Couple hypnotherapy explained
With one in two relationships failing and lots of individuals seeking relationship advice, couple hypnotherapy is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to get your relationship back on track.
In couple hypnotherapy, your relationship becomes the client. The therapist, using a structured model of guidance counselling, will integrate clinical and cognitive hypnotherapy along with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and coaching to put together a bespoke tool kit specifically for your relationship.
Who is couple hypnotherapy suitable for?
Couple hypnotherapy is not just for couples, it can be used with best friends who may have had a bitter falling out, a parent and child, either young or adult, a step-parent and a step-son or daughter - in fact, any two-person union who are struggling to relate to each other. Of course, there will be some tools and techniques that will be adapted depending on the dynamics of what connection you have to each other.
Where can this take place?
Couple hypnotherapy can take place either face-to-face in a therapy room or online. The advantage of having online therapy is that we do not all have to be in the same room for effective therapy to take place. This is often really beneficial for saving personal time and not having to worry about our distance apart geographically.
What is the process?
The first step is for each of the couple to have one session with the therapist individually to feel comfortable off-loading your concerns from your perspective with what is not going well with the relationship and what you hope to achieve. The therapist will also spend some time in that session exploring with you how you may need to raise your own ‘personal bar’ so to speak as none of us are perfect. It could be for example that you are highly sensitive and therefore react in an overly sensitive way to whatever your partner says or does.
In hypnotherapy, using clinical and cognitive hypnosis, a therapist can help you so that you do not allow yourself to become so affected by the words and behaviour of others. In Socratic teaching, which forms the foundation of CBT, we learn that nobody can make us angry, upset or anything unless we allow them to. Sometimes it is about working with the individual first to support them to become more tolerant, more resilient to the opinion of others for example.
The next step after each couple has had at least one individual session is to come together either face-to-face or online to explore the joint goal.
What sort of goals can you bring to couple therapy?
The number one goal that most couples have is to learn to communicate more effectively with each other within this, there may be specific topics and issues that you may wish to focus on, particularly considering what causes the most conflict e.g.
- the difference in child-rearing styles
- financial difference and goals
- infidelity/trust issues
- health and well-being
- behavioural habits, for example, drinking, gambling, etc
- short-term and long-term goals connected to work/life balance
Anything that is causing a rift between you both and preventing you from being happy, because when you boil it right down that’s all people want, whatever happiness means to you – and that could well be where the problem lies if you both want different things.
Within the context of a relationship, there are what is known as five love languages and we each may have a different primary love language i.e. the one that is most important to us to feel that our emotional love needs are being met. A love language that is important to one may not be as important to the other.
What are the 5 love languages?
Let's explore these different love languages:
1. Words of affirmation
Using encouraging words, kind words in an undemanding way. Supporting and encouraging your partner as opposed to critiquing them. Having their back, so to speak, expressing what you like about your partner rather than what you don't like. Compliments to do with your partner's achievements etc.
The transactional analysis (TA) model by Eric Berne can be really useful here to bring in, and it is often incorporated into couple therapy to explain the various relationship dynamics. We have three states that we dip in and out of at various times, these are - the adult state, the parent state and the child state.
If one of the couples starts speaking to their partner in a demanding way or critical way, they may shift into what is known as the critical parent state, this may lead the other to slip into their child state where they become either more insecure and vulnerable or more defensive. These 'ego states' are learnt behaviour styles that we develop from our younger years.
By drawing on TA exercises we can explore together what happens when we vary these ego states. Ideally, in a couple, we want both partners to be in their rational adult state with healthy boundaries. This is helpful with using the words of the affirmation primary love language in a healthy adult way.
This is all part of therapy and it becomes a learning process over time, often with quizzes to find out what is your primary love language and getting to understand the TA model which is simple yet so effective in couple work. We make it fun as well as informative.
2. Quality time over quantity
Having that time of focused attention on each other, enabling that 'quality conversation' to be brought up where the couple takes time to share how they feel, and listen to each other. As opposed to using the 'you' word, using the I word and expressing how you feel when you get to spend time together if this love language is important to you. Rather than finger-wagging at the other person; "you are never around", "you should do this, you shouldn't do that".
A healthy choice of language when having quality conversations make such a difference for some couples, it is about learning to talk and listen to each other in the most effective way. Getting involved in quality activities together; building memories will be of real value to you if this is your primary love language. If the simple presence of your partner is important to you, make sure you express it often. If this is something that you struggle with this can be rehearsed in hypnotherapy until it feels natural to you.
3. Receiving gifts
To some, visual symbols of gifts are more important than quality time because they are perceived as representing love.
Even if gifts do not mean much to you, simply having an understanding that they mean a lot to your partner can make the world of difference. These do not have to be extravagant - simple gifts that won’t break the bank can give equally as much pleasure.
4. Acts of service
No one likes to be dictated to or told what to do. If you know your partner appreciates it when you tidy up or cooks a nice meal for example. Taking the rubbish out may not seem a very romantic or caring thing to do but if your partner has a primary love language of acts of service, by doing something without having to be asked or nagged, you will find you have earned a few brownie points along the way and your partner will feel loved.
5. Physical touch
If appropriate in your partnership i.e. when you are in a physically loving relationship, there may be an unequal desire for this to be displayed. Understanding of what, how and when your partner enjoys physical touch in a mutual way means you can slowly move towards that unity of what you both want.
Understanding the other's primary love language means you can adapt your behaviour accordingly. This is not about becoming a doormat but rather raising your awareness as to what’s important to your partner or significant other as well as what’s important to you so that you learn to express that in the most understood way.
There is another way of remembering these languages, these are known as the 5 As:
These five As will enable a healthy, secure, balanced relationship to develop and be maintained. No one wishes to feel unappreciated, ignored, invisible or alienated.
Some of the time your partner may wish to spend time perusing their own goals and hobbies, being allowing of this, enables the relationship to thrive. Coming back to the love language of 'quality time' here may be important to have an honest conversation around this if there is an imbalance of time that your partner is spending.
What is your typical style during confrontation?
Do you stonewall, where you walk off and avoid the confrontation by fleeing from the situation? In couple therapy, understanding your instinctive fight-flight response can be so useful here.
Perhaps you are someone who enjoys the spark of a verbal tit-for-tat conversation (fight mode as opposed to flight).
You may find you just freeze and stand there not saying anything or defending yourself. Our fight-flight-freeze mode kicks in from our learnt behaviour from childhood. As part of couple therapy, we may spend some time exploring the differences between your families of origin, your upbringing and how that impacts on your relationship today.
For example, if you had a father who yelled at you when you were a child: when your partner yells at you it may trigger you right back to that time when you were growing up and you will experience the same physical symptoms and responses as that young you did. Using hypnosis we can help you to heal those old wounds.
Others may hold contempt, ruminating in their mind the wrongs of the argument long after the argument's sell-by date. The story can then become embellished in your mind in an unhealthy, unhelpful way. Learning to 'let go' and delete old messages can be so helpful here.
Others will critique their partner making it all about their wrongdoings, in a rather finger-wagging way; "you didn’t do this", "you are always doing that". Sometimes it is these aspects of our personality that prevent us from being happy; if we are a perfectionist for example. All of these personality traits can be tweaked using hypnosis, and CBT. You'll still be you, just a calmer more effective communicator, able to let things go or to stand on your own two feet and hold your own - so to speak.
How can hypnosis help?
Once a couple is on the same page as to what the end goal should look like, sound like, and feel like we can start hypnosis, it is using these suggestions of change, enabling a couple to see the same situation differently in their minds.
We each have a different representational system as to how we see and process the world.
Hypnosis, along with NLP, enables the hypnotherapist to use both client's preferred language style - this is a very subtle psychological tool but so effective when you understand your partner's rep system). A fun part of couple therapy is gaining this understanding of yourself as well as your partner, so we take some time exploring the language patterns that you use.
E.g. you can say the same thing in three different ways and whilst one of them will sit more comfortably with your partner, another may be very difficult for your partner to respond to.
"How do you feel about going out?" - when you look at it like that how does it seem? What does that sound like for you?
Hypnosis by suggestion
Hypnosis, used in professional hands with a skilled cognitive/NLP hypnotherapist is an extremely powerful tool and can be utilised beautifully in couple therapy. Getting you both to the point where you use that 'We' word rather than 'I' – this is the essence of the relationship when you both stare out in the same direction towards your end goal.
How many sessions are you likely to need?
Following the one-on-one session, most couple therapy takes place over a block of five sessions, this can be followed by another block or individual top-up sessions if required to reach your joint end goal.
To find a therapist that can help with relationship issues use our search tool on Hypnotherapy Directory.
- The 5 Love Languages - The Secret to Love That Lasts - By Gary Chapman
- The 5 A's - By Dyan Yacovelli