Couples Therapy in Times of Coronavirus

Much has been written about the risks of relationship difficulties in families in the context of the current health crisis, but less attention has been paid to addressing these issues. A yet to be published paper by Stanley and Markham (2020) suggests strategies and guidelines for therapists and relationship educators to help couples protect and enhance relationships during this time.

The paper outlines four foundations of safety; physical, emotional, commitment, and community that are protective of relationships in times of trouble. The authors then recommend three key actions couples can adopt to protect and preserve safety in their relationship. Firstly, couples should ‘decide don’t slide’ meaning that that key relationship transitions are actively explored and decisions made rather than ignored. The second is to make it ‘safe to connect’ so each person is protected as they talk, engage and provide emotional support and finally in order for the first two to work each person must ‘do their own part’. By this the authors mean that each person should focus more on what they do and what is under their control rather than what their partner fails to do.

This paper provides clear and helpful guidelines for couples who are generally well functioning but stressed by current circumstances. More entrenched and serious difficulties including family violence require additional approaches like those practiced at Bower Place.

Stanley,S. & Markham,H.  (2020) Helping Couples in the Shadow of COVID-19 doi: 10.1111/famp.12575