Arguments happening often? Try this.

Arguments happening often? Try this.

Couples often seek relationship counselling because they are having lots of arguments.

They love each other and hate feeling like this but are stuck in bad habits. Counselling can be a great support to unpack certain themes and stuck points. I hear all the time “This sounds so petty, I don’t know why we have so many arguments over silly things.”

Usually, arguments are not really about the content, they are about the message underneath, often something to the effect of ‘I feel like you don’t care’, or “I don’t feel important to you”, or “I’m not feeling loved”.

Counselling can support couples to get out of negative loops where arguments never get resolved, by working on the underlying causes.

Power struggles are another common reason that couples get stuck in arguments they wish they were not having. Common struggles include tensions such as messy vs tidy, spender vs saver, ‘touchy-feely’ vs reserved and different styles of parenting.

Learning to communicate calmly, without triggering each other into a cycle of ‘attack and defend’ is an art, and even if you know what you should be doing, it is very hard to enact when the person you love is looking at you ‘with that look’ or tone of voice. Practicing this in counselling can help you to gain new skills, so that you don’t get into arguments that are destructive to the wellbeing of your relationship.

Almost every couple that comes to see me gets the following homework to practice while we work on improving the above.

Have a weekly ‘couple check-in’

This is a time when kids or housemates are not in earshot. You are both as relaxed as possible. Sit down together and ask each other the following questions.

1. What have I done that has made you feel loved this week?

2. Is there anything person one wants to share about the relationship?

Keep it as a complaint or request rather than a criticism or attack, by using non-blaming language. Person 2 just listens to understand and doesn’t add anything of their own. Once person 1 feels totally understood, person 2 can respond, while person 1 just listens to understand, and doesn’t add anything.

3. Is there anything person 2 wants to share about the relationship. Follow the same process as question above.

4. Only once both have had a turn to share, decide what you will try differently in the coming week. Commit to some small steps.

5. Now touch base on any life admin stuff.

Are there events coming up, stressors, hopes, expectations that it could be useful to share?

If you need more ideas have a look at the Gottman Institute;

This simple process can have an enormous benefit to couples and really reduce arguments.

You are not letting things build to a point where it bubbles out in anger, or seeps out in resentment. You are practicing speaking your needs calmly. You are giving your partner the message that their concerns are important.

It’s a good idea to do this just once per week, for 20-30 minutes max, because this will only help you to reduce arguments if you do it regularly.

Any more than 20-30 minutes, you might not be willing to do it every week, invest in your relationship and see if you can commit to this.

Once you have had this talk, do your best to take on board any requests or hopes that your partner shared. It’s like a team meeting at work, you set yourselves up for the week, then you get on with it. Try not to keep bringing things up unless they really are urgent. Use the weekly meetings for complaints as well as appreciations, then during the week, try to just enjoy each other more by focusing on what your partner is doing right.


EMDR Therapy, An Attachment & IFS Informed Approach

EMDR Therapy, An Attachment & IFS Informed Approach

EMDR Goes beyond Talk Therapy.

Counselling is an effective step towards wellbeing. It helps to talk, but sometimes, despite all the talking and doing the ‘right’ things – nothing changes. This is where Transformative Trauma Therapies like EMDR Therapy come in. Every adult had childhood experiences that were hard to integrate. Some experienced abuse or neglect and for others it was smaller moments of embarrassment, pain or shame. When memories are too painful to process into long-term memory, they are buried as ‘raw’ material within our psyche. When something happens in the present that reminds us of the same feeling- BooM- we are triggered, and experience the pain of the past in the present. Ella is one of a small number of Cairns EMDR Therapists who is Accredited with  EMDRAA (EMDR Association of Australia).

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement, Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a method of helping people integrate the past. We process what happened, the bodily sensations and emotions, as well as negative beliefs about oneself that formed at the time and have not been updated. It is not necessary to share all the details, or even remember; if the memory can be activated in the present- EMDR therapy can be used to process it.

Book a session with Ella here; 

EMDR Therapy does not remove memories, it enables people to think of the past and say “That was terrible, but I can think about it without become distressed. My feelings, beliefs and actions in the present are no longer influenced by the past.”

Attachment Focused EMDR

To heal from impacts of the past, we must address our unique patterns of hurt. Even the person with the ‘perfect’ childhood has things to repair, related to the way they learnt to ‘attach’ to their parents. In many homes- love, closeness and safety were inconsistent or not available. To heal at a deep level, ‘attachment wounding’ must be addressed. Attachment focused EMDR utilises the power of guided imagery to enable this repair.

The neural networks of the brain can’t tell the difference between ‘real’ or ‘imagined’. If something is felt in the body, the brain ‘fires’ just the same.


Internal Family Systems (IFS) Approach to EMDR Therapy

Modern psychology now understands that humans are not one fixed personality. We are made up of multiple ‘parts’. IFS says every person is a ‘True Self’; calm, connected, compassionate etc. The part of us present when we have no problems to solve. Yet our ‘Self Energy’ gets eclipsed by other parts. As children, we responded to experiences with shame, pain and sadness. In order to never feel those awful things again, we ‘Exile’ these young parts of ourselves into the metaphorical basement, trapped in time, holding the burdens of those experiences. To keep these young parts from overwhelming, we develop other parts that ‘manage’ these little ones. Examples of common managers are angry parts- they keep people away to never feel vulnerable again. ‘Perfectionist’ parts who think ‘If I just make sure I do things absolutely perfectly I won’t feel ashamed again’. Or workaholic parts, who stay so busy and focused on achieving, the little one that feels ‘not good enough’ is never activated. There are infinite possibilities, but the important take home is that there are ‘No Bad Parts’. All parts are just trying to avoid pain and suffering.

Combining an Internal Family Systems approach with EMDR Therapy, the inner system is befriended. Attention is placed on understanding why and how parts got their roles, and parts learn how to rely more on Self Energy so they can do their jobs in less extreme ways.

Experience EMDR Therapy with Ella Shannon

Ella has been working under the supervision of Annabel McGoldrick of Insight EMDR, attending regular supervision sessions and is part of the EMDR Insight team, supporting on IFS & Attachment Informed EMDR trainings .

If you’d like to know more about Attachment informed EMDR go to;

If you would like to know more about Internal Family Systems go to; 

To have a session with Ella, you are welcome to book online for an inperson EMDR Therapy Session, or via Zoom.

Want to understand more about Internal Family Systems?

This is a great 10 minute video that gives an easy to understand overview. If you are embarking on EMDR Therapy with Ella, it can be a great starting point to understand how your inner system works. 

Ella shares her experience as an EMDR Therapist;

“EMDR therapy has been a game changer for my work as a therapist. Many people come to counselling really wanting to change deep seated patterns, ways of reacting, and want to feel differently. I used to feel a bit helpless, people would leave the session feeling better, and with lots of tools to try at home, but ultimately could not shift the deeper / underlying issues. With EMDR Therapy, I have seen remarkable transformations, it’s such a gift.”

Client Testimonial of EMDR Therapy with Ella

“EMDR was a breakthrough for me. Years of talk therapy, rehashing emotional wounds over and over, gaining little ground, then a few months of EMDR and I feel free of intense anxiety that had been my constant companion since childhood. The somatic unfurling was powerful. Diving into the most difficult emotions through tapping, eye movement and emotional integration techniques was the key that unlocked these trapped emotions from my body, my nervous system and subconscious mind. The peace I feel on a day-to-day basis compared to how I previously lived is enormous. I thought I would live that way forever, I’d tried everything under the sun from 18 to my late 30s. I’d almost surrendered to the fact I would be this way until I died. EMDR came through for me. As a massage therapist, I regularly refer clients who need help clearing past trauma to Ella and EMDR in general. Clients come back to me having moved leaps and bounds in personal growth and their healing journey. I think EMDR and related therapies are the cutting edge of healing modalities and we are only seeing the beginning of what it can do.” Neil- Massage Therapist