Monday, 28 March 2011

What is our success rate?

This week we went to budget seminar hosted at Salisbury racecourse by south west accountants, Francis Clark. It's a great venue and although on this occasion there was no racing, there was plenty of chance to network with people from a wide variety of businesses. I quickly found that talking about relationships proved to be light relief after all the useful information about pensions and taxes! And sure enough the favourite question came up: 'What is your success rate?' Well, it depends... Now I'd love to answer with a high figure, signalling that many of the couples Nigel and I coach find their way back to full relationship health. The reality is that if we started every session on the basis that we are going to 'fix' the couple who've brought their problems to our door, then they'd be justified in leaving after one quick session. So we measure our success by the degree to which we help them achieve their outcome, whether that is to stay together or to separate. What really happens? Unfortunately many couples leave it too late before they decide to do something about the rocky patch they've encountered. It may be one or both of them thought they could sort things out themselves. And in any case marriage guidance, couples counselling or whatever other label you give coaching through relationship difficulties, it's surely a sign of failure, isn't it? If they've got to the point where they feel only contempt for each other and cannot find ways to repair the damage they do to each other during arguments, our role is usually to help them find ways to separate amicably. Other couples who come to us because they are no longer 'on the same page'. One of them wants to stay and the other wants to go. Our role then is to facilitate a shared understanding of where they are, so they can begin to plan their separate futures. We create a safe space where they are often more confident in saying things they cannot mention under 'normal' circumstances. Sometimes repair is possible Nietzsche says: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." The same is true of relationships. Couples have come to us to find out whether they can repair their relationship after affairs; to decide whether their different views on children are compatible; to explore whether there is a relationship worth saving when they have so little in common and a whole host of other sticky issues. It is not the complexity of their situation or the depth of their anger, despair or confusion that is the deciding factor. If they both want to save their relationship and still love each other then our role is to teach them how to find strategies for coping with their differences and to learn to communicate more effectively. Outcomes Our philosophy of supporting clients to achieve the outcome they want does not translate easily into a nice statistic. However, it places importance where it should be - with the clients' view of success. We are developing the use of our brief satisfaction questionnaire because our clients teach us so much about what works. We have already had great feedback from some fabulous clients.

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