Psychotherapy Counsellor Q&A - David Smith
David Smith trained with Tavistock Relationships and has been working as a psychotherapy counsellor for over five years.
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 types of types of counselling?
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: Have the things that challenge our relationships changed in the last 10 to 20 years?
A: Yes – I believe the way relationships are portrayed in the media, on the internet and through social media is a huge problem because it makes people believe that everyone can have the ideal partner, perfect sex and it all happens so easily, without any effort. Because people are led to believe relationships should be so easy, they have unrealistic expectations and they often aren’t prepared to put the effort or commitment in when things become difficult. If it doesn’t work out they just want to walk away from it. This isn’t real life, but it’s very seductive.
Q: Why do you think some couples might be reluctant to seek therapy and what would you say to them?
A: They 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. It should be seen as a sign of strength and commitment to the relationship, rather than a sign of weakness and failure.
Q: Tavistock Relationships are pioneering a new online therapy service to make its services available to people who are not able to access its central London-based centres – what are the differences when working online as opposed to face-to-face, and what are the similarities?
A: The obvious difference is that they aren’t in the same room, but it’s just as productive and helpful to the couple.
Q: What is your biggest concern about delivering therapy online?
A: Our online therapy services uses a secure high quality platform – it’s vital that therapy sessions remain completely confidential and that the line is stable and not liable to breakdown during the session.
Q: Have you noticed a difference in the type of people using online therapy, as opposed to face-to-face?
A: Many travel a lot so online works for them. It’s really important to have regular weekly counselling sessions. Sometimes people have mobility problems so it’s difficult for them to travel to our centres, or they might have young children and can’t afford a babysitter. Some are living abroad too.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to couples experiencing difficulties with the relationship, what would it be?
A: You’re not alone. It’s quite normal to experience difficulties in your relationship. At some point all relationships challenge the individual to grow and develop so do seek professional help as early as you can.
To book an initial consultation with one of Tavistock Relationships’ therapists to find out if couple therapy could help your relationship, go to www.tavistockrelationships.org or call 020 7380 8288.
For more press information contact:
John Fenna, Head of Marketing & Communications
T: 020 7380 1974 E: jfenna@TavistockRelationships.org
Paula Scott, PR consultant T: 07932 740221
Debbie Walker, PR Consultant T: 077486 40577
Notes to Editors
Established in 1948, Tavistock Relationships is a registered charity internationally renowned for delivering and developing advanced practice, training and research in therapeutic and psycho-educational approaches to supporting couples.
Tavistock Relationships can provide expert media comment on the following areas:
· Relationship counselling
· Parenting and family
· Sexual problems
· Divorce and separation
· Adopting together
· Retiring together
· Relationships and dementia
· Online therapy
· Training for therapists
· New research into couples’ therapy and innovative interventions
Tavistock Relationships, 70 Warren Street, London W1T 5PB
Registered Charity Number: 211058. Company number: 241618 registered in England and Wales. The Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology.