Couples therapy, relationship counselling, marriage counselling, whatever you want to call it - this service can be life-changing and life-saving for many people in relationships. Whether you have an issue you want to work out with a partner, or just fancy a check up to make sure your relationship is healthy, it's finally becoming less stigmatised to seek out a counsellor or therapist.
While therapists see new clients throughout the year, it turns out September and October are the months in which they see a huge spike. So why is the end of the summer the peak time that couples seek therapy?
It's when couples come back from being on a summer holiday together, an experience which can often push them to breaking point, says Lucy Beresford, a psychotherapist, sex and relationships expert and author of 'Happy Relationships At Home, Work And Play'.
"Therapists usually see a spike in referrals after the summer holidays, because this is when we are forced to spend extended time with our partner. As a result, we’re also forced to confront the things that annoy or upset us about our relationship, things we might have the energy or distractions to be able to sweep under the carpet the rest of the year."
Long journeys, sharing a room, sharing a toilet (!), and things not going to plan can all make for a very intense experience. "We often have high expectations that this break will provide relief or relaxation, or maybe even the time to discuss simmering problems. When – unsurprisingly – the holiday fails to deliver on these hopes, we can regard this as the final straw, and on our return, one or both parties decide to call time on the relationship," Lucy says.
"Both parties are stepping out of their routine, so this can make people more anxious which, in turn, can make them less able to control their emotions, such as being more likely to snap."
Lucy says the most common issues couples come to her with post-holiday is conflict surrounding their partner's phone and social media use. "It’s tempting to stay in touch with the workplace because it makes us feel valuable, and it’s tempting to indulge in a bit of Instagrandstanding by posting pics of our amazing trip. But all this use of tech gets in the way of connecting with your partner and rediscovering intimacy," she says.
Another problem that arises is couples feel their holiday was a little routine. "Some trips are repeats of previous trips, which can make some couples feel bored and stale," she adds.
If you're feeling like this after coming back from a trip with your partner, don't worry too much. Lucy says many of these holiday-related problems are easy to navigate. "Both parties need to sit down and identify what their typical triggers are, so they can prepare. For example, if one of you is always tempted to change rooms on arrival while the other hates to make a fuss, talk to each other in advance about your different styles and understand where the other is coming from.
"Have a code word to diffuse certain situations such as when travel plans are upset beyond your control. Try to see the trip as a whole, rather than getting worked up if one thing doesn’t go to plan."
And if you're still struggling, there's no shame in that. Therapy really can help work out whether this post-holiday crisis is just a bump in the road of your relationship, or the end. Lucy adds, "Therapy gives each side the chance to express their frustrations and disappointments, with space to feel heard. And therapy can also provide a sense of perspective, so people can see more clearly whether this relationship is worth preserving."