Relationships are often in the news at this time of year as couples’ counsellors and divorce solicitors experience a rush in demand for their services after the Christmas and New Year break.

The peak in calls to solicitors about divorces and the rise in internet searches for the word divorce has even led to the first Monday of January being nicknamed ‘Divorce Day’.

For therapists, the January surge often comes because people use the start of a new year to think about either fixing or ending a troubled relationship.

The holiday season also often brings disagreements over money, family, time together and work-life balance to the fore.

Couples realise they may want to improve their relationship – and they need some support to from professionals to help them do that.

Our member Chloe Goddard McLoughlin said: “Couples often come to relationship therapy, when they have reached an impasse in their relationship.

Safe, neutral space

“Relationship therapy offers a safe neutral space in which to understand their own patterns as a couple and as individuals.

“The idea of having a space which can contain all these messy feelings is key - it allows the couple to unload their baggage safely - and with the therapist's guidance figure out better ways to communicate honestly, and to understand their partners needs in the process.”

She added: “Before couples enter therapy they often hold on to their difficult thoughts and feelings for fear of breaking the relationship, but difficult issues thrive and grow in the dark, it's much better to air them in a safe neutral space so that healing can begin.”

Earlier this year, research carried out by us and Relate found the most common issue people presented with at relationship therapy was communication problems.

Chloe, who is an individual and couples counsellor in Sheffield, added: “It's safe to say that communication has usually broken down when I see couples, whether they have withdrawn and barely speak to each other or relate to each other in a spiral of accusations and recriminations.

Active listening

“To improve communications we often we practice active listening in sessions, where one half of the couple speaks and the other partner finds a way to pause their own needs for long enough to connect with what the other is saying.

“This is a powerful technique as it encourages empathy and feelings of bonding, crucial for a healthy adult relationship.

She added: “After a while, once they understand their own couple pattern of relating, couples take what they have learnt in the session and start to apply it outside.

“This is incredibly empowering, the couple begin to spot their own traps before they fall into them. They develop an ability to scan the “couple horizon” to tend to difficult feelings before they become unmanageable.”

To find a relationship counsellor visit our Therapist directory.