The day was split in two parts: Alison led the first, practical one through which she gave an in-depth, structured exploration of working with couples and the different needs of honouring each ones’ position and experiences, agreeing ground rules, abiding by therapeutic practice and boundaries whilst encouraging each to share their story and any issues raised. Alison discussed different experiences with couples, the straightforward and those that were not, which may, of course, be challenging for  therapists new to this way of working. An appropriate level of training and experience is key here and, Alison explained, this may not be suitable for all therapists. Some therapists are naturally drawn to this work as they have an integral ability to be balanced and respectful of both parties. Alison explained she is by nature goal-orientated and works dynamically with couples to help them identify and then stay focused on what their pair and individual needs are, which can helpfully feed the working alliance. Alison explored the must for clear contracting, which she then holds couples to, as the establishment of fair and boundaried working helps contain them and meet their needs whilst respecting their individual experiences within counselling. This sense of safety also alllows for the occasional client to withdraw from the work if they feel that is right for them at that time. The focus for the counsellor is to hold the space and not be drawn to support one of the couple to the disadvantage of the other. Alison explained this is complex work which requires a high level of personal integrity, experience and the holding of clear boundaries informed by considered and ethical practice. Alison is an experienced coach with many years in practice, who explained she is fairly new to couple work, but realises she has found her niche and through which she is content with the steeper learning curve and the growing of her practice.  Her career as a coach also, she feels, helps to inform her work.  A useful and informative discussion.

The second part of the day was led by Lottie who explored couples’ sexual lives and experiences both historic and current, and the impact positive or negative this was having on the life of the individual and/or couple. Lottie explained she has worked in this area for a number of years and encourages exploration of their experiences and through different sexual tools and methods such as Tantric sex. Through this Lottie encourages clients to just be with their sexual experiences and feelings, but without necessarily moving towards orgasm and/or ejaculation. To Lottie, it is about allowing individuals or couples to explore their sexual lives in a more thoughtful and sensitive manner without all the rush or focus on the expected final act or outcome. It is clear just how much fun and deep reflection she brings to her work which means her clients enjoy and benefit so much from learning about themselves, each other and how their sexual and emotional lives could improve for the better. Her mantra is go slowly, thoughtfully, no rush, no fixed outcomes, just experience the process and so learn what it is you and your partner need from it. Everyone seemed to like playing with the ’toys’ in the latter session of the afternoon – and again we learned so much about how objects feel, and amidst the laughter, what we felt about them and the handling of them. A beneficial, fascinating second part of the session.

The workshop was well attended and the feedback from everyone extremely positive with a request that a part 2 be offered by Lottie and Alison at some point in the not too distant future. A successful day for our speakers, participants and HACP. Thank you to Lottie and Alison for such a worthwhile workshop.

Reviewed by Jacqueline Holloway