3 Tips for Couples Seeking Therapy
For some people, admitting that you and your spouse could benefit from couples therapy feels akin to admitting defeat, as though it’s a sign of failure. The reality, though, is quite the contrary. Counseling is truly a sign of strength.
Whether you’ve dealt with relationship issues you can’t seem to get past on your own or you want to see the benefits of couples counseling firsthand, your first few therapy sessions can seem intimidating before you arrive at your appointment. So, it may reassure you to have a few tricks up your metaphorical sleeve.
1. Start before you think you need it.
If you wait until you’re dealing with serious issues to book your first appointment with a couples therapist, you run the risk of waiting until it’s too late. Of course, you and your spouse can try out a variety of relationship tips first, taking a DIY approach to intervention. However, you’ll find that a marriage and family therapist can make much more effective strides in your counseling sessions if you start them early. While marital therapy won’t often be your first step towards healing your relationship, it shouldn’t be a last-ditch effort, either.
If you aren’t intimately familiar with the process, it may seem premature to invite a psychologist or counselor into your marriage when you’re dealing with minor disagreements or miscommunications. Nevertheless, you’ll learn quickly that mental health professionals are critical in preparing you to repair a relationship, whether that’s a romantic relationship, like a married couple or intimate partners, or another pairing, like friends or family members. Through couples, group, or individual therapy, you can improve your communication skills, learn the most healthy way to show and receive affection, and even recognize relationship issues before they come to light. Then, when it comes time to apply these skills to your own life, you won’t have the distraction of your current emotional state detracting from your learning abilities.
In addition, seeking relationship therapy or a couples counselor before you desperately need the help can help you acknowledge and repair the damage from relationship issues earlier than you otherwise might. So, instead of wallowing in a crisis state, letting feelings of anger, contempt, and resentment stew, you’ll be ready to approach the other member of the couple with empathy and a willingness to be an active listener.
2. Find the right type of couples therapy with the right therapist.
No licensed therapist, counselor, or other professional will follow the exact same method as another, so it’s no surprise that you can expect different results in your own relationship depending on the psychiatrist or other relationship expert you work with. One clinician’s specialty may be the Gottman method, while another thinks behavioral couples therapy is a better way to repair a relationship. Still, others will recommend an intensive therapy retreat, as opposed to individual therapy sessions spread out over time.
In addition to considering each professional counselor and whatever different approach they take to lead marriage counseling, you must consider your particular type of relationship distress or marital problems. In your unique quest for a healthy relationship, would you prefer a clinical psychologist who analyzes your emotional responses and finds healthier ways for you and your partner to deal with your own issues, without guilt trips or jealousy, or a relationship counselor who turns to alternative solutions, like EFT (emotional freedom technique, more commonly known as “tapping”) to better express appreciation for your partner a long time before your weaknesses become irreparable?
Going through marriage or family therapy in the first place is a good thing, no matter which of the common reasons couples seek counseling applies to your situation. Whether you’re facing deeply rooted emotional issues or you’ve noticed that sex feels less satisfying, a good therapist can get to the root of your concerns and get your partnership back on track. However, it’s integral that you understand your relationship problems well enough to recognize not only that you need a counselor but to identify what form of therapy may best meet your needs.
3. Define and work towards a common goal.
Different people head into their therapist’s office for their first session with different motivations behind them. But, ultimately, they’re looking for this psychotherapist or LCSW to help them build and maintain a successful relationship, usually for one of a few common reasons that have caused them to struggle in the past. Some want to increase intimacy or improve their sex life. Others are looking for better communication with their romantic partner, or how to do a better job of fending off negative feelings like envy or insecurity. Determine the biggest problem or problems you’re facing, and you’ll likely find the goal you most need to focus on.
Years of research support the practice of couples therapy. Couples counseling is one of the most effective ways to repair any kind of relationship, whether that’s after years of marriage or only a matter of months into dating. The lessons you learn through counseling can help you reach your goal of a happy, successful relationship, yes; but it can also guide you toward being a good friend, parent, and partner all at the same time.
The success of couples therapy relies on each person putting in hard work to identify and correct the relationship problems they’re facing. Do you spend too little quality time with your partner or too much time at work? Has your bond suffered after infidelity or simply a lack of positive communication? There’s no such thing as a perfect partner or a perfect relationship. But, if you give couples therapy a little time and a lot of effort, it will prove to be a great way to rekindle your romance.
In any long-term relationship, couples therapy can go a long way toward increasing relationship satisfaction and, at the end of the day, each individual’s mental health. Of course, all couples experience conflict and go through tough times. People change, and previously happy couples don’t recognize their current relationship. But, despite all this, the therapeutic process can help you set boundaries, bridge interpersonal conflicts, and otherwise regain a happy relationship through all the ups and downs.