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By Lizzie Cernik
cross the last 12 months, therapists, coaches and counsellors across the UK have seen a rise in clients aged 30 or under, seeking counselling. For many years couples therapy has carried a social stigma, but now demand for new and revamped forms of counselling is on the rise.
In fact, in 202, charity Relate reported a 30 per cent increase in clients in their 20s and 30s seeking couples therapy since 2014, and the interest has grown further.
Ellie Baker, who runs Coupld, an informal couples therapy service, has seen her client list double in the past year. Baker believes couples therapy has had a serious post-lockdown rebrand, attracting a younger clientele through memes, retreats, pre-marital classes, apps and Instagram.
“Stigma is decreasing and Instagram has become a good place for therapists to find clients,” says Baker. “I think people are more aware of mental wellbeing than ever, and this is an extension of that.” It also enables people to get tips in an “easily digestible form” or give them the kickstart they need to seek support.
Baker adds that the couples she sees are usually seeking help before there’s a problem as young people use therapy for maintenance rather than a last ditch attempt to fix something that has broken, so they can ‘future-proof’ their relationships.
“I’m not a therapist, I’m a coach,” explains Baker. “I want to help people maintain their relationships before they get into a crisis. I create fun, short playful exercises — e.g. asking a couple to draw themselves as animals to help them communicate about who they are, and better understand all their idiosyncrasies.”
According to her, the pandemic lockdowns are one of the reasons that people have reevaluated their relationships. “Before that people could co-exist like passing ships in the night, then they were suddenly confronted by the state of their relationship,” she says. “I think it brought home the importance of taking care of our partnerships.” She also speaks to people whose relationships struggled under the strain of the lockdowns.
She’s not the only person who’s putting a different spin on couples therapy. Couples retreats, premarital classes, apps and online services are also growing in popularity, alongside alternative forms of therapy.
Rhian Kivits, a sex and relationships therapist believes that more people have a vested interest in improving their relationships than ever before. As well as the impact of lockdowns, the cost of living crisis means more people have to stay and live together, and many people would rather work at their relationships than throw them away in these difficult times.
She also says the pandemic made us more keen to grab life with both hands, and make the most of the time we have with the people we love. “I think that’s why we’ve seen this push in personal development. People want authentic, special, connected relationship and they’re not afraid to voice those aspirations,” she says.
Kivits was trained in traditional therapies by the charity Relate, but has since explored other practices. “Some therapies that are really coming to the surface are the ones that appreciate the mind/body connection. For example, teaching breath work and mindfulness helps people to better understand their nervous system responses to certain situations,” she explains.
She’s also qualified in tantra, which is helpful in supporting people who may be having sexual issues. “I teach really simple things like eye contact, breathing together to synchronise with your partner, and I also share information about massage techniques that they can try at home. It’s transformational for couples as it helps them communicate more clearly about their feelings and desires so they can get the most of sexual experiences together.”
While not new, short-term coaching programmes are also an alternative to traditional couples therapy, as they allow people to work together using a combined range of techniques to build their relationship.
When Veronica Pullen and her partner began experiencing some conflict, they invested in an eight-week intensive programme of ‘couples education’, which included a mix of hypnotherapy, traditional approaches and DISC profiling, to help them better understand their personality types.
“One of our conflicts was that I thought he was unmotivated because he said his goal in life was to support me to succeed,” she says. “It would frustrate me as I’m extremely highly driven. Discovering he is wired to thrive when he is the supporter of someone he believes in removed that conflict and allowed us to enjoy how perfectly aligned we are.”
The alternative approaches used in the intensive programme were pivotal in bringing them back together. “In the past we have had counselling but the difference is that they work with what you present with. With an intensive course, they essentially guide you to ‘rewire’ your beliefs and habits so you become the version of yourself who is available for the relationship you want to be in.”
Young love gets a new gen overhaul as under-30s seek to fix broken relationships rather than move on.
By Lizzie Cernik
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