Frequently couples are reticent to seek therapy for their relationship, or the partner that makes the call struggles to get their other half to attend with them. People fear it will be an uncomfortable and emotionally charged experience where the therapist will end up siding with one or other person, or telling them they should separate. Consequently, counselling can get postponed to the point where the relationship is on life support, and then the outcome might well be less favourable.
So, what does happen in Couples Therapy?
- The therapist is an objective observer of the relationship, who will respect both partners and their viewpoints equally.
- In the early sessions the couple will agree a clear set of goals for treatment, and the therapist will keep them on track, even when things feel emotionally challenging.
- The couple will be given praise for what they are doing well, and encouraged to do more of it.
- The therapist will give the couple new insight into their relationship and why the current dynamic isn’t working.
- The couple will have new skills to practice based on the therapist’s feedback, and will be helped to work as a team that can problem solve and communicate well together.
- The emotional intensity in sessions will be controlled so that work can take place and sessions don’t become just a repeat of what happens at home.
You don’t need to wait until both partners agree about attending therapy together. If you are distressed in your relationship, then seek help, and often your therapist will assist you to bring the other partner into therapy.
When you enter into Couples Therapy, it is important to understand that the therapist is not a magician who can fix any relationship. There are three people in the room, and each person has their responsibility to be an active agent in the process of change. The therapist guides you towards new solutions and ways of doing things, but ultimately the couples with the best outcomes are the ones who are receptive to feedback and motivated to do the work. It is also helpful to know that not all couples come to therapy for a happy ending. Sometimes a relationship needs help to end well, especially when there are children involved.
It has been said that the average couple that comes to counseling has been in distress for about six years before they make the call, which could explain why it is often one of the areas of therapy where people have the most complaints about outcome. As in all fields of mental and physical health, early detection and treatment is the best medicine. Good marriage is a highly skilled activity, so don’t wait until you reach the point where you can’t stand the sight of each other to seek help. Consider your marriage to be like a car and keep it well serviced!
If your relationship is in distress, then counselling might be a good option to help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you