Have you ever thought about going to couples therapy?
Perhaps you recognize that your relationship could use improvement. Or you are worried that your relationship is already on the rocks.
Whatever the case, you and your partner can make a powerful choice by going to therapy together.
Read on to find out what couples therapy is, who it is for, and when you might want to think about it for your relationship.
What can I expect in a couples therapy session?
In couples therapy, you and your partner work with a therapist to improve your relationship by learning better ways to talk to each other.
You may start talking to your therapist before you meet for the first time. You can expect to get paperwork about fees, legal or ethical considerations, and office rules.
Even though each therapist has a different way of doing things, your first session with them will probably be a time to "get to know you."
During this time, your therapist will ask you and your partner questions to learn more about you, figure out what you need, and find out about your families.
Your therapist will help you figure out where you can improve, set goals, and make a personalized plan to help you reach these goals.
Then, your therapist will work collaboratively with you and your partner to solve problems, change bad habits, and focus on the good things about your relationship.
The keyword here is "collaboratively."
Therapists can't magically make your relationship better and their role is not to give advice––you still need to do your part.
Your therapist will act as a neutral, third-party to help you view your relationship objectively. Then, they will give you tools and skills to help you deal with present and future problems and equip you to have a thriving relationship. These tools and skills may relate to improving your communication, healthy conflict resolution, or improving emotional and physical intimacy.
Couples therapists also often assign homework to apply the skills you learned in therapy to your daily interactions.
Does my partner have to be on board?
You may think your partner needs to be 100% on board for your relationship to improve. But studies show that your relationship is likely to improve even if only one partner starts making changes.
What are the most common types of couple therapies?
Although your therapist will tailor your treatment based on your needs, the most common approaches to couples counseling are the Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, and Imago Relationship Therapy.
The Gottman Method aims to eliminate conflicting verbal communication, increase intimacy, respect, and affection, and build a stronger sense of empathy and understanding in the relationship.
It is a science-based approach that helps couples learn skills to have a positive orientation toward one another.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a short-term therapy to improve attachment and bonding in adult relationships.
EFT helps to identify dysfunctional relationship patterns that interfere with bonds and attachments.
Couples learn to use techniques that create safe and secure attachments with each other, helping them feel emotionally safe with their partner.
Solution Focused Therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented approach that helps couples change by creating solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
Typically, a therapist will determine what their client wishes to improve in the relationship. Then, they create a detailed plan for the couple to implement to achieve their goals.
The design of Imago Therapy is to help conflict within relationships become opportunities for healing and growth.
Imago Therapy rests on the idea that your childhood largely dictates how you view and carry yourself as an adult and that it forms the basis for your concept of love and how to respond to conflict.
With so many choices, how do you know what type of therapy is best for you?
As you talk to therapists, ask them what method they prefer and why.
You can also ask them for recommended reading about their preferred methods if you want to know still more.
Who is couples therapy for?
Couples therapy is for anyone in a relationship.
Whether you are straight or gay, monogamous or polyamorous, or have been with your partner(s) for a short time or a long time, couples therapy is an effective tool to help you navigate the intricacies of a relationship and strengthen your bond.
When should you consider couples therapy?
Many couples think their relationship needs to be in a bad place before they start with couples therapy, but this is not so.
Couples therapy is especially beneficial in equipping you and your partner with tools to help you navigate challenges before your relationship is at a point of irreconcilable difference.
It’s like going to your doctor.
You wouldn't wait to go to the doctor until you are critically ill, so why wait until your relationship is in a critical state before seeking counsel?
Does couples therapy work?
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 98% of couples who attend couples therapy report their experience as excellent.
But before going to couples therapy, you may want to ask yourself what success means for you.
Many individuals view the success of couples therapy as keeping their relationship intact.
But staying together isn't always the answer.
Hard as it may be to accept, sometimes the healthiest action you and your partner can take is to go your separate ways.
Couples therapy helps you navigate this process to determine if it is the right option for you.
Your therapist can facilitate difficult conversations between you and your partner and assist you in discussing sensitive topics from a place of empathy and understanding.
Why choose couples therapy?
You are worthy of a wholesome, fulfilling, and life-giving relationship.
That alone is sufficient reason to choose to go to couples therapy.
However, many couples consider couples therapy because they need help navigating challenges in their relationship. There is no shame in admitting you need help.
You may want to consider couples therapy if any of the following resonate with you:
- You are hoping to improve communication, intimacy, or how you resolve conflict.
- You feel distant from your partner.
- You feel jealous.
- You feel like your needs are not being met.
- You feel a lack of interest in being intimate.
- You don't trust your partner, or your partner does not trust you.
- You are not intentionally spending time with each other even though you live in the same place.
- You compare your partner with others and feel they fall short.
- You are considering a life-changing decision (moving, changing careers, starting a family, separation, divorce)
Please note that individual counseling may be a better option than couples therapy in the case of domestic violence or an ongoing affair.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
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