How I Got Myself Into Hot Water as a Couples Counsellor

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

I remember the first time I found myself in a big ethical bind with a couple I had been seeing for a few months. 

I was sitting across from one of the partners who had just revealed a big secret to me. The problem? The other half of the couple was not in the room to hear it. So, now I knew a secret the other partner did not know. I could literally feel myself break into a sweat because this had happened 20 minutes into the session. I still had 40 minutes to go. 

I was relatively new to couples counselling at the time, and I knew the revelation of this secret had put me in an ethical bind. It was only after I sat with my supervisor and walked her through the details of the situation, that I realized how complicated the bind actually was. After I explained all of the steps I had taken, my supervisor helped me to understand the mistakes I made which could have helped me avoid this challenging situation. 

After three supervision sessions, I had a clear understanding of the steps I had to take to clean up my mistake and provide the couple with steps to move forward. I met with the couple twice more. I made apologies, they had anger and frustration (at me and each other) and we moved through it and forward. 

This couple took some amazingly brave steps despite this challenge and their relationship progressed and grew because of it. AND, it could have gone very differently for all of us had they decided differently. 

After this experience I realized the delicacy and complexity of working with a couple in crisis. What I wished is that someone had walked me through the 101’s of couples counselling — ethics, dynamics, challenges and more. 

So, that is what we are offering you! 

The Art of Couples Counselling workshop explores the emotional dynamic underlying all primary relationships. It will examine common issues and challenges the counsellor may encounter, and discusses methods of supporting the couple’s movement towards deeper emotional contact and commitment.

Please join us on Sunday, June 23rd from 10am to 3pm in East Vancouver for this workshop. 

There are 3 spots left — register today!


7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Counselling

7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Counselling

Life’s been a struggle lately and you’ve made the decision to get a counsellor.  Maybe you are brand new to counselling and have no idea what to expect. Or, maybe you’ve done this before and now you’re investing in further support and guidance.  No matter where you are coming from, here are seven great tips on how to make the most of your counseling journey:

1. Get Comfortable

Have you ever noticed how when your belt is a little too tight, or your shoes are pinching your toes, it’s hard to concentrate?  Being physically comfortable allows your body to relax.  Physical comfort lends itself to deeper emotional comfort, which is exactly what your counsellor wants for you.  Next session, allow yourself to get comfy – slip off your shoes, lean into the pillows, ask for a glass of water — and if it helps, turn off your phone.  This time is all about you, so make the most of it.

2. Establish a Goal

Everyone enters counseling hoping for something – a better relationship with a partner, more self-confidence, ways to manage their anxiety, etc.   One way to jump start the process of counselling, and get the most from your time, is to consider what you want help with and share that with your counsellor.  If you aren’t sure, try writing down your thoughts in a journal.  You can begin by asking yourself, “What hurts the most right now?”  As you let yourself think on paper, your goal will likely reveal itself in your words.

3. Share the Details

Talking to a stranger can feel uncomfortable.  Talking to a stranger about the things you choose not to share with anyone can be especially nerve-wracking. But here is something you need to know — your counselor wants to hear what you have to say.  If you find yourself getting stuck about what to share and clamming up, share that experience with your counselor.  Sometimes the words “I feel stuck right now” can open the door to amazing insights and personal growth.

4. Be Honest

Often clients come to counselling to heal something that is hard to speak about.  These revelations can range from childhood abuse to relationship affairs – and everything in between.  Feeling safe with your counselor allows you to open up and take risks. Sometimes honesty can feel like the biggest risk of all; especially if you haven’t revealed your secret to anyone else. The reward of that risk is well worth taking the step: deeper and more meaningful counselling and an opportunity to heal what truly hurts.

5. The Gift of Time

If you’ve ever had a great conversation with a friend then you know how fast time can fly by.  When things start to flow between counsellor and client, time can fly by just as quickly.  When I tell clients “We have about 10 mins to wrap up” I commonly hear back  “Already? That went fast!”  If this happens to you then consider gifting yourself a longer counselling session (or two).  Momentum and breakthroughs can often take time and it’s important to take advantage of the flow that can happen in a single session. Yes, it’s a bigger investment – but the value of the personal growth and insight you get from that extra time can often be priceless.

6. Building Emotional Muscles

Going to therapy is like hitting the emotional gym – at the start, the more consistently you go, the more likely you are to reach your therapeutic goals.  On average, it takes 4 to 6 sessions to start to feel a shift.  If possible, commit to an agreed upon number of sessions from the start. Make appointments for dates and times you know you can stick to. When those initial sessions are complete, you can decide whether you want more sessions (to dig deeper) or fewer sessions (to allow the learning to settle in). Eventually you’ll find yourself only needing sessions to maintain the growth you have achieved.

7. Keep Exploring

Therapy doesn’t have to end after your leave your counsellor’s office.  In fact, if you take what you learn about yourself in session and explore it further, you are likely to deepen and accelerate your healing.  How can you do that?  Journal about your ‘aha’ moments, talk to a trusted friend, do the homework your counsellor assigns you.  Keeping the learning alive between sessions is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, and your counsellor.