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How Counselling Helps Gay Couples

Let’s talk about why you’re considering gay couples counselling. If the primary goals of counselling* is to assist the couple with their specific relationship conflicts, how do we design an effective and bespoke therapy that addresses the couple’s specific needs?

In reality: your specific needs.

Unlike some therapy services, Dean Richardson's approach is not one-size-fits-all (sometimes called: "manualised"). Instead, this is an incredibly useful, facilitated, therapeutic approach with a professionally experienced Relationship Counsellor (in practice for over 22 years). It is fit-for-purpose with many types of LGBT / QIA+ relationships because it integrates the needs of the couple or group while incorporating their own ideas, hypotheses, and suggestions through the simple medium of conversation.

There are no "do these steps and all will be fine". Instead, we set about creating a therapeutic process tailored specifically to this distinct partnership. Session takeaways can be practised at home with issues being brought back into session for discussion, reviews and regrouping.

We aim to see the process mature into something unique & useful for your distinct relationship needs… with later Dean withdrawing from the work when the clients proceed independently. Furthermore, this approach avoids the clients from feeling like they are passive prescriptees; adhering a therapist's instruction they must comply with.

Innovation, Creativity and Ideas in LGBT+ Couples Counselling

(*that is… counselling for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Asexual, Aromatic and Mixed-Orientation Couples and more).

Getting Started

The beginning to this effective approach sees Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg) holding the therapeutic frame(a fancy way of saying he outlines the basic building blocks that the couple and Dean may use to build a process which empowers them into transforming their relationship).

The couple gain new information about their relationship; with new information comes new, informed choices.

The evidenced rationale for gay couples therapy benefiting the couple builds upon the original Milan Associatesdiscoveries as follows:-

  • Curiosity (initiated through Counselling)… leading to  →  New Information.
  • New Information… leading to  →  New Options.
  • New Options… leading to  →  Negotiating / Making New Choices.
  • New Choices… leading to  →  Transforming the Relationship (through informed empowerment).
  • Transformation underway (partners consider leaving counselling).

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Overview of this Therapy

Gay Couples Therapy can work for gay male, lesbian female, bisexual, transgender, mixed-sexuality, mixed-gender and gender-agnostic couples.

Counselling sessions are once-a-week (same day & time – except for planned breaks, bank holidays etc), each of 50 minutes (or optionally 90 minutes by prior arrangement) and booked automatically.

When we start working together, we’ll figure out what our main focus will be. The focus of couple counselling is important; it is not always obvious, despite what the couple may have concluded from their relationship behaviour, what is at the heart of their difficulties. We’ll use this time to talk about the couple’s (unsatisfactory) relationship behaviour employing empathy and curiosity. Curiosity allows us to learn new information, and later to put this new understanding to use.

Broken Heart

Using your Skills

We’ll use the couple’s own creativity and ability to hypothesise – using new information to put proposed new behaviour into action (with Dean’s help and support). We’ll stop counselling when the couple’s management of their newer behaviour renders Dean’s presence unnecessary.

Therapy for couples in counselling employs (science bit coming up…) an integrated systemic and psychodynamic psychotherapy theoretical framework of psychology. In other words: by us learning about the couple’s relationship “system” (how stuff is working / not working / reacts & responds) the couple and counsellor are able to make more informed decisions about changes the relationship could make. The counsellor maintains a neutral position (doesn’t side with one partner over the other), and employs a motivating style of curiosity and interest. Together the couple and counsellor develop new hypotheses around the relationship’s behaviour (why might this or that be happening…) and so this discovery of new information helps the couple make informed choices for change.

Sound complex? It becomes second nature quite quickly.

 

Gay Couple with Relationship Problems Sitting Apart

Zero % Dropout Rate

FACT: 100% of clients returned for a second session (and more...) 👍🏻

Our counselling relationship begins with an initial evaluation session so that you and Dean may meet and begin deciding together if this early experience of counselling seems helpful (to you individually, or to you and your partner(s) together). Additional sessions are sometimes agreed upon to help ease the decision to commit to counselling, but it's not often the case.

It may interest you to learn of two measurements that can help you to appreciate how people respond overall to Dean's style of counselling: the Initial Dropout Rate (the percentage of people who decide not to continue working with Dean after the initial session) and the Case Dropout Rate (the percentage of people who stop attending counselling during the first month... without giving reasons).

Over the past twelve months (August 2021 to July 2022) Dean's Dropout Rate measurements have been:-

Initial Dropout Rate:
0.00%
Case Dropout Rate:
0.00%

Couples Don’t Talk… for Very Good Reasons

You both may have given up talking.

When you tried to talk things out it just raised arguments that neither of you could diffuse.

  • It might have been an affair that happened years ago.
  • He might have said something that made you think: “…OMG, do I know him at all?”
  • It might be you learned she has a wound that you both just shouldn’t be talking about.
  • It could have been repeated behaviour that upsets you (both?), but without being able to talk and resolve the behaviour you both simply don’t talk about it any more.

…and these matters, which are undiscussed for good reasons, can remain hidden away within the intimate space between you until, one day, something happens that brings them out of hiding once more… 😢

Man saying Do Not Talk

A Safer Place to Talk

Gay couples don’t talk… for very good reasons,

So, when entering gay couples counselling we can begin to create a safer place in which important conversations can take place. This place might be in the counselling session, it may involve both of you finding a neutral place away from the sessions.

Wherever the space it, it will be one in which the matters that we couldn’t talk about before, might now begin take place.

Sure, we will create some rules that helps you maintain safety and containment together. We will discuss what both partners hope for in being able to talk. The counsellor can monitor both partners during their talking and he intervene when it all seems to be going a bit wrong. The couple can learn how to check-in with each other whilst their conversations take place, so that they (too) can monitor safety and change tactic when they’re away from a counselling session.

Whatever framework we create together, it will be one that’s your distinct relationship needs… no one else’s… and it’ll work for the both of you enabling you to talk with each other again.

Telling your Relationship Story

Maybe think of Counselling for Gay Couples like this story:- a lesbian couple come into counselling carrying an open box. Within the box are many jigsaw pieces, all mixed up. The women suppose that all the pieces are there, but when they try and build the picture one pulls out a piece saying: “blue – this obviously means it’s a piece of the ‘sky’!” and tries to fit the piece to others that may also be sky. The other partner looks at the piece and says: “that’s not ‘sky’; blue means ‘sea’!” and tries to fit the piece to bits that might be sea. An struggle ensues between the women because some pieces are fitting together and other aren’t; the couple are fighting over what the “picture” is meant to look like.

A major problem here is that no-one has the box lid. The couple don’t know what the picture is supposed to look like. The couple have their individual assumptions about what the bits are and are not discussing with each other to reach an agreement. Each partner is wrestling with the other upon their individual ideas of what this picture is supposed to be.

So, if the jigsaw puzzle is the gay couple’s relationship, what does counselling do to help the both of them rebuild (or build for the very first time) the picture of their relationship?

Jigsaw Analogy for LGBT Therapy

Learning your Partner’s Story

During counselling sessions, the counsellor’s role will include facilitating the gay couple into discussing, negotiating and agreeing / empathising / compromising upon what each piece might be in the context of this relationship (new information →  inspiration, negotiation, compromise), how each piece might fit with others, and working together to build their own picture. We’re supporting each other in hypothesising “if a blue piece could be more than only sky or sea what else could it be?” to empower the couple with newer (piece fitting…) options to help to build this new relationship picture.

The couple (at their own pace) become empowered into making their own hypotheses with each other. As this ebbs and glows, the counsellor step back/forward with holding the concept of the couple’s relationship in mind. The couple are discovering new information and are making new, informed choices sufficiently for the pieces of their relationship to fit together, better than before, and a clearer picture is developing in front of them.

Working alongside you…

…rather than doing therapy at you.

It’s a common assumption about the process of gay couples counselling that couples begin by describing their “symptoms”, and then expecting that their counselling will prescribe how they should go about resolving their “illness”. Maybe there’s a hope that the counsellor will perform the “treatment” on their behalf too.

This is an understandable attitude, and it’s often based upon our experiences from our GP Doctor or the hospital. This is often called a “medicalised” approach. Counselling uses a different, much more effective, non-medicalising approach.

So, a couple hoping to be prescribed a solution may first have to manage their disappointment (eg “why isn’t the counsellor fixing our relationship?!”) which, when the relationship between counsellor and couple is good enough, can be done through conversation, querying and in-session experience.

You can read more about this phenomenon here: Why Relationship Counselling Doesn’t Work…).

Gay Couples Therapy on Video

Counsellor Neutrality

Sometimes, one or more partners may try to convince the gay couple’s therapist that they are “in the right” arguing that their partner is “in the wrong”. As if the problem within their relationship may only be fixed if the one-at-fault admits their errors; one partner must be right, one partner must be wrong. I’d suggest to you that this could well be a reflection of the gay couples’ problems at a deeper level of the relationship (eg the symbolism around: “I have to be right; so to make that a fact you must be wrong”) when reality may be more about both partners contributing “right and wrong” together, and without realising it.

In gay couples counselling, we make effective use of relationship behaviours (both positive, negative and neutral) in order to understand their Family System (the behaviour they’ve created together). When the couple understand more of their behaviour, that what’s been happening has been more of a collaboration than “it’s all his fault”, then we invited comprehension. With comprehension comes choice, and with choice comes the option to make changes.

Gaining New Knowledge

We’re trying to gain new knowledge (see above) about this gay couple in therapy. With knowledge comes curiosity, new information, inspiration and opportunities for change.

As a Gay Couples Therapist, Dean practices a form of Family Relationship Therapy referred to as an integrated systemic / psychodynamic approach. He takes a neutral stance within the therapeutic alliance in order to learn how the couple pull and push together.  He’s listening within the stories for common and/or conjoined anxieties (hidden within the couple’s story) that the couple (unawares) are trying to mitigate.

Dean’s approach may relieve you of the need to compel the therapist to act as an adjudicator (deciding who is right or wrong). Indeed, it may be beneficial to discuss in session any and all recognition of such needs.

This is just one of the many psychological approaches that Dean employs to work with gay couples in therapy, rather than employing tools or exercises at the couple (like some therapists inexperienced in couple work may try to do. Couples in therapy sessions are invited to participate within the therapy as equal participants alongside the therapist. In time, we become three therapists working together.

A little later, two therapists (the two of you) will say goodbye to the third (me) as they leave the therapeutic relationship.

Using Two Video Devices

Dean Richardson has more than 15 years’ practice Counselling via real-time Video Conferencing (Skype, Zoom etc). His original focus was working with couples in Long Distance Relationships (i.e. partners being in a different countries to each other would have to use one device each).

As 2019’s pandemic developed, Dean discovered a therapeutically useful phenomenon for couples seeking remote counselling services over video: couples living together also benefited from using individual devices (i.e. one device each, sitting in different rooms from each other); couples reported back that the approach gave them a helpful sense of “we’re not at home” during therapy.

Dean’s Distinct Approach

This means that Dean’s particular approach empowers couples to talk with each other, in counselling, about subjects that couldn’t usually be discussed “at home” (or, at least, not in the early stages of counselling). Difficult subjects became more accessible due to the use of two video devices (any mix of Smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs etc available to the couple).

So, as you consider entering counselling with Dean Richardson for Zoom/Skype Video Counselling, the following Preparations for Video Counselling will be helpful to you both…

Couple on Video Counselling

Beginning Counselling

First Session(s)

Initially, couples meet with their counsellor to discuss their relationship problems. Right at the start of the session Dean will be assisting the couple in making an informed decision about counselling (eg taking contact information, a history of the individuals and the relationship, any previous counselling experiences, psychiatric/GP care etc). After safeguarding is completed, we move into assisting the couple to begin finding the focus of the counselling. This may be telling the story of the relationship, the current problems, what enables couples to begin talking.

Finding the Focus is an important aspect for couple therapy. A couple may think they know what the problems are from behaviour (or events). But when the counsellor begins to drill down a little more for new information the couple may find that what they think are the problems are actually symptoms of a deeper ailment. This will be helpful – once the focus is identified more clearly, counselling can proceed with a more accurate aim.

The first session (sometimes the first handful of sessions) include evaluating if the couple and counsellor can work together. We notice if we’re able to work with what’s on offer. The first session(s) may merge into subsequent sessions naturally, rather than to declare “the first session is done, now we move on!”, or we may interrupt our work to discuss possible other approaches (or services) to which the couple may respond better.

Subsequent Sessions

Each subsequent session usually begins with the invitation: “What do we think we need to focus upon today?” This puts the couple’s autonomy and inspiration in charge of leading the session.

We may discuss previous week’s homework (see later), any new difficulties that the couple have encountered, or any new learning and new decisions being made since last session.

Post-Session Homework

Counselling for Couples within each session can be about identification:

  • identifying the focus,
  • identifying relating conflicts / difficulties
  • identifying processes that get in the way of resolution (eg defences, historic experiences etc).

And whilst sessions can regularly include some practice (how to transform what we’re identifying) there is also oodles of time for experimentation and transformations outside of the session: we call this homework!

Rather than the counsellor setting the homework each time, the couple will be asked to identify together what themes they noticed emerging during session. These themes can help the couple identify what they might wish to focus upon in their own time. After a while the couple become independently skilled at identifying their own homework.

Subsequent sessions may include discussions about the previous week(s) homework: identifying what worked well, what didn’t go so well, and what could be done differently. A way to feed back into the counselling sessions new information for working upon with the therapist.

Homework for a Couple in Therapy

How Counselling Ends

If a primary aim in relationship counselling is to empower the partners to make their own transforming decisions together, then an equally important aim will be empowering the couple to make their counsellor redundant.

I’m talking about the couple bringing the counselling to and end (but not their own therapeutic behaviour together).

A couple does not have to be in counselling until every problem is resolved.

No, through practising therapeutic techniques that the couple developed in session with Dean, the couple begin to develop and employ their own therapeutic approach. Once the couple recognise that this has become effective within their partnership (e.g. the couple are managing their own difficulties more successfully), the need to attend weekly counselling sessions diminishes.

How Counselling Comes to an End

Ending != Complete

Many couples leave counselling with their difficulties well on the way to becoming resolved – without the need to have everything “fixed” (so to speak. Their counsellor’s presence becomes redundant. The couple continue to work successfully on their remaining problems along.

Unlike some therapists who suggest to the couple that they book future “top-up sessions”, this is unnecessary with Dean’s approach. There is no expectation on you to return into counselling in the future (as if you’d somehow run out of the approach you’d developed during your counselling work?!).

Of course, you are both welcome to meet with Dean again in the future, if you feel the need. This arrangements, however, would be on your terms, rather than at the counsellor’s insistence or insinuation.

You’re free to choose how you bring counselling work to an end.   

LGBTQ+ Sex Life in Couple Counselling

Even though we all might suspect that any couple can experience distress or dysfunction in their sex lives, here we're not talking about just any couple's sex life... we're talking about your sex life.

If sex has become difficult, complicated, or even impossible, LGBT Couples may wish to consult with a Sexual Relationship Counsellor, such as Dean.

Sexual Relationship Counselling aims to help the couple understand their sexual behaviour difficulties from both a practical (what's going wrong physically) and an emotional (a barometer of some deeper problems) standpoint.

It's important to understand that our aim is to help the couple understand more about what's going on for themselves (rather than to prescribe solutions to them). Whilst sexual dysfunctional in a relationship can be distressing, we can talk it through to help you both together.

Counselling for Gay Men's Sex Lives

Unlimited or a Set Number of Sessions

NHS facilities and some mental health charities offer you a limited or set number of sessions. The limit may be around 6 or 12 sessions. Sometimes this may mean you will end counselling before your full requirements are addressed.

The number of sessions available to you via this service has no artificial limit. You can attend for as long, or short, as therapy is helping. Dean effective therapy approach comes from his private practice - not a service managed by a third party - and all he asks is that you commit to regular, weekly attendance.

Changing Sessions

After we have established our counselling work, you may wish to discuss the number of sessions to be attended. This can help with budgeting, availability, or new issues that come up in counselling. We can discuss potential changes before they are implemented, allowing everyone to make an informed decision.

Primarily, because we are working with your specific relationship, the therapeutic needs of the relationship are of the utmost importance. Financial issues are important, and we can address them within the context of what the relationship requires from counselling.

Gay Couple Walking Away after Counselling is Complete

About Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg)

You could choose any couple / group counsellor…

Given that this will be the most intimate and vulnerable you could be with your partner(s), you would want a skilled professional whose expertise you could trust, and whose focus would be upon your distinct relationship. Your couple or group relationship will be in good hands with Dean. He works from Great Britain, is Independent of "box 'em/shift 'em" therapy services and identifies as a gay couple counsellor. He's also easily payable in pounds sterling! Dean already had an impressive 15 years actual video "webcam" experience - way before the first British emergency began (when suddenly many counsellors added a Video option to their portfolio, having not practiced so previously! 🤔).

What makes Dean Distinct

  • Dean is sensitive and effective to your sexuality / gender-identity and intimate ways of relating to each other.
  • You'll discover quickly that Dean is an informed member of your own community.
  • Dean demonstrates adept skills with lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, fluid, mixed sexuality and same-or-mixed gender relationships having over 22 years expertise as a therapist.
  • Dean avoids the role of "all-knowing expert." Experts do not learn and adapt to new situations (such as your distinct relationship). Experts simply instruct using a pre-programmed approach 🤔.
  • Dean speaks plain English (and can swear like a virtuoso if you like, or not at all if you prefer). He works cooperatively with your relationship (no unnecessary silence, or just "hmms...").
  • Dean was accredited by his first professional body 13 years ago; he is now an accredited registrant with The National Counselling Society. Accreditation is a valued recognition of a counsellor's substantial expertise. Dean is also a member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union of Great Britain.
  • Dean is a British Counsellor working from the South of England. Unlike other counselling services operating from abroad Dean is actually registered, accredited, insured & supervised from within England (not from abroad).

If any of this resonates with you and your partner(s), you should probably meet with the the Online, Gay Relationship, Real-time Video Counsellor: Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg) for yourself.

Dean focuses on LGBT/QIA+ relationships as a specialty in therapy. He works with individuals, couples and small groups. Plus, he's qualified to a postgraduate level (Chichester PG Diploma in Psychodynamic / Systemic Couple Counselling, IGA National Foundation in Group Counselling) as a private practice counsellor*.

(*Very Important: not all counsellors have such specific skills for working with couples nor groups. Those who are initially trained to use common "Individual" Counselling skills have no experience in working therapeutically with relationships. Such counsellors may try, perhaps out of misplaced goodwill, to employ "individual" techniques (multiplied by 2) but the couple or group will find that the approach is ineffective. Simply put: it's the wrong approach; your relationship is not part of the counsellor's primary theoretical framework. Remember always to ask your potential counsellor: "what qualifies you to work with our relationship?" and trust your instincts based on what you hear.

Accredited Registrant of the National Counselling Society
Member of the British Psychotherapy and Counselling Union
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The Cove Therapy Rooms, 12 West StreetHavantHampshirePO9 1PFUK
+44-56-0366-3067£30-£130
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Video Counselling for Gay Couples from the Counsellor with over 22 years Experience.

Got a Question about LGBT/QIA+ Relationship Counselling?

Come and ask… whatever question about couple and group counselling for gay, lesbian, bisexual, aromatic, asexual and mixed-relationships you have, get in touch today to discuss your needs…

Private Relationship Counselling Services. Available Exclusively to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, ASexual, Mixed & Queer Couples, and Established Polyamorous Groups - serving the UK Nationwide over Zoom & Skype, plus locations in and around central Havant, Petersfield to Waterlooville, Cosham to Portsmouth & Southsea, Southampton to Chichester, Fareham to Gosport, Hayling Island, Emsworth, Westbourne, Rowland's Castle, local residents anywhere in between and regularly further afield!