is not an easy thing for most of us to do, especially with our partners because it can feel like so much is at stake. Will our feelings be rejected? Will we be heard or once again scoffed at? Will we be really understand or just shamed for feeling the way we do? For many of us, it is those we love the most that have hurt us the most and so to open up and try again is frightening. This is why providing this kind of space to couples is so vital for fostering a deeper emotional connection. It’s very difficult to find or create this kind of space in our fast-paced hectic and often chaotic world. This is why its such a pleasure to bring this gift to my clients.