Reality TV shows like Married At First Sight inspire counselling boom

ALISON STEPHENSON, The Daily Telegraph

SYDNEY couples are rushing to seek counselling in the wake of TV shows such as Married At First Sight.

Psychology clinics across the city have noted the trend and told The Daily Telegraph they attribute spikes in bookings to couples therapy having a “pop culture moment” on programs such as Channel 9’s reality show, the Foxtel drama Big Little Lies and the Seven Network’s Seven Year Switch.

Psychologists at four clinics told how the prime-time shows, which all feature psychologists analysing relationships, have also driven couples to seek counselling earlier, rather than waiting until relationships are breaking down.

Married At first Sight contestant Cheryl Maitland.

Rachel Voysey, principal psychologist at Balmain’s The Relationship Room, said the prevalence of counselling on TV is helping destigmatise a process once seen as “shameful”.

“In the past people have thought you have to have a problem to have therapy, that you need to arrive in a crisis, there’s been an affair or somebody has one foot out the door,” Ms Voysey said.

“What these shows are doing are saying, ‘You don’t have to go and get help just in a crisis, you can actually go early in a relationship,’ and that’s a really interesting change.”

MAFS contestant Cheryl Maitland with TV ‘husband’ Troughton.

Relationship counsellor Clinton Power said the trend was also spurred by celebrity couples talking about marriage counselling, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

“When big-name celebrities come out and say that couples therapy has saved their relationship, it’s very beneficial because people think if they needed help, we might need it too.”

The psychologists likened the effect to the widespread acceptance of therapy in the US, where seeing a therapist as an individual or couple is viewed as something healthy people do.

Eliza and Tony Priddle say counselling has helped them resolve their fights. Picture: Sarah Marshall

Former St George Dragons rugby league player Tony Priddle and wife Eliza have been together for 12 years and still attend sessions to work on what triggers fights.

“Now we understand how we both respond to emotional triggers, we take responsibility for our own actions and our fights are over in two or three minutes instead of three days,” Ms Priddle said. “It’s completely changed our relationship.”

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