Who Needs Couples Therapy?
After years of conflict, many couples decide to seek couples therapy. Often, it is because they recognize their differences – on issues such as financial decisions, intimacy, and relations with other family members - are now irreconcilable. With so much practice hurting one another and knowing what buttons to push, it’s likely that couples have grown into an entirely new relationship, one that is full of tension, distress and resentment.
Sometimes, couples feel as though attending therapy will fix their partner. They believe their therapist will take their side and influence their partner to see things their way. That is not the case. Couples therapy is not individual therapy with two people in the room; couples therapy is intended to show both sides that they have every right to be heard, that they are both good people, and how their own missteps have helped create persistent, difficult patterns. Fortunately, if a couple has decided together to participate in sessions together, that’s a good sign – it means that both parties likely want to repair the relationship, for their sake and for the sake of their families.
How Can Couples Therapy Help?
The goal of therapy for couples is for each party to understand their partner’s point of view. It is also intended to help each person understand how their actions and beliefs are contributing to the tension within the relationship. It is not intended to resolve specific issues – a therapist cannot take on the role of referee, defending one person from the other and vice versa. The therapist’s intention will be to help the couple learn ways of positively communicating with one another so that they learn on their own how to resolve conflict. The mental health professional will do this by way of teaching the couple on how to set boundaries, develop trust, and healthfully communicate instead of alienating one another.
At the beginning, the therapist will collect information about the couple, including number of years together, their current living situation, special interests and previous counseling experience. This initial conversation should be gentle and welcoming, so that the couple feels comfortable with the therapist.
In following sessions, couples will learn new methods of communication within the office walls, mastering them so they can bring these skills home. The most successful couples are those who focus on “we” rather than “me” – this kind of collaborative thinking helps couples find their way to a recovered and stronger relationship.