Just as with individual therapy, I feel that my role in couples counseling is not as a "referee" or a "fixer." Instead, my aim is to help clients work together to improve their relationship. Sometimes couples find it helpful to have an outside person observe the patterns that operate in their relationship and help them work on the stumbling blocks that are preventing effective communication.
Often, one member of the couple feels that they have been dragged in to counseling or worries that he/she will be blamed or labeled as the "problem" in the relationship. Because women are often more comfortable with talking about relationships and feelings, men in particular may worry that they will be blamed, judged or criticized. I hope that both members of the couple, regardless of who initiated couples therapy, would feel accepted and heard in therapy.
In addition, in my experience, it is extremely rare that the couple's concerns are the fault of one person - usually it is the interaction of each person's style that is leading to conflict and relationship problems. As a result, both partners may need to make changes or participate in "relationship work," but, most importantly, my goal is for partners to be able to express their thoughts and feelings in a caring and supportive manner to their partner. I also hope that couples will learn to see the impact that their own behavior has on their partner and to understand how this impacts their partner's thoughts, feelings and, ultimately, behavior.