Nearly every couple in a long-term relationship goes through times that are challenging, stretches in which they might question the relationship, and periods of frustration with one another. These ebbs and flows are normal and, while challenging, can also be opportunities for growth and learning.
Too often, when couples are going through these challenging times, marked by arguments and feelings of disconnection, it’s easy for them to want to give up on the relationship rather than diving into a conversation and understanding the root causes of disagreements and friction.
Involving a couple’s therapist, as a neutral party who can provide insight and guidance, can be highly valuable in overcoming patterns of disagreement and disconnection between a couple. In this post, we’ll share what to keep in mind as you select a couple’s therapist.
Select a Therapist Early
Like we often say, it’s easier to get in with a mechanic before your engine is lying in the middle of the road. Too often, couples make the mistake of selecting a therapist once their marriage is really struggling. The couple might have had a fight or several fights and then agree that therapy is a good next step. Or, a couple might avoid fighting and give each other the silent treatment, refusing to address the core issues. In either emotionally combative situation, things are very heated at this point and intervention is needed sooner than later. But, the couple will likely need to do some research on what kind of therapist is best for their needs, who their insurance covers, and whether their chosen therapist even has availability.
When a couple is at the point of agreeing to therapy, they don’t have time for a wait list and lengthy interview process with potential therapists. Therefore, it’s critical to choose a therapist preventatively and to do some maintenance work with this person so that the couple has a baseline before things escalate. In doing this, they’ll also have a more comfortable and working relationship with the therapist, which often leads to more honest conversation when things are escalated. Interview a few therapists and have a few sessions with your chosen couples therapist so that it’s not so overwhelming to walk into a therapist’s office and start from scratch when things get rocky. Furthermore, too often couples wait to long to get help, and having a therapist selected prior to a couple’s breaking point and can prevent intervention that is simply too late.
Alignment of Goals
In choosing a couple’s therapist, it’s important to select a professional who is aligned with your goals. Some therapists might provide therapy designed to keep a couple together, while others might be more agnostic about the ultimate outcome of the sessions together. Some might provide homework and require weekly sessions for maintenance (at least in the beginning) or do weekend intensives to get some traction, while others might have a “visit when you need me” approach.
Start by getting clear about your own goals and desired outcomes of therapy, like “improving our communication” or “reducing our arguments”. Your goals might be more abstract like “helping us determine whether our marriage is viable” or you might be looking for support following a life-changing event or even infidelity. Understanding what success looks like and finding someone who is passionate about supporting that success, is critical. Not to mention, most therapists “specialize” in certain disciplines and may have more experience helping clients reach the outcome you and your partner desire.
Therapists are trained in a variety of therapeutic methods or ways of delivering therapy and reinforcing behavior. There are hundreds of approaches to therapy, or techniques, with some of the well know ones being Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, the Gottman Method, Imago Relationship Therapy, attachment therapy, and more. Complete some online research and ask questions about his or her chosen method as you interview your therapist. While you might not understand all the details of the approach your therapist uses, some understanding of and agreement with the philosophy of their chosen method can help create more momentum as sessions unfold.
Long-term relationships can be one of the most rewarding, and challenging, aspects of life. Partnerships always begin with a sense of connection, but overtime, periods of disconnection are certain to arise. Having a therapist selected for these challenging times, and ensuring that this person is aligned with your goals and has a method you can buy into are important aspects of couple’s therapy success. If you want to learn more about the approaches we take to Couple’s Therapy at Center for Shared Insight, call us today.