How to counsel a wife who came to know that her husband had an affair with a lady. They both are in good relationship yet. Now the husband in his lockdown period confessed to his wife regarding his relationship. Now the wife lost her sleep for more than five days and she it getting suicidal thoughts and also tried for it one day before…
The counselor can express that she really appreciates the client’s courage in seeking help. It is normal to feel various emotions from sadness to worry, etc. during such situations when one discovers something unexpected and unpleasant. The counselor can explore the circumstances around the husband’s confession, and discussions, if the client is comfortable. Avoiding judgements, while being empathetic and encouraging ventilation in the sessions would be important. Most importantly, it is crucial to assess the risk for suicide and focus on crisis management on an urgent basis including appropriate referral to emergency services as needed or refer to a mental health professional/facility. Steps to mitigate suicidal risk, including involving a significant other would need to be taken depending on the clinical evaluation and judgment. While doing all this, appreciate her step of seeking help and courage in handling the situation. Reassure support from the counselor. The counselor may at some point in future engage in couple work or refer to an expert professional for doing the same either individually or conjointly. It would be good to help the client to postpone any major decisions, and not make choices based on current intense emotions. Encourage her to take time to think to get back a sense of control over strong emotions, to some extent through sessions and other means suggested in the sessions and also encourage discussions. Currently, various emotion management skills may be taught like distraction, keeping oneself busy, taking time. Encourage taking support, talking to trusted friends who might understand her feelings and offer emotional support.
It would have been devastating for the client to hear about her husband’s extramarital relationship. It is natural to have various questions in mind – when, why etc. and therefore need for a ventilation space, without judgement is important. Coming to terms with this information and it’s after-effects would take time. If she is experiencing suicidal thoughts and has made a suicide attempt recently, it’s a crisis situation and the first things you need to do is risk assessment and crisis management. You could connect to the available family member, preferably a supportive significant other. Sensitize and educate them about the risk of self-harm, the need for precautions and supervised care, psychiatric evaluation and appropriate care at the nearest psychiatric setting/emergency service as per the need. Involve the client in this process, to the extent possible. Encourage her to share her emotions with a trustworthy, non-judging close relationship. Emotional support to your client would be very crucial in these circumstances. Encourage her to speak, express her emotions, and ventilate. Empathetic listening, understanding what she is going through and her state of mind, and validation would be helpful. It’s important to understand that the client may now be experiencing a change in her feelings for her husband. Encourage her to postpone any major decisions now amidst the whirlwind of current emotions. It might helpful to consider conjoint sessions with the couple at some point in future, once the crisis reactions have been addressed for your client and when both of them are inclined for such a space to explore potential paths towards addressing this matter.
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