As a therapist, I often have a front row seat to relationship “miracles”. Well, okay there are no miracles really. The fact is, transforming a relationship takes work. It takes two people wanting it work and then putting in the effort.
Having said that, I have seen many couples go from nearly ending it to feeling back in love, liking, enjoying, and respecting each other again.
Couples therapy can be a powerful change agent – there is no doubt about it. But what allows some couples to make it while others don’t? The overwhelming majority of couples I have worked with have been able to recover from marital issues and form an even stronger union. While the skill, competency, and compatibility of the therapist’s approach with the couple needs are important factors, couples that make it tend to have certain things in common.
Here are some ways you and your partner can get the most out of couple’s therapy and set yourselves up for success.
Commit to the Process
Many couples view therapy as a last ditch effort, which makes it all the more important to go all-in and commit to the process entirely.
I always ask each member of couple at the outset of therapeutic journey “are you committed to this process?” And we check in on this question from time to time. I remind the couple that in the past they have been addressing their challenges and problem in ways in that were mostly unhelpful and therefore in some cases an equal or significantly more time is needed to address these challenges in a more productive and constructive way.
It is important that both partners give it their best effort. This is especially important for the partner who may be ambivalent, or uncertain of the potential for success. At the very least, it creates a sense of hope in each party even as some parts of the journey become arduous. At the very most this creates the space for change to take place.
Be Open Minded
It’s common to be skeptical of therapy if you have no experience with it or if you have had a poor experience in the past. It’s also common to feel that your particular problem or issues are too big to overcome. While there are no guarantees, my professional experience has shown me that most problems are solvable. But if you believe that they aren’t, you are setting yourself up for failure right at the outset. It is helpful to share upfront any of your fears or unease and have those concerns addressed immediately so you can begin and engage with the process more smoothly. Real change requires and open mind.
Do Your Homework
Recently I met with a couple who felt their previous therapy experience was not a match for them as they spent most of their time complaining with no direction, no insight gained, lack skill introduction or homework. They came in ready to end their relationship and ventured that they would have loved to have had homework.
Homework can be a beneficial aspect of couple’s therapy, whether that may be practicing new skills or observing exception behaviors, or other homework, it is important to do it or at least give it your best shot. You don’t spend your money and time on an endeavor, say for example on college, and NOT do any of your homework. The same goes for couple’s therapy. This is an investment of your time and money, use that investment wisely.
During your sessions, your therapist should help facilitate respectful and effective communication, and share tools to assist you in achieving similar results at home. However, it is up to you to use those tools or other strategies outside of session. Your relationship will not “transform” by attention to it only in one hour weekly sessions.
Some of the major reasons couples attend therapy are: to learn how to navigate obstacles, heal hurts, and just as importantly, to address conflicts effectively as they arise in everyday life outside of the therapist’s office.
Couple’s therapy is a wonderful resource that helps many couples overcome challenges. If you willing to commit to the process, have an open mind, and do your homework, you and your partner will have an excellent chance of creating a healthy and rewarding relationship.
If you are looking for a couple’s therapist I would be happy to speak with you. Let’s talk and see if I might be a good fit for your needs. You can also see some of my testimonials here.