Does couples therapy really work?
Before giving up on your relationship, it is important to consider what the research tells us. Studies show a 75% effectiveness rate for couples that choose to participate in couples counseling and continue to apply the principles taught in therapy. There can be many reasons for couples to consider trying couples counseling. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Having the same arguments over and over
- Ignoring or avoiding problems and never resolving ongoing issues
- Physical intimacy problems
- Blended families and co-parenting concerns
Not everyone’s problems will look the same. Working with a professional counselor can help you identify your specific issues and learn effective ways to resolve them. For example, you may enter couples therapy hoping to solve your differences in sexual desire. Your therapist may assess and help you discover that your sexual issues hinge more around broken trust and poor communication. In this case, therapy can help you and your partner learn healthy ways to communicate your needs and heal broken trust. As you share your concerns, your therapist will look for underlying themes such as in the example provided.
What actually happens in couples counseling?
Going into your first session of couples counseling can feel intimidating. When relationships are rocky, we fear the risk of being vulnerable with our partner. It can also feel scary to allow someone into the personal details of your relationship. You may worry about sharing feelings that could start a fight or hurt your partner. Here’s what to expect in couples therapy and how it actually works.
Often the first session is spent learning more about each partner and your relationship as a couple. It is important that your therapist gets to know each of you on a personal level. They may ask you about your childhood, your parents’ relationship, and details around how you met each other. While these details may seem insignificant to you, they are important to understanding your whole story.
At times you may meet with your couples counselor individually. These sessions help you and your counselor in assessing personal issues and concerns that may be hindering you from having the relationship you desire. Much of the time though, you will attend sessions together as a couple. You will learn effective ways to communicate your needs. And, above all, strengthen your ability to truly hear and respond to your partner in a validating manner. Often you will be given assignments that will encourage you to practice the very principles taught in your therapy sessions. Be patient with the process and know that the more your therapist understands you and your partner, the better he or she will be able to guide you in making lasting change.
What if my partner refuses to go to counseling?
While it is ideal to have both you and your partner attend couples counseling together, for different reasons it may not be possible. You may have heard horror stories from friends reporting weekly fights erupting in their counseling sessions. These stories can create fear that the issues between you and your partner can grow bigger if you go to therapy. Your partner may fear being vulnerable, or worry because they don’t know what to expect. They may simply be too tired of the fight and be choosing to withdraw. Whatever their reason, it is best to respect your partner’s decision to not participate in counseling for the time being.
The fact that your spouse or partner doesn’t want to come to therapy doesn’t make it a deal breaker. Couples counseling for you may end up simply being individual counseling in the hopes of repairing or improving your relationship. Research asserts that therapy can have a negative effect if only one person is seeking counseling for their relationship. The reason being that one person is receiving support and guidance while their partner is left unchanged. This can be frustrating for both and can at times, facilitate a separation or divorce. Now, with that being said, not all hope is lost. We also get the opportunity to witness a number of positive shifts occurring in the relationships of our clients who come alone and feel a desire to do what they can to create positive change.
Can I do marriage counseling alone?
You can work on the relationship, alone, in marriage counseling. A trained couples therapist will be able to help you develop communication skills to decrease conflict, increase friendship and intimacy, and help you to find ways to start connecting with your partner. You might also explore with your therapist your relationship patterns, attachment styles, and gain insight into how your past experiences may be getting in the way having the marriage you desire. Sometimes the non-participating partner will experience a desire to begin attending with their spouse, as they witness positive changes in the partner.
In couples therapy, our efforts are focused on helping each partner to feel deeply understood and then guide the couple to make necessary changes that will benefit the relationship. The couples we see range from those simply wanting to improve their connection to those dealing with the damage of infidelity and the consideration of divorce. We also offer premarital counseling.
If you are still unsure if marriage counseling or couples therapy is for you, please reach out to our friendly staff today!