TV

Couples Therapy experts Amanda Cox and Elizabeth Du Preez open up on their friendship

Amanda and Elizabeth analyse the special bond they’ve formed off screen

When relationship experts Amanda Cox and Elizabeth Du Preez signed up to appear on the new documentary series Couples Therapy NZ, they never expected to form a lasting friendship.

“We first met on Zoom when Elizabeth was contemplating whether or not to take the role,” recalls Amanda. “At that stage, I’d already committed and signed the dotted line, so we were looking for someone who I would work well with. At first, it felt a bit like online dating and we were a match!”

The show follows psychotherapist Amanda, 51, as she helps five Kiwi couples work through personal struggles and reignite the spark in their relationship. Throughout the series, she turns to psychologist Elizabeth, 54, for guidance and mentorship, which is a mandatory requirement for any practicing therapist.

“I think there’s an interesting difference between us,” reflects Elizabeth, 54, who emigrated from South Africa in 2009 with her son Franco, 24, due to new career opportunities. “I’m a psychologist and Amanda is a psychotherapist, but we have quite shared training backgrounds.”

Elizabeth (right) and Amanda have more than a cuppa in common!

Psychology focuses on short-term, symptom- focused mental health treatments, whereas psycho-therapy deals with long-term therapy for deeper-rooted issues, including childhood trauma and relationship problems.

“I originally wanted to be a music therapist, a medium where you can engage with people in a way that’s non-verbal,” tells Elizabeth, who plays the piano. “And then I had to study psychology to become a music therapist and I just continued with that. I found it really meaningful to spend time with people and talk about their quality of life. I still play piano.”

“I also played piano for nine years – we should do a duet!” chips in Amanda, who began her career as a registered nurse before transitioning into psychotherapy.

The Weekly chats to the friends in a sunny dressing room in Auckland as they prepare for our photoshoot. Although Couples Therapy marks the first time either of them have been on TV, they are naturals in front of the camera.

Couples Therapy was one of the first things I’d ever applied for,” shares Elizabeth. “I loved the premise of the show. There’s a huge difficulty accessing services, both privately and publicly at the moment, but I hope after seeing the show, people will be more inclined to seek help. It feels like a really worthwhile project.”

Opening up to the public also comes with challenges. “Therapy is normally private, so to suddenly have five cameras in your face while you’re doing something that’s usually confidential was quite difficult,” admits Elizabeth.

A couple opens up to Amanda and the nation.

But the camaraderie the women formed while filming, plus their natural level-headednesss, helped them through the experience.

“We have a lot of fun and laughter when we are filming together,” smiles Amanda. “We are both on the same page and know what’s going on.

“It’s just really nice to have someone there who gets it. There are very few people who know what this experience was like and it feels so nice to talk with Elizabeth about it. We’ve done this big thing together and it’s been quite significant.”

Although filming of Couples Therapy has wrapped, Amanda and Elizabeth still get together in their spare time, and this weekend will be the first time their partners, who are also therapists, meet each other.

“It’s going to be so nice sharing what we’ve been through with our partners, who I think are very similar,” says Amanda, who runs a private practice in Auckland with her husband John, 51. The pair have two children, Tom, 14, and Annie, 12.

“My family actually appears on the show very briefly, much to their horror!” she laughs. “They’re okay about it, though. They are very supportive.”

Although Elizabeth’s partner Paula, 55, and son Franco don’t get any screen time, it was their support behind the scenes that encouraged her to take part in the ground-breaking series.

“Paula was very caring and just wanted to make sure everything was good for me,” Elizabeth says. “My son was also like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ But they were very kind and understanding about it.”

Following the release of Couples Therapy, life for Amanda and Elizabeth has slowly returned to normal, but their passion for the project continues.

“I’m trying to keep away from social media because I don’t really want to see all the feedback,” Amanda laughs. “But if there’s a season two, I hope we are on it together again because we are familiar with each other now.”

Adds Elizabeth, “I just hope the show makes therapy feel less scary and normalises the idea of getting help. It’s really important for people to realise they’re not alone with their struggles and they’re not unusual.

“It’s normal to disappoint our partners and for them to disappoint us, and it’s normal to not like them sometimes. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance between the moments of not liking them with the moments you love them.”

Watch Couples Therapy NZ on ThreeNow.

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