In my work as a Denver therapist, I regularly witness the power of individual therapy to heal relationship problems. Setting aside time to talk about the way your relationships influence your thoughts and behaviors one-one-one with a trained relationship psychologist is paramount to transforming a relationship.
Many couples choose couples therapy in addition to, or sometimes instead of, individual therapy to work through their greatest relationship challenges, arguments, and differences. While this can be an effective complement to individual therapy, generally couples wait too long to make the commitment to couple’s therapy, and being more proactive about the need for such therapy is key to it’s success.
What makes couples therapy work?
Overwhelmingly, I see couples treating therapy as a last-ditch effort or tactic used far too late to save or a heal a relationship. The one consistent approach to couple’s therapy that truly works is to use therapy as maintenance rather than a crash-and-repair approach to fixing a relationship. Couple’s therapy is most effective when it serves as a relationship tune-up and should be a consistent process that helps keep a partnership running optimally.
What does relationship maintenance really do?
Using the metaphor of a car’s upkeep, or any significant purchase that requires ongoing attention, there are a few approaches to keeping a car running for the long haul, with similar tactics that can be applied to a relationship.
One approach is following your car maker’s recommended maintenance schedule. This might include quarterly oil changes, and regular replacement of parts that are known to wear out at certain times. It most likely includes regular flushes and cleanings to keep things working well under the hood. These regular, preventative steps are designed to keep a car running well with less chances of fully breaking down – and reduce the odds of a major repair expense. They also allow the car owner to address small issues with a repair person, like rattling or indicator lights, or any other small problems that just don’t feel 100% right–those that could potentially lead to bigger problems if not dealt with now. For instance, when you pay attention to the check engine lights, and address these red flags your car automatically points out, you can overcome minor mechanical issues before they become catastrophic.
Similarly, couple’s therapy for maintenance is like a good tune up for the relationship. It provides a forum to discuss relationship issues that may be starting to develop, in their infancy, so couples can address the small things before they inevitably become the big things. It’s a consistent relationship renewal. Regular couple’s therapy, even when the relationship is going well, is like an oil change that keeps the relationship's engine strong and ready for what is to come next. This preventative framework is an investment in the future of the partnership and prevents the crash and burn that can result from putting off regular maintenance.
Why don’t all couple’s take a preventative approach?
Some couples may feel too busy for regular therapy, don’t want to make the financial investment, or see help as a sign of inadequacy. One or both of the parties in this type of relationship might put off therapy until there is a major problem in the partnership. Using the car maintanence metaphor, these types of vehicle owners are more likely to skip regularly scheduled tune-ups, and deal with catastrophic, expensive repairs.
In our work at Center for Shared Insight, we specialize in relationship issues, with couples and individuals. We’ve seen time and time again that the key to successful couple’s therapy, or even individual therapy aimed at addressing relationship challenges, is to use it for maintenance, not emergency repair. Do the tune up work to avoid head-on collisions. Spending some preventative time working with a couples therapist rather than much longer and more intensive work to repair the damage and get back on track. And, at Center for Shared Insight, we believe that adding individual therapy to a couple’s framework can ensure better, more comprehensive, long-term success. To learn more about our team of experts, contact us for a consultation.