This story first appeared on capsulenz.com
A new TV show embarks on the therapeutic journey with a series of couples and the warm, wise psychologist who either leads them to better daysâ¦ or to a breakup. We chat with Dr Orna Guralnik about the silent power of the show, how the lockdowns have affected couples, and why we need to be aware that people deal with their pandemic panic differently.
If you’re the curious type and, let’s face it, who isn’t, then the thought of attending a couples therapy session might fill you in equal parts with excitement and dread. As much as we try, we can never really know what’s going on in other people’s relationships or other people’s minds, but a new show is here on ThreeNow to change that.
Entitled – rightly – Couple therapy, this documentary-style series follows a Brooklyn-based clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst as she sees a variety of couples who each work on their relationship situations. Dr Orna Guralnik is the specialist and she is a warm, empathetic and yet reserved presence to watch as she slowly delves into the past history and present complications of each couple.
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Filmed behind a two-way window, Couple therapy literally takes the viewer into each couple’s session with them and the whole human experience is exposed – vulnerability, anger, jealousy, love, resentment, pain. No wonder it’s a success.
Discuss with Capsule from her home office in Brooklyn, a wonderfully chaotic bookshelf behind her, Guralnik is calm and thoughtful as she talks about what drew her to the show in the first place.
âWhen I first heard about it, it seemed like a pretty impossible project,â she says. âI mean, most of our work is based on very strict privacy and confidentiality frameworks. And the idea of ââdoing this kind of show, of giving everything up in confidence seemed too complicated to me. “
But after speaking to the directors and producers of the show, she realized that their vision was true and that it would also be a great way to show what the therapy process really looks like.
“Not in a way that tries to sell drama to the audience, but in a way that really follows the in-depth work that real therapy involvesâ¦ potentially a great deal for a larger audience that sometimes has no access to it. to therapy, not even knowing what it looks like.
If you’ve never been to therapy, the process can seem as mysterious as it is confronting. Put simply, explains Guralnik, âTherapy is based on the idea that if you pay attention to issues, and talk about them and talk about them with someone who is not involved in your lifeâ¦ then great things can happen.
âA lot of changes can happen in a way that they can’t if you talk to someone who is close to you, like a friend, spouse, or relative. “
When it comes to couples therapy, it is less about the individuals who make up the relationship and more about the relational unit itself.
“I pay attention to individuals, because people can bring different traumas or different traits or different types of biological wiring,” says Guralnik. “But what really interests me is how these individuals influence each other and create a system between them.”
Coming from Aotearoa, where therapy is just starting to lose its taboo, I tell Guralnik that I was impressed with how talkative the men were – and how different it was from the “She’ll be Right” nature of many of our men here.
It amuses him. âDon’t men in New Zealand talk a lot? ” she asks. “Aren’t they dominating the conversation? Oh yeah sure, I laugh, but there’s always a real reluctance to a “this is how I feel” conversation from a lot of men.
Guralnik acknowledges that Brooklyn, where she lives, is a sort of “utopian little society, where young men are socialized to talk a lot and pay attention to their emotional life and mental health.” But she says most men are actually quite willing to open up, if they have a safe enough space to do so.
“If you give them the opportunity, and you just give them a little invitation, and they want to talkâ¦ I mean, we’re all human.” We all have stories to tell and we all have feelings. You just have to give them space for it.
If there’s ever been a time when we all needed a safe space to talk about our feelings, the past two years definitely count. The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us around the world and, of course, also has on our relationships. As a couples therapist, Guralnik has been at the forefront of this.
âOver the past year and a half I’ve seen a kind of bifurcationâ¦ one was that couples and families responded to stress and blockages by coming to really appreciate what they have together and creating a cocoon in which there was a more indulgent appreciation of humanity, and a lot of appreciation that people even had a cocoon, someone to feel safe with, âshe said.
“And then some families and some couples where time spent together has revealed things to them that are not well that they have chosen to ignore in their day to day life.”
She said it was impossible to predict in advance which couple would fall into which category but “you could say that the pandemic has kind of exacerbated, for each couple, their inclination anyway.”
His advice to couples who survive prolonged confinement together is to maintain their limits. âDuring times of confinement, these are really artificial boundaries: work in separate rooms, plan for times when you’re together and times when you’re definitely apart, don’t interrupt your partner with every thought you haveâ¦ make sure you to continue to maintain a certain degree of autonomy and limits, then come back together whenever you want, not just by default. “
A key lesson from the pandemic that isn’t just for couples is that everyone has a different way of dealing with this chaotic time. âPeople are differently anxious,â she says. âSome people, when they’re anxious, break up and just present that nothing bad is happening, ‘it’s nothing, it’s going to be over in a second.’
âAnd some people, when they’re anxious, get hyper-controlling. They want to control everything and everyone and these are just different ways of being anxious. “
If you want to go to couples therapy with your partner, Guralnik advises you to go there with honesty and kindness. “One way is to say, ‘look, we have problems – I’ve tried my best to bring about the change and I know you’ve done your best and I think we’ve reached the limits of what both we can do.
âMaybe we need to recognize some form of humility and get someone else where it’s their business, and see if they can help us. Let’s try. ‘”
Stream every episode of Couples Therapy, only on ThreeNow.