Couples Counseling

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Stratton & Smith (2006) suggest that supervisors should be responsible for facilitating learning in three general areas of functioning: ethical knowledge and behavior, competency, and personal functioning.  I believe these elements are absolutely crucial to instilling a sense of trust that is foundational for conjoint treatment.  Specifically, this essay will address the issues of fidelity, competence, and reproduction issues within the context of conjoint treatment of couples.

Within the context of ethical knowledge and behavior, the article addresses fidelity, multiple role relationships, and confidentiality.  Specifically, fidelity refers to the working relationship, or therapeutic alliance, between therapist and client(s).  This therapeutic alliance is less explicit because in couples therapy because the counselor has to maintain individual relationships with two consumers instead of one.  Perhaps most importantly, the therapist has to attend to a 3rd relationship… the relationship between the clients.  A recent inquiry into the relationship between therapeutic alliance and treatment progress in conjoint psychotherapy concluded that the relationship with the therapist accounted for 5-22% of the variance in improvement in marital distress.  (Knobloch-Fedders, Pinsof, & Mann, 2007, p. 245)  The value of the therapeutic alliance cannot be underestimated within the context of couple counseling.  To that end, I endeavor to continue to develop my awareness and skills as it relates to the concept of fidelity as it relates specifically to conjoint treatment.  Specifically, I anticipate reaching out for consultation and guidance when I have difficulty balancing the needs of the relationship when compared and contrasted with the individual needs of each of the parties.

Competence is a criterion for supervision that is not confined to couples therapy, but couples therapy does present a different dimension to competence that is inherently different than that of individual therapy.  “When conducting evaluations or providing feedback, it may be helpful to keep in mind a developmental model of supervision whereby the trainee may be achieving certain levels of competence as an individual therapist but may be at quite a different stage in his or her work with couples.”  (Stratton & Smith, 2006, p. 346)  To that end, I endeavor to continue to develop my competence as a couples’ counselor through continuing education, ongoing guidance and consultation, and exploration of relevant contemporary research.  One more recent study, for example, has attempted to fuse the concept of hope, translated as “a belief and a feeling that a desired outcome is possible,” with couples therapy.  This marriage of hope and couples therapy encourages us to consider the ways in which hope (or hopelessness) is influenced through relational processes between the therapist and the couple, and between the couple themselves.  (Ward & Wampler, 2010)  Investing in the concept of hope can have a lasting impact on our competence with conjoint therapy.

Within the context of personal functioning, the article addresses religious beliefs, reproduction issues, same-sex couples, as well as culture and ethnic affiliation.  We often underestimate the trauma associated with terminated pregnancies and infertility issues.  A recent study “identified three key coping strategies- distancing, self-controlling, and accepting responsibility- that were significantly related to couples reports of infertility stress, marital adjustment, and depression.”  (Peterson, Newton, Rosen, & Schulman, 2006, p. 234)  Coping with the loss an unborn child, and the expectations that come with it, is a traumatic situation for couples that come to us for guidance and support.  To that end, I endeavor to give this situation its proper attention.  It is my intention to guide these clients through the process of grief, while continuing to encourage and nurture communication and bias recognition among those who have endured reproduction issues.

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Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Knobloch-Fedders, L. M., Pinsof, W. M., & Mann, B. J. (2007, Apr). Therapeutic alliance and treatment progress in couple psychotherapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(2), 245-257. Retrieved from

Peterson, B. D., Newton, C. R., Rosen, K. H., & Schulman, R. S. (2006, Apr). Coping processes of couples experiencing infertility. Family Relations, 55(2), 227-239. Retrieved from

Stratton, J. S., & Smith, R. D. (2006, Fall). Supervision of couples cases. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 43(3), 337-348. Retrieved from,43,3,337,2006&key=PST/43/pst_43_3_337&is=0033-3204&jv=43&ji=3&jp=337-348&sp=337&ep=348&year=2006&mon=10&day=0033-3204,43,3,337,2006

Ward, D. B., & Wampler, K. S. (2010, Apr). Moving up the continuum of hope: Developing a theory of hope and understanding its influence in couples therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 36(2), 212-228. Retrieved from

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About Kent Brooks is a group of helping professionals collaborating to bring you information about mental health, counseling, and therapy! We provide therapy and mental health services throughout the entire state of Nebraska via a hybrid delivery system. You choose the solution that is right for you - in person, online, or a combination of both! I WORK ON A SLIDING SCALE!! If you do not have insurance, ask me for more info!

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