Relationship Counselling in Vancouver, BC for Marriage Therapy and Couples Counsellor

Relationship counselling in Vancouver

Close relationships are vital to living a fulfilling, healthy life as explored in couples counselling. Although having an honest, loving relationship is a natural desire, relationships are more difficult than we imagine. Get back on track with the help of Vancouver relationship counselling. Despite our best intentions, we often feel:

  • Unheard/misunderstood
  • Conflicted between wanting to connect but afraid of a close, healthy relationship
  • Unloved/neglected
  • Trapped/suffocated
  • Not accepted
  • Tired of the spouse having to be right
  • Controlled, not having a voice
  • Rejected and/or pressured sexually
  • Afraid of the other’s anger

If this is how you feel in your relationship, whether you are married, common-law, dating, or single, as a Registered Psychologist in Vancouver, BC, with nearly three decades of experience as a marital counsellor/relationship counsellor, I am happy to provide a positive experience of couples counselling. Some of the emotion-based problems I address in couples therapy are:

  • Poor communication
  • Conflict
  • Anger management
  • Separation/divorce/loss
  • Infidelity/affairs
  • Lack of trust and intimacy
  • Sexual issues
  • Problems with addictions
  • Unfinished business with parents/family

Although generally the goal of Vancouver couples therapists and counsellors is to rebuild or enhance relationships, at times it is to help couples decide if they want to stay together or separate. When the goal of couples counselling is to rebuild, I like to work with both partners together; however, as an adjunct to joint relationship counselling sessions, I may see individuals alone to address issues – such as anger, depression, and trauma – that impact the relationship. Also, I offer premarital counselling to people who are engaged and marriage counselling for singles who are dating and want to connect with a significant other.

Why Are Marriages and Relationships So Difficult?

Couple arguing before marriage therapy in Vancouver

Relationships are more difficult than we imagine because it is in relation to our new love object more than any other people that big emotions are triggered. We feel intense fear, emotional pain, and shame in our family in childhood in relation to our primary love object, our mothers. As we seek to connect and meet our legitimate dependency needs for love and security through our spouse, these trauma feelings are triggered repeatedly and we re-experience our early distress (read this article here). We make the mistake of blaming our spouse for our big emotions, and often a fight ensues, which compounds our distress.

Fights in couples occur on two dimensions of interaction: the affiliation dimension and the influence dimension. The affiliation dimension refers to how couples navigate closeness and distance, often with one partner pursuing for contact when intrusive anxiety and pain are triggered, and the other distancing when anxiety is triggered by this contact. The influence dimension refers to how spouses share influence, often with one spouse being more dominant (the dominant partner tends to define reality for both) and the other more submissive. The more dominant person tends to become controlling when anxiety and shame are triggered, whereas the more submissive person tends to become compliant or passive-aggressive when anxiety and shame are triggered by the dominant person’s attempt to control. Although generally distressed clients fight on both dimensions of interaction, often they fight more on one dimension than the other.

How Does A Therapist Help Relationships?

Vancouver Relationship TherapistAs a relationship counsellor in Vancouver, BC, I help men and women understand how, although they trigger each other’s intrusive feelings resulting in defensiveness, they do not cause each other’s feelings (see the article for more information). Rather than avoiding their intrusive emotions by blaming and trying to change the spouse, I encourage each spouse not only to feel fully entitled to his or her feelings but also to be more responsible for them. This involves learning to bring our presence to our emotions with a wise, compassionate attitude (read the article Listening to Feelings from a Wise Perspective). Also, this involves learning to reveal how we feel more responsibly to our spouse and listening with compassion to how he or she feels.

As the couple learns to be more responsible for their own emotions rather than avoiding these emotions by trying to change and control the partner, new patterns of interaction are created. The pursue-distance negative cycle gives way to tolerating closer, more loving interactions. The dominant-submissive negative cycle gives way to each person having a voice and feeling respected.   These changes in interaction are therapeutic and result in increased communication, connection, and intimacy.

Although the approach of marriage counselling Vancouver is rooted in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) (see the book, Hold Me Tight). I integrate methods from other therapeutic approaches such as Voice Therapy and Imago Therapy. Most recently, I have integrated Dr. Geoffrey Carr’s theory of intrusive feelings and model of responsible communication (to read his book, see Making Happiness). For a detailed description of how I work with a hypothetical distressed relationship in counselling, please click on the link, Clinical Case Study.

Positive Results

Vancouver Couples TherapyAs the result of working with me in Vancouver couples counselling, often people feel more:

  • Trusting
  • Open/honest
  • Understood/listened to/validated
  • Intimate (in the sense of being known)
  • Able to tolerate closeness
  • Affectionate/sexual/loving
  • Accepted
  • Open to the influence of each other

With the skill and passion I provide, and the time, and hard work you invest in counselling, you may create these qualities of a healthy relationship.

Help From A Relationship Counsellor in Vancouver Is Available Nearby

As a local, Registered Psychologist and Vancouver sex therapist, I have been providing relationship counselling in BC for 27 years in my own private practice office. I like how I work with people and feel confident about assisting you to transform your relationship. I invite you to connect with me by email at or to call me by phone at 604-873-0222 if you would like a five to ten minute consultation in order to identify your Vancouver relationship issues, to ask questions about my couples counselling services including fees, and if you wish, to make an appointment for a session.

Contact Dr. James