Sometimes, cracks appear in the sacred wall of a marriage or a relationship. Ups and downs are common in any relationship, but sometimes, you may find it very difficult to fill in the cracks. You may feel helpless and out of options. Often, our friends and family are the people we first go to for help. An unhappy marriage or a relationship may negatively impact not only your own physical and mental wellbeing, but also that of such near and dear ones. When things go out of hand, help is available and easily accessible. Marital counselling can help you and your partner find ways to reduce the emotional disturbance caused by issues in your marriage. You can work out mutually acceptable ways to resolve conflicts and move forward in life.

Marital Counselling is a way of seeking help from a non-biased, trained professional, who has the necessary skills and expertise to enable you and your partner to resolve your issues. A counsellor will not take sides to prove you or your partner right or wrong. However, the process of counselling will help you to identify thoughts, emotions, behaviours, goals as well as patterns that may be responsible for conflicts in your relationship. The mental health professional will help you in changing such unhealthy approaches, thereby enabling you to improve your relationship. Through counselling, the goal of a healthy, happy marriage can be achieved. However, in some cases, the differences may be so deep or so longstanding that the couple may feel that they are irreconcilable. In such a case, couple may need to go their separate ways. Here, counselling can help with amicably parting ways as well as with closure. It is a sound way of dealing with otherwise complex and hurtful issues, thereby enhancing a person’s intellectual as well as emotional growth and well-being.

Problems in marital or relationship may include:

  • Conflicts that you find difficult to resolve
  • Going through a financially difficult time
  • Finding out or suspecting that your partner is cheating on you
  • Experiencing problems in sexual life
  • Lack of quality time due to high pressure jobs or other commitments
  • Disagreement about the methods of parenting
  • Verbal or emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Marital rape
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Familial discord
  • Difference in expectations
  • Physical or mental health problems that affect your relationship
  • Incompatibility or finding it difficult to connect with your partner

What steps can you take to improve your relationship?

    • LISTEN to your partner. Often, you may hear what you think your partner is saying, rather than what your partner is actually saying. The ability to listen is crucial to understanding your partner’s needs, feelings, and intentions.
    • COMMUNICATE your needs, wishes, desires as well as your concerns in a positive way.For example, instead of labelling your partner as selfish, you could call the specific behaviour selfish.
    • Let BYGONES BE BYGONES. Refrain from bringing past issues in the present concerns. For example, if your anger is disproportionate to what your partner has done, this may indicate that issues of the past are influencing your feelings.
    • AVOID BLAMING yourself or your partner. Instead, focus on what you can do to build a stronger relationship.

How would counselling help?

  • Understanding gaps in communication and ways of communicating better
  • Gaining an insight into your partner’s way of thinking and feeling, thereby resolving conflicts
  • Developing ways of putting your point across without giving into blaming
  • Developing strategies to deal with the conflicts that may arise in the future
  • Understanding how you may contribute in creating and resolving the conflicts
  • Relieving the stress and promoting personal well-being
  • Finding a common ground with your partner
  • Becoming aware of situations where you and your partner need to be more sensitive to each other’s needs
  • Understanding how your past or your partner’s past is impacting your present relationship
  • In case a separation is required, help with picking up your life and moving forward


Terminal illness is used to describe patients with advanced disease and a drastically reduced lifespan, with perhaps months or weeks to live. The range and severity of physical symptoms increase and will be having a profound effect on how the patient lives his life. General symptoms such as fatigue, pain and sleeplessness are common which further leads to emotional and psychological concerns.

How well a patient copes is dependent on a number of variables, age of patient, level of education, religion, previous experience of illness, social support, personality and medical factors.

Breaking Bad News

When the prognosis is actually given to the patient it is best to avoid giving a specific time limit as the patient views this as a death sentence, and will be counting off the days. It is far better to talk in terms of months whilst giving them some hope in the future in terms of new treatments that may come out, or other patients who have beaten the odds and survived far longer. In other words they should prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

Adjustment to Life Threatening Illness

The patient may react in a number of ways when faced with a life-threatening situation.
In the late 1960s Elizabeth Kubler Ross described five stages in coping with loss, a period of denial followed by anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Greer and Watson described five adjustment styles that a patient may exhibit when confronted with a life threatening illness.

  1. Fighting spirit,
  2. Avoidance or denial,
  3. Fatalism,
  4. Helplessness and hopelessness,
  5. Anxious preoccupation

Fighting Spirit

A patient who exhibits fighting spirit sees the illness and the difficulties as a challenge. They often do all they can to beat the disease and have an optimistic outlook on life.

Avoidance or Denial

Some degree of avoidance or denial can be beneficial in that it can allow the patient to carry on with their lives without undue worry, but greater degrees may interfere with treatment compliance.


These patients are unduly passive and feel they have little influence over the course of the disease.

Hopelessness and Helplessness

The patient is unduly hopeless and feels powerless in the face of such an overwhelming threat. He feels that he has no influence over the course of the disease so he might as well give up. The patient becomes death centered rather than life centered.

Anxious Preoccupation

Anxiety is a normal reaction to threat, however in these patients it is severe. Living with the uncertainty of the future causes them distress and they seek constant reassurance from the Doctor or relatives


The commonest psychiatric disorders seen in the terminally ill :-

  • Adjustment disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Delirium


When evaluating a terminally ill patient, a holistic approach has to be taken. The patient may well have fatigue, anorexia, and poor sleep, all of which could be attributed to the physical illness; therefore when assessing terminally ill patients greater weight must be given to psychological symptoms such as hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness than to somatic complaints. Persistent dysphoric mood, which shows no reactivity in pleasant situations i.e. as when relatives visit, and voicing a wish to die are other important symptoms

The management of depressive illness depends on the severity.Mild cases respond well to cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy (CBT).
A problem solving approach is used for current difficulties. The principles of behaviour therapy are utilized to increase pleasurable activities. Activities are important to boost morale and distract from unpleasant ideas.
Where depression is severe, anti- depressants are required.


The patient may appear apathetic and at times may be very agitated. Clouding of consciousness may get reflected in difficulty taking a history, the patient being vague and circumstantial in speech. Due to the very high incidence of delirium in terminally ill patients a short cognitive screen must always be done, this will usually show deficits in memory.

Normally the treatment for delirium is to find the causative factors and treat them.


Anxiety is a common reaction to threat, and patients diagnosed with terminal illness are under the greatest threat of all, a threat to their very existence. When dealing with a diagnosis of terminal illness, the initial reaction is one of disbelief, which is swiftly followed by anxiety depressive symptoms. Patients may feel agitated and restless, have difficulty sleeping, eating, and have intrusive thoughts about their illness.


Treatment consists of short acting Benzodiazepines, given in sufficient quantity to alleviate symptom.
Cognitive behavioural techniques are also employed, such as muscle relaxation exercises. Low dose antidepressants are also used, especially if depression is present.

Caring for the Carers

There are some carers who are so diligent, and spend all their time at the hospital that carer fatigue sets in, and they become ill and exhausted themselves. These latter carers need counseling and help in how to pace themselves over a long illness.

Each family has their own way of communicating and it is important to know whether issues are openly discussed, or if information is being withheld from certain members of the family. In all cases open communication should be encouraged, as this allows for more supportive relationships to develop.

We at Mumbai Psychiatry Clinics have a dedicated team of counsellors and clinical psychologists who will help you with your problems, cite interventions and assess the progress on regular intervals. There are experienced psychiatrists who will be guiding you throughout your journey and our Multidisciplinary team will try to assure you with the best help possible.


  • Handbook of Psycho-oncology: Psychological Care of the Patient with Cancer; Edited by
    immie C Holland, Julia H Rowland. Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Psychological Therapy for patients with Cancer. Stirling Moorey. Heinemann, 1989.