Relationships & Communication Counselling

School of Psychology -Relationships Counselling and Communications counsellor course. Distance Learning Course. Study for professional development or personal interest.

Course CodeBPS208
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn about communications counselling


Keys to successful relationships

There are many and varied reasons why relationships breakdown and irreconcilable differences is one of them. This occurs when two people differ in their beliefs and values and neither are willing to accept that the other person holds a different viewpoint. While agreeing to disagree would be a type of win-win in this situation, the way in which the difference is communicated and hence managed is often destructive. For example, one may continue to force the other to accept their position, through verbal attacks, or may give the ‘silent treatment’, not speaking to the other. When communication subsides into physical, verbal or emotional abuse (name calling, personal attacks, hitting, yelling, punching, pushing, verbal tirades, destroying personal items), the relationship is most often irretrievable. In fact, research has shown that once a poor or destructive communication cycle is established, it is rare that a reversal can take place as quite often, respect and trust is diminished to very low levels, and may take years of learning new skills to rebuild.

Increase your understanding of the role communication plays in creating, maintaining or destroying relationships, and develop your ability to assist others to improve their communication in relationships.

"Relationships start. Relationships develop. Relationships continue, but some relationships breakdown. To gain a greater understanding, this course will provide you with detailed insight into the processes involved in the development and sometimes, the breakdown, of relationships and how we can support the people involved." Tracey Jones, B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies), ACS Tutor

Lesson Structure

There are 6 lessons in this course:

  1. Communication in Emerging Relationships
    • Introduction
    • Problems in relationships
    • Stages in relationships
    • Interpersonal communication
    • The communication process
    • Principles of communication
    • Communication filtered through perceptions
    • Verbal communication
    • Non verbal communication
    • Communication responsibility
    • Ineffective communication
    • Signs of relationship breakdownEffective communication
    • Abuse and violence in relationships
  2. Self-Awareness and Communication Goals
    • Introduction
    • Negative communication
    • Self awareness
    • Setting the stage for change
    • Good communication is thoughtful
    • Intent
    • Awareness
    • Recognising reactive patterns
    • Relationship goals
  3. Communication Patterns in Relationships
    • Negative patterns of communication
    • Aggressive patterns
    • Victim patterns
    • Avoidance patterns
    • Thought, feeling and action cycle
    • Thoughts and feelings differentiated
    • Emotions (feelings)
    • Patterns of thought
    • Behaviour (Actions)
    • Action skills
    • Communicating intent
  4. Influences on Relating Behaviour and PBL.
    • Influences on communication
    • Environmental influences; family, culture, social, other
    • Global factors
    • Communicating and changing interpersonal needs
    • Changing expectations and needs
    • Adult psychological development
    • Erikson's psycho social stages
    • PBL to create and plan a counselling intervention for a couple who are experiencing relationship difficulties.
  5. Communication Techniques and Skills
    • Introduction
    • Triads
    • Listening
    • Paraphrasing
    • Reflective responses; emotions
    • Reflective responses; content
    • Guidelines to prevent inauthentic listening
    • Open questions
    • Message statements or requests
    • Self disclosure
    • Encouraging clients to learn communication
  6. Maintaining Relationships
    • Introduction
    • Kinds of, and stages in relationships
    • Factors to help maintain relationships
    • Agreements or contracts
    • Praise and gifts for service
    • Relationship nurturing communication
    • Straight talk

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explore the establishment of positive communication in emergent relationships and the various factors that influence relational processes;
  • Examine perceptions of ourselves and how this affects our communication and influences our communication goals;
  • To identify and examine patterns of communication in close relationships and consider the functions of thoughts, feelings and actions and how they inform our communication responses;
  • Recognise the role of third party influences when communicating in relationships and the changing needs in a persons lifetime that affect their communication;
  • Listen with improved empathy and respond accordingly;
  • To understand constructive and destructive methods of maintaining relationships.

What You Will Do

  • Determine ways in which we consciously communicate in a relationship, and ways in which we unconsciously communicate.
  • Determine different negative messages that can damage relationships, and different positive messages that can nurture them.
  • Determine attitudes or expectations (thoughts and beliefs) that can result in destructive communication, and describe one likely negative outcome for each.
  • Identify common needs that we want to satisfy through our relationships.
  • Identify cultural or social influences that affect individual and family attitudes to happiness, self-expression, and relationships.
  • Explain psychological theories and terms such as attribution theory, implicit personality theory, Gestalt impression formation, inference processes, stereotyping.
  • List benefits and disadvantages of ‘self-disclosure’ and ‘self-disguise or concealment’ (lying).
  • Define effective communication.
  • Discuss the role that judgment plays in preventing a person from understanding and/or respecting another person’s point of view and feelings.
  • Discuss strategies for replacing negative communication patterns in relationships for positive patterns.

Relationships Require Work

Good relationships and good communication do not just happen. They are the result of sensitivity to one’s own feelings, thoughts and actions, and to others’ thoughts, feelings and actions.

Communication is the foundation of a relationship and the glue that holds a relationship together, yet research shows that relatively few of us are aware of how and what we communicate, or take time to plan our communications to ensure mutual understanding and goodwill. Rather, most of us tend to speak and act without much pre-thought or without much consideration of likely consequences. Few of us understand how communication works, and how much it contributes to either our good or our poor relations with others, which means that few of us take the time to work on improving our communication skills, or break established patterns of negative communication. Given this situation, the opportunities for communication problems and misunderstanding are enormous.

No matter who your client, what age they are at, or what background they come from, however, they can be encourage by knowing that good relating skills and communication can be learnt. At first, they may find the new skills uncomfortable, challenging, difficult to remember, or even insincere. However, as they begin to see the positive effects upon themselves and their relationships, the skills will become part of their conscious efforts to build and maintain positive relationships. Eventually, they will become second nature (habits), and your clients will enjoy the benefits and challenges of being a good communicator.

Why Relationships End

Relationships are fluid. They are constantly changing. If you consider any relationship you have now and compare it to how it was in the past no doubt you will be able to identify changes. Perhaps the relationship has now improved compared to how it was. Maybe it has not. Sometimes even the most enjoyable relationships - those with the highest levels of satisfaction can become strained and erode over time. 

Social and demographic factors often play a role in relationship breakdown. For instance, people from markedly different backgrounds are less likely to have marriage relationships which last. Also, relationships between younger couples are more likely to dissolve than those of older people.

Besides these more general reasons, relationships also end because of interpersonal factors. Some people may be poorer at communicating what they need or want in a relationship. They may accuse their partner of misconduct without really examining the facts or listening attentively to what they have to say.  In any relationship success relies on both people having a strong sense of self. We need to be aware of our own qualities and to be able to see them in others. There also needs to be healthy and clearly defined boundaries.

Other factors which affect the life of relationships are the amount of self-disclosure and responsiveness to the other person. When either of these things is not present, there is often conflict in relationships and they can end. In a study by Markman (1981) it was found that just before couples got married those who reported positive experiences of responsiveness were more likely to be satisfied with their marriage five years later.

Relationships Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Some relationships last a lifetime and others only a day. Some relationships are close and others are superficial.

Through this course you learn to understand and appreciate the great diversity that can exist in relationships, from families to work groups and social encounters.

With a better understanding, you have an enhanced capacity to help people who are having difficulties in their relationships; and that is a valuable skill, not only for professional counsellors, but for anyone who is interacting with people, in any context.

Where this course might lead

If you are already working in counselling, this course may simply help to further develop your knowledge and skills, expanding  possibilities for business or employment.

Understanding Relationships can Benefit You Beyond Counselling

Relationships are critical in every workplace - relationships between customer and supplier, employer and employee, between fellow workmates, and between colleagues outside of your place of employment.

This course can give you a range of what are called “micro skills” that can help you interact with clients, colleagues and others to help them to work through and find resolutions to all sorts of problems.

These skills can be used in all sorts of situations to good effect. For instance, ‘active listening’ can be used to demonstrate to someone that they are being heard. With active listening, the listener pays full attention to what the person is saying with the intention of being able to provide feedback and summarise what they have said. As such, it is possible to ensure we are clear about what they have said.

This is a valuable skill to have in any profession where you are interacting with other people. For example, consider someone working in customer service. If a customer visits their store and asks for a certain product, the sales person will quickly endear themselves to the customer if they carefully listen to what the customer requires and they can provide feedback which shows they have understood them.

The interpretation of body language and non-verbal cues, provides useful information to counsellors and psychologists about how someone might be thinking or feeling. Outside of a therapeutic relationship though, this information might help inform decisions for police officers, customs officers, lawyers, or even managers about when or how to instigate particular company policies.

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Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head fo
Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
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