Nancy Ryan has practiced in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy for over 10 years and is also a certified Pre-Marital Counselor.
After a decade of counseling couples in various stages of issues, I find that the most difficult decision a couple can face is whether or not to consult a professional to help them with their problems. Making the decision to participate in couple's therapy can be one of the most important choices you make in your relationship.
You may already be stressed out from tension between you and your partner, and the thought of sharing your intimate secrets with a stranger can be extremely intimidating. This idea is why so many couples choose not to go to couples therapy and, as a result, lose their relationship that may have been saved if they felt otherwise about the process. I find that there are three main factors that contribute to this mindset, so let’s go over them if you are feeling that couples therapy may not be for you:
1. “The therapist will berate me in front of my partner for my shortcomings and mistakes.”
I think it is important to understand here that the therapist is not on anyone’s side in the process of therapy, and there should never be a “conquer and divide” strategy involved in the process. The therapist’s role is to be an advocate for the relationship, not you or your partner exclusively. The therapist’s main goal is to work with both of you to improve the issues you AND your partner are experiencing. Couples therapy should never be one-sided. If you begin therapy, and this is what you experience, it may benefit you to look for another therapist. Every therapist wants their client to get something positive out of the process, and not every couple’s therapist will be the perfect one for you. Some couples visit even more than two or three therapists before choosing one that they both agree on.
2. “The therapist will want to know all of my secrets and I am not comfortable sharing them with a stranger.”
A therapist is not a mind-reader or a psychic, and cannot tell just by looking at you or talking with you a few times what you are all about. The therapist only knows what you tell them, and cannot share this with anyone. The therapist will use tools and intervention strategies to mainly facilitate effective communication with you and your partner. Remember, you are not the only one in the process. Your partner also has some work to do on themselves in the relationship, so to believe that every session will only be about you and how you have contributed to the issues in the relationship is impossible. Relationships are a two way street, and couples therapists know this firsthand almost better than anyone. In fact, the first few sessions are more of a “getting to know you” approach, and this will make it less uncomfortable to share when you begin working on your relationship goals.
3.“Me and my partners issues are too big for couple’s therapy and cannot be resolved.”
You would be surprised at the number of couple’s that save their marriages and relationships through couple’s counseling that they believed could not be rectified. The process of couple’s therapy is just that: a process. You may work for a short while with a therapist, or you may have a long-term relationship with them to maintain progress. No therapist has ever been shocked about what happens in relationships, as they work with relationships daily. The therapist is your neutral mediator, and no matter what the issues are, the therapist is the advocate for the relationship. Couple’s therapists also work with couple’s who have decided to no longer continue a marriage or relationship, if that is what it comes to with your situation. The therapist can actually be a very positive ally and do sessions one-on-one with the each of you to facilitate the best outcome for both partners.
It is very natural to be apprehensive about entering into couples therapy, but with the right therapist, and the willingness of both partners to really work on their relationship and communication, it can be the most beneficial journey that you have ever experienced.
Couple's Therapy: Yes or No?
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