Is it ever too late for relationship counselling?

Many couples wonder whether they have left it ‘too late’ before seeking help from a professional. Is it possible to get past the point of ‘no return’? Is there any way back? How do you know when is the best time to seek counselling? Here are a few pointers to consider if you’re wondering if and when to make contact with a therapist or couple counsellor.

How do you know if you need counselling?
  1. There is no ‘perfect’ time for counselling. By the time many couples decide to make an appointment for counselling, they have often been considering it or suggesting it to their partner for many months or even years. “We should have come here 6 years ago….!” is something I hear regularly from clients. This “shoulda woulda coulda” type of thinking can be unhelpful as it can make clients feel burdened with a sense of regret or blame, but there is some truth in that couples who try to deal with problems as and when they occur, often find those problems easier to overcome. When difficulties get brushed under the carpet, because they seem too challenging or scary, they can sometimes stay under that carpet for a very long time, causing significant ruptures in a relationship.
  2. It’s not as scary as you think! Films and the media doesn’t help to alleviate clients’ concerns about what counselling is about. Will the counselling be able to read my mind? Will I be hypnotised? Will I have to lie down on a coach and talk about my father? Will I be told that I am a total lost cause? Luckily, most counsellors and therapists are a friendly bunch and should be working hard to help you feel comfortable in your first session. When you come to me for an initial assessment, it usually feels more like a chat, guided by some questions from me to help me understand more about your ongoing difficulties and personal history. There is always time for you to ask questions too and to let me know anything that you’re worried about with counselling.
  3. You don’t have to commit to loads of sessions. It’s not uncommon for some clients to see a therapist for a year or more, but many clients just come for a few sessions and don’t feel the need to commit to more than that. There is no ‘average’ really, or the ‘right’ number of sessions. It’s what feels right to you, and when you choose to end sessions will always be down to you to decide.
  4. You won’t be wasting anyone’s time. Ever. If you feel that there is something which would be helpful to speak to a counsellor about, then you are completely entitled to do so. No one’s problems are too little or too big for therapy.
  5. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Therapy is rarely cheap and sessions on the NHS can be hard to find, and nearly impossible with couple therapy. However, if you have worries about the cost of therapy, your counsellor may be able to offer a set number of sessions or a payment plan so you can budget accordingly. Some charities can offer bursaries so low cost counselling can be accessed too.
  6. Counselling isn’t just for couples to reunite. Even if you feel your relationship has broken down irreconcilably, counselling can be a useful option to allow you space to communicate and to decide the next steps together. It can be feel easier to have a safe place for any difficult discussions such as how to separate, what to tell any children, what your joint narrative about the relationship etc. Counselling can also be a good first step into mediation.
  7. There can still be hope! Even when it feels like your relationship is over, or there is no way back, counselling can provide a place to explore this. Why do you feel it’s hopeless? Is this reality or is this your ‘go to’ attitude when things feel too difficult to deal with. Challenging our assumptions and exploring why we believe separation is the only option can be a useful purpose of counselling.

So in brief, it’s never too late! Do contact me today if you would like to discuss this further.

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