Coaching For A Better Relationship
I prefer the word coaching to what I do with couples simply because the words counselling and therapy often carry the connotation that there is something wrong with a person. (“You are the patient and I, the therapist, will fix you.”) With coaching, we work from the belief that there is nothing wrong with you, but sometimes it is what you are doing that isn’t working. I have done a lot of coaching in my career both at the high school and college level. The coaches’ job is to observe what is not working and suggest ways to improve outcomes, and to encourage and support the athletes. The players then do the work.
My original training before shifting to Imago Relationship Therapy was as an Adlerian therapist. Alfred Adler was a contemporary of Freud but broke with Freud very early because he disagreed with him on many of the key concepts in this new enterprise called psychology – the study of human and animal behaviour. Adler would sit face to face rather than behind the patient who was lying on a couch. His assumption was that some of what the client was doing was not working, or at least not working as well as he or she wanted. That is what brought them into the office and that is also my assumption regarding coaching. There is generally nothing wrong with the people who come into the office but some of what they are doing isn’t working as well as they would like. We have coaches for lots of things: golf, all sports really, fitness, business etc. Why not a coach for relationships?
The coach is on the sidelines, the players are on the field. You are in the relationship, you are on the field so to speak, playing the game and you have often been doing it for years. My role as a coach is to encourage you, to teach you new or perhaps different skills to help you improve your game and also to hold you accountable.
Four Important Relationship Skills
All sports use systems and teach skills. I, too, teach clients a different system than they are presently using – Imago Relationship Therapy. And to be successful in say, hockey, players need to learn certain skills just as in relationships. In hockey there are four main skills: skating, shooting, passing and checking. The better and more quickly athletes learn these skills, the more proficient they become. The skills couples need to be successful are also four: they need to learn to communicate safely; to make an appointment for anything potentially negative; to eliminate any negativity – no blame, shame or criticism; and to amplify the positives in the relationship. If couples can learn these four basic skills they will have gone a long way toward creating the relationship of their dreams.