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Couples Therapy

Shaun McMahon is a Couples Therapist who offers couples therapy sessions to adults in person in Moonee Ponds, Victoria, and online via Zoom.

As a couples therapist, I work with a wide range of people of different ages, sexualities, economic and cultural backgrounds to help them improve their relationship. I offer a bespoke service that acknowledges each relationship as unique and therefore requiring a tailored approach.

 

How I Can Help

 

Most couples who come to therapy are facing significant challenges in their relationship, and as a result are experiencing a lot of pain, frustration and disappointment. My aim is to provide a safe environment for you and your partner to be able to navigate your challenges. I can offer you help and support with:

 

  • Improving communication

  • Conflict resolution

  • Infidelity and betrayal

  • The impact of trauma and mental health conditions

  • Sex and intimacy

  • Navigating goals for the future

  • Disagreements surrounding finances, housework and work/life balance

  • Managing challenging family members

  • Differences in parenting and child rearing

  • Blended families

  • Divorce and separation  

 

While there are many other areas I cover in my work with couples, there are some instances in which I am not a suitable fit, including:

 

  • If one partner is not interested in or willing to make changes to improve the relationship

  • If there is active addiction (ie. alcohol or other substances, gambling) on the part of either or both partners, from either partner’s perspective 

  • If there is serious violence in your relationship, threats by one or both partners that serious violence might occur, or fear of such serious violence on the part of one or both partners

  • If there is an undisclosed, current or past affair that has not been addressed in couples therapy, or if there is an ongoing affair that the partner is unwilling to end

  • If either partner currently has an untreated major mental illness (schizophrenia, recurrent psychotic depression, or bipolar/manic-depressive illness.) This does not include past, successfully treated psychotic episodes (e.g. postpartum depression with psychosis).

If you're interested in speaking to me about couples therapy, you're welcome to book in a free 15 minute phone consultation by clicking here. I also invite you to continue reading if you would like to learn more about the process and how I work.

 

Your Initial Sessions

 

In our first couples session, my main focus is to learn about your relationship. I'll be asking you and your partner a range of questions about your relationship to help me understand what's bringing you to my office. It's normal to feel anxious about the process, so I'll be doing my best to help you to feel safe and comfortable, while answering any questions you might have. In most cases our second session will be focused on background information on your childhood and family. Much of what we know about relationships, both the good and the bad, is learned from our family of origin. Understanding your history will help me to determine the best starting point for our work together.

How I Work 

 

The structure and focus of each session can vary depending on your needs and the stage of our work together. I primarily work with a couples therapy model called PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy). The ultimate goal of this approach is to move your relationship towards a state of secure functioning. This is a kind of relationship in which:

 

  • You and your partner feel safe and secure

  • You value fairness, justice and sensitivity

  • You share power and authority

  • You work on problems rather than each other

  • You put the relationship first

  • You broker win-win deals - “what’s good for me and you” 

  • You can handle any conflict without fear of getting triggered

  • You quickly and efficiently repair injuries to the relationship

 

Rather than spending the session talking to me, most of the time I will be asking you and your partner to engage each other face to face. This is because my role is not to be a part of your relationship system, but instead to stay on the periphery. I’ll be making observations, asking questions and offering suggestions that move you and your partner towards feeling more safe, secure and connected with each other. We'll also be relying on interventions, re-enactments and role-plays designed to illuminate the weak points of the relationship so we can focus on strengthening them.

 

This arrangement keeps my focus squarely where it needs to be; on your relationship. It keeps me out of the role of judge or jury, and stops me from taking sides and being asked to decide who’s right or wrong in the relationship. It also teaches you how to solve problems as a team, rather than forever needing to rely on me to solve them for you.

 

In addition to PACT, I also draw from the Gottman Method, Emotion Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), The Developmental Model from The Relationship Institute, and the work of Harville Hendrix, Esther Perel and Martha Kauppi.

What To Expect From Couples Therapy

 

Most people seek out couples therapy in times of significant distress and difficulty in their relationship. It’s natural to hope that I, the couples therapist, will have some kind of quick fix, or skills and tools that will alleviate this pain, like a doctor who can provide medicine in times of illness.

 

Unfortunately, there are very few quick fixes that can undo years, sometimes decades of damage and hurt. While some approaches focus on giving people skills and tools, I’ve found that these seldom produce lasting change. More often than not, they leave people feeling like they’ve failed and weren’t able to do what was needed to make the relationship work. As such, it’s very important that we establish clear expectations about the process so that you’re set up for success from the beginning.

 

The PACT approach I employ seeks to understand and address the root causes of the issues you and your partner are facing. Very often these are things that have nothing to do with your partner, or started way before you even met. As we begin to identify and work through these issues, you will notice improvements in your communication, changes in how you navigate conflict, and a better understanding of your relationship. These results are often compounding, meaning they might seem gradual at first, but over time they will begin to snowball into lasting change.

 

It’s my hope that in signing up for couples therapy, you’re interested in building a relationship with your partner that lasts. Ideally, you see couples therapy as a valuable investment of your time, effort and money. Investing in this process can help you to avoid a much more costly and stressful separation in the long run, especially if you’re dividing assets and sharing custody.

 

My ultimate goal with every couple I work with is to make myself redundant, so that you and your partner don’t need me anymore. I’d much rather offer you lasting change now, then patch things up with a quick fix, only to see you back years later because things have broken down again.

How Long it Takes

 

Given that I offer a bespoke service, it’s difficult to tell exactly how long you and your partner will need to attend couples therapy to achieve a significant improvement in your relationship. However, a loose trend I have noticed is that it typically takes 6 months of sessions, beginning weekly then tapering off into fortnightly, to achieve true and lasting results in couples therapy, equating to roughly 15-20 sessions. This amount and frequency is by no means a requirement, but rather a rough guideline. Please note that relationships with significant complications such as infidelity or trauma can require substantially more work.

 

Rates and Availability

 

My session fee for a 50 minute couples session is $150. I work from Tuesday - Friday from 11:30am - 8pm, and on Saturdays from 10am - 5pm. I recognize that it can be tough to juggle work, family commitments and other life things alongside couples sessions, which is why I offer evening and weekend times. While I do my best to accommodate schedules, these slots are highly contested and I cannot always guarantee availability.

Next Steps

If you’re interested in speaking to me about getting couples therapy, I offer a free 15 minute consultation to all new clients. This will give you a chance to share your situation with me and ask any questions about the process. I invite you to get in touch with me today by clicking here and filling out a form. Your partner is more than welcome to join us for the call, however I’ll just need a basic understanding of what’s happening and to cover some admin details, so it’s not necessary for them to be there.

Please Note...

If you are reading this and are currently in an abusive relationship, please know that I do not work with relationships where on-going domestic violence is present. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please reach out to Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 or call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) to speak to a specialist who can assist you with your situation.

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