I am Colleen Reilly – couple therapist and psychotherapist practicing in Brighton East and South Yarra.
I offer therapy for individuals and couples in a supportive and healing environment. My special interest, and additional training, is in couple and relationship therapy, and I also work with individuals in areas of relationships, self-esteem, anxiety, loss and grief, and the search for meaning and purpose in life.
In my experience as a facilitator of pre-marital workshops I’ve witnessed the bright side of impending marriages and helped couples access skills and information on how to maintain a long term and thriving relationship. As a couple counsellor I support partners to communicate honestly and openly, to better understand their needs and their partner’s, and to build the relationship they desire. Seeking therapy is the first step in this process.
My personal experience of marriage is one of growing up in a house full of parental conflict. By the age of 21 I’d been married and divorced. In the years that followed I searched my soul for what I really wanted and needed to be in a happy relationship. Today, I appreciate the 30 years of shared life with my wonderful partner and the children we have raised. There is much love in my life and for that I am so grateful.
In my view long term couple relationships are partnerships that evolve over time, with awareness, effort and love. Mutual commitment, support, respect, trust, loyalty, friendship and intimacy are foundational to a healthy relationship. As in everything in life there are light and dark times (and lots in between). These are fertile ground to showcase the great capacity we have as human beings to learn, to unite, to overcome difficulties, to cope, to grow, to experience the range of emotions that are innate in all of us!
I will help you work through your issues by being fully present, by understanding your difficulties, and guiding you through a process that clarifies and addresses that which is vital to your well-being.
I work with couples experiencing a wide range of concerns from painful and difficult problems, to those who simply desire greater communication, intimacy, and satisfaction in their relationship. In therapy, I am an impartial and a caring third party. I assist partners to understand their role in the dynamics of their relationship and to view their challenges with more openness and empathy for themselves and their partner.
My approach is not a quick fix. It takes 4 to 6 sessions to really know you and your issues so that your therapy is tailored to your needs. Relevant resources are given early on in sessions and some couples are recommended to complete an online questionnaire which is a valuable assessment tool. There is often improvement early on but it takes time and effort for positive change to consolidate. My standard practice is that I see you together for the initial session, then session 2 and 3 you are each seen individually, and session 4 we resume couple sessions.
Sometimes a partner or person not currently in relationship chooses to tackle relationship issues in individual therapy. This can be very helpful as the relational experience I bring opens up valuable perspective.
If you have got lost along the way and are feeling disconnected or distressed in your relationship, I can help you understand what is happening, and guide you to repair and refresh the connection.
My experience covers a wide range of issues including:
Sometimes, in an argument, it's hard to find the right words. Or strong emotions bring out hurtful words that we later regret.
In relationships, misunderstandings can escalate through lack of honest, open and measured communication. Sometimes we even avoid communicating altogether in case we disagree! Choosing the right time to address certain issues is also a factor as it's hard to know when and how to raise uncomfortable issues that have potential to cause conflict. Without raising the issues, they remain unresolved and tension can build. Our body language and actions often express more than words which only adds to the disparity.
Counseling can help to identify the glitches in communicating and map out new ways of relating so there is more immediacy, care and openness in important discussions. It can also identify what behaviours are triggering conflict and explore the underlying reasons for these behaviours. This can help a couple make sense of distressing issues and break old cycles or patterns in communication.
Good communication allows partners to visit and learn from each other's worlds, as well as share and enjoy a world that they have in common.
Conflict exists in all relationships - it affirms that we are different to one another, and that we have our own way of viewing the world and each other. When dealt with effectively, conflict can promote personal growth within the relationship.
However, if there is lack of respect and empathy, the conflict often becomes negative and pervasive. This can affect the wellbeing of the relationship and both individuals are impacted.
Couples who face their differences and feel safe to openly discuss their issues have less tension, resentment, anger and hurt. This opens a path to greater communication and togetherness.
Counselling provides an environment to talk through, listen, and compromise where appropriate, helping to achieve a more fulfilling union.
It's often hard for couples to pinpoint when emotional distance began. The couple may have avoided addressing an issue(s) and got distracted or 'busy' with work. Perhaps they stopped confiding in one another and turned to a family member or friends instead. Perhaps it never felt like the right time to discuss issues or they felt unheard or minimized when they tried. Whatever the reason, feeling alone inside a relationship can affect us on a very personal level. It can lead to feelings of great despair.
Relationship counseling can help to work through unresolved issues and begin to bridge that ominous gap in the couple. Concerns can be viewed with a different perspective to shine light into areas that seemed previously insurmountable. Life is too short to live unhappily.
Pregnancy can bring on mixed emotions in a couple. Responses such as excitement, surprise, shock, and stress are common. It's a time of change, adjustment and also of vulnerability. During this time of pregnancy and immediately after childbirth relationships need more support. If this is not available, it can put a strain on the relationship.
As the child grows, parenting styles begin to emerge. Parents are required to guide their children through various life stages. When the styles complement, balance and solidarity is created in the home. When they differ it commonly creates conflict in families. Negotiating what is in the children's best interests and having some structure and stability helps in all families, including step families, single parents families, and those co-parenting.
Counseling helps couples and families by bringing concerns, doubts, anxieties or feelings of inequity or disconnection out into the open. These can be viewed and discussed in a safe, non-judgmental environment where new perspectives or new ways of dealing with challenges can be found.
Counseling can assist the family to understand their dynamics, and provide resources for caring for and understanding both children and parents alike. It can be a very healing exercise for both parties.
Family can provide invaluable support, love and community. Sometimes though, they can be unduly influential. A couple can be torn between loyalty or obligation to their family or origin, culture and traditions, and their wish to live a life with different priorities and values.
The longer these issues remain unaddressed and unresolved, the more distorted, complex and deeper they can become. Some family members become so overwhelmed by these issues they choose to separate, or cut themselves off from other family members. Although relief may be felt initially, emotional distress simmers and impacts on mental well-being and other close relationships.
Without support people suffer alone or lean on unhealthy habits, distractions and substances avoid or numb emotional pain.
Counseling can assist to resolve conflicted feelings and relationships in the extended family. It can help to identify patterns in extended family dynamics and build awareness of how to manage issues. When one person makes the effort to become more objective, it often has a positive flow-on effect on their relationships with others.
Unfortunately our society places a big emphasis on achieving more and more in less and less time. To a certain extent, money does give us a freedom in terms of lifestyle and perhaps a reassurance of a security. However, the constant pressure can leave us feeling worn thin and weighed down by the pursuit of success and financial wealth. Money issues can be a great divider in our relationships.
It's no small feat to merge two different viewpoints and life-long habits around money to work cohesively to reach goals together. Sometimes this doesn't happen easily.
In these instances it is important to look at the values and beliefs that each individual holds about money and security. Counseling explores the expectations and influences that inform each partner to take the stance they do. It can help by giving the couple an open forum to discuss options and to find a compromise that suits the couple as a whole.
Affairs and infidelity are among the most painful and destructive scenarios a couple-relationship can experience. Trust is vital to a balanced relationship. When one individual is unfaithful, either through actions or excessive thoughts, it can fracture the trust in the relationship. Thoughts of infidelity are disruptive to the relationship causing a lack of presence for the person having them, and an undercurrent of confusion for both parties.
Affairs, including on-line liaisons, can have devastating consequences. For many couples this marks the end of the relationship. Some couples choose to stay and work on their relationship.
Counseling provides a safe space for the couple to work through the often strong emotions that have developed around trust, respect, loyalty, worth and love. Counseling also helps the couple look at the choices each individual has made, and can make into the future.
Are you discussing separation with your partner? Or have you already separated?
Ending a close relationship can be complicated. As with all endings, it's very common to experience feelings of grief and loss, regardless of whether we were an advocate for the break-up or not. If children are involved, then there are further considerations to be made. Questions arise like how do we provide stability and safety during this time. And, most importantly, how do we remain present and loving in their lives despite our separation.
Counseling can help by exploring options available at this point. Whether the objective is to stay together or to separate, counseling can help ease the shock and pain, especially if either partner were not prepared for the separation. It can help us understand how the relationship reached this point. If the goal for the couple is to stay together then counseling helps to be more conscious. Or if the goal is to separate, counseling helps build awareness so that future potential relationships are not impacted by old patterns or unconscious choices. By creating a buffer in discussions, counselling can help navigate through this time.
I'm feeling "madly in love"!
The initial stages of relationships are often filled with warm and exciting feelings of infatuation. On a biological level, the hormone Oxytocin (the 'cuddle hormone') is being released giving us a feeling of euphoria. We produce this hormone when we feel attached and close to another, which is why new love is often so blissful and all consuming!
Lasting love in a long-term relationship is a little different. Once the "honeymoon period" is over, the joys of the relationship become more about truly and deeply, rather than madly. Seeing the beauty in our partner even through the thick and thin brings out the best in them, and in us. As human beings we are all flawed, focusing on positive qualities and encouraging our significant others (our partner, child, parent, close friend), helps them to shine. This, in turn, helps to create a foundation of openness and mutual respect when harder conversations are required.
The bond a couple shares is precious and needs ongoing effort and nurturing to thrive. The process of couple counselling is about learning to truly hear and see each other. It helps us to recognise needs in the relationship and discovering how to support one another to meet those needs.
For enquiries or appointments please call 0413 542 653.
Common issues that individuals bring to sessions are dealing with:
Healthy self-esteem is a personal felt sense of being whole, of being 'comfortable in our own skin'. It is about living by our values, knowing and accepting ourselves whilst acknowledging that both strengths and inadequacies exist in each person, as in all human beings.
A good sense of self-worth informs our decisions around how we treat others, and ourselves. Life and relationships become less limited as a consequence.
Counseling explores the relationship with the self. With self-enquiry a person can understand why they hold certain beliefs that perhaps no longer serve them. They are guided to connect to their truest values and live courageously yet gently, to expand personal potential and happiness.
Anxiety is a thief of well-being. The 'what ifs' of life, the excessive thoughts and the worrying stories we tell ourselves can all easily overwhelm the soul. Worry can be practiced for various reasons, some of which may seem helpful to us. For example, perhaps it helps us feel prepared for the worst, or it has been learned as a way of coping with life. However, too much anxiety, especially over an extended period of time, separates us from our sense of self - it's hard to feel whole when we are anxious. It can affect us on a mental, physical and behavioural level. Palpitations, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, digestive problems, weakness and fatigue are all common physical side effects of anxiety. Troubles with sleep, irritability, and avoidance of people or situations are common behaviours associated with anxiety.
The way through anxiety is to recognise its presence in our lives, acknowledge it for what it is, and disempower it by becoming mindful of its symptoms, instead of reacting to them.
Counseling helps by introducing positive practices such as breathing and relaxation techniques, encouraging mindful practices, and by challenging unhelpful thoughts. It also helps to increase self-care practices, self-compassion, and self-worth.
Grief often accompanies significant loss in our lives. Some experiences are so difficult to overcome that it takes time to process the painful feelings that arise. It's hard work for the soul.
Loss comes in many forms: Job loss, loss of friendships, loss of independence, loss of health function, or perhaps loss of plans or hopes, can all lead to compelling disappointment and grief. Traumatic events can damage our ability to feel safe; we can feel unsettled and confused. The end of a close relationship or the death of a loved-one is incredibly hard to endure. These are deeply personal experiences and there is no prescribed way to mourn or reconcile this loss.
Through the counseling process the person has space to talk about who or what they have lost, and its impact on them. It is a safe place to cry, mourn and yearn for the loss. Gradually the person can make sense of the loss and integrate new meaning into their life.
Stress management is an essential skill in today's busy and often frantic world. Yet sometimes, the very things we are chasing are the things that lead us to unhappiness. There are more ways to get to where we want to be than simply driving hard and fast towards our goals. Reassessing what we are pursuing from time to time lets us be guided by our values rather than expectations of others, society or our own unrealistic ambitions. It is important to know and understand the warning signs of stress overload.
Counseling helps you step back from the pressure to observe how you are managing stress so that changes can be put in place. Sessions are time to practice breathing and relaxation techniques, discuss self-care including doing more of what you love, and deciding how to let go of things that do not serve your well-being. Make the active choice to slow down, reconnect and live well.
Just as anxiety is a thief of well-being, depression steals our joy. We lose our clarity, our hope, and our self-worth. We can feel like we've lost the freedom to feel balanced and wholly ourselves. Depression is more than just feeling sad - it can be pervasive and colours a person's existence, their functioning and their relationships with self and others.
Everyday can be a battle of endurance just to get through. It can overwhelm us, making us feel like it defines us as a person, but we are so much more than this condition.
Counseling helps to encourage and support the person to understand the depressed thoughts, feelings and sensations and counter them with new ways of functioning. In some cases, clients may be advised to consult with a trusted GP to discuss prescription medication to help alleviate debilitating symptoms whilst better internal habits are developed in the counseling sessions.
Both women and some men can be affected by PND. It is characterized by the onset of anxiety or depression in the days, weeks or few months following childbirth. This is a vulnerable and often exhausting time, both physically and emotionally. Overwhelming emotions, pressures or troubling thoughts can get out of hand. And it can affect parents after any childbirth, whether it is their first child or their fourth.
Counseling can help to give the person a safe space to discuss the thoughts and feelings troubling them, and help to understand to the underlying concerns.
If you, or a parent close to you is experiencing overwhelming depression, is crying often or is in distress and/or you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, please seek help immediately.
Call LifeLine 13 11 14
Post & Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA)
(9am to 7pm Mon - Fri) 1300 726 306
Sometimes hopelessness takes hold. Challenges can feel insurmountable, and we feel alone. It is so important to know, you are not alone and you can get through this. Care and support is available.
If you, or someone close to you, is struggling with thoughts of self-harm, and/or threatening harm to another, please seek help immediately.
Call LifeLine 13 11 14
Suicide Helpline 1300 651 251 or Suicide Call Back Service (24 hrs 7 days) 1300 659 467
If you are seeking support and understanding call me on 0413 542 653.