Does Couples Therapy Work?
We know couples therapy can work for many couples. The question is, will it work for you? It's a big investment of time, money, and effort, and understandably couples want to know if it's worth it.
Couples therapy is hard work. A colleague of mine once said, "Individual therapy is like going to a personal trainer but couples therapy is like going to the dentist." A lot of couples come into therapy and realize, oh crap, we're going to have to have difficult conversations and be vulnerable with each other in a way we haven't before. It can get intense. But I think there is value to the intensity and trying to have a different conversation than the frustrating cycle that you both may be getting stuck in.
My role in the room is to be a process guide. If a client comes in waiting to be impressed by me, and see what rabbit I can pull out of a hat, our therapy won't last long. Our work must be collaborative. Client engagement, and the willingness to look at what is inside and what is possible, is highly predictive of if therapy is effective for a couple.
My goal in couples therapy is for you each to understand yourselves better, and understand your partners better, and have the experience of seeing each other's emotions that are underneath the negative argument cycle you get caught in. My hardest job is working against the certainty that the cycle has put in your mind. The cycle makes us certain our partner is doing something to be mean, or is emotionally limited, or doesn't care about us. My job is to change that belief by helping you hear what is underneath your partner's actions.
"BUT WESLEY …"
"GOING TO COUPLES THERAPY FEELS LIKE WAY TOO BIG OF A STEP, WE CAN PROBABLY FIGURE THIS OUT ON OUR OWN."
You might have some great friends and family as support, but at some point it’s just you and your partner alone in a room, staring at each other. Therapy can feel like this big dramatic step to take, but it’s really as small as saying, “hey, we could use someone else to help us make sense of this right now.”
"I DON’T THINK WE NEED COUPLES THERAPY, I THINK HE/SHE NEEDS INDIVIDUAL THERAPY!"
I love individual therapy and absolutely support people in having individual therapists to support them. And, if you're having issues in your relationship, it's hard to imagine that just individual therapy could solve them. I would encourage you to come in for an assessment if you feel like there are issues in your relationship. We may find that couples therapy is premature, depending on what is happening, and then I would refer you to work with an individual therapist for a while prior to starting couples therapy.
"ARE WE JUST GOING TO PAY YOU TO FIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU?"
Not my goal. That is an expensive fight to have and not enjoyable for me. I will guide the process, and if someone gets escalated or wants to yell, I will intervene and explore. Couples therapy is about the dynamic between you and the negative cycle that is taking over in the relationship, not about one person being to blame. Sometimes people get too triggered in the room, and we will slow down and try to understand what is happening.
"My husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife won't come to therapy."
Maybe they will. Have you asked? Have you told them you think this is what you need to have a better relationship? Have you shown them this snazzy website?