Is it time to make an appointment?
Reaching out for help in your relationship can be uncomfortable. You may ask yourself “Is this really necessary?” There are many reasons for seeking services and those reasons can be as unique as the individual. Here are a few of the many areas that counseling can address:
- Disagreements result in yelling, name calling, and/or physical aggressions
- Frequent Arguments
- Unable to talk without arguing
- Feeling disconnected from each other
- Living like roommates
- Lack of physical intimacy
- Lack of trust
- Not liking each other
- Not feeling heard or understood by your partner
- Falling out of love
- Having nothing in common
- Cultural and religious differences
- Avoiding each other
- Different parenting philosophies
- Conflicting views on money
- Extended family conflicts
- Loss of a child
- Not feeling good enough
When Seeking Help
Couples often come to my office in a state of crisis. For many couples, marriage counseling is a last resort and attempt to save the relationship. Think of it like this. You have a cold but avoid going to the doctor because you don’t want to take time off from work, spend the money, or just feel like the symptoms will pass, however they don’t. You start running a fever and get weaker. Next thing you know you find yourself sitting in the emergency room with pneumonia. Your health is severely compromised and now all those things you avoided have caught up with you! Recovery will take time and rebuilding your strength is a process.
Problems in a relationship tend to build over time through repeated communication, behavior, and thought patterns that attack each other’s weaknesses. These destructive patterns build resentment, breakdown the trust, and cause a lack of respect for each other. Seeing a therapist as a preventative measure to avoid falling into destructive patterns is ideal. However, prevention is not the norm.
Understandably, couples are looking for a therapist to “fix” their partner. There is a lot of discomfort in the relationship and wanting some relief is highly desired. This desire is met with a degree of skepticism about whether therapy will actually work. Having realistic expectations and a well matched therapist will make a huge difference in your counseling experience and your results.
What can I expect?
In order for the relationship to get better things will have to change. Change is a process that requires us to step out of our comfort zone, take risks, and be committed. After establishing mutually agreed upon goals I will work with you to achieve those goals. There are likely to be times that it seems like things are getting worse and the process isn’t working. I have heard couples say “We have had 3 sessions and nothing has changed.” This is when I review the process of what lead them to where they are today. Patterns are formed over a period of time and it will take a period of time to create new patterns. Often times I am asking for a couple to try and do things they have never done before. It doesn’t feel natural and might even feel awkward at first, over time and with consistent effort in and out of the therapy room new patterns will form. Change takes time, courage, and trust.
Reasons Marriage/Couples Counseling Doesn’t Work
I have had people tell me, “Yea we went to counseling but it didn’t work.” When I ask about why counseling didn’t work I find that people are rarely able to answer that question. Based on my experiences in working with couples, reasons for failure can be attributed to a number of factors. Some of which are:
- Discontinuing treatment too soon (Crisis is over so there is no reason to attend. This is actually when the real work of change begins)
- Lack of commitment from one or both individuals to change
- Therapist not having all of the information contributing to the problem
- Undisclosed marital affairs
- Unrealistic expectations of the therapeutic process
- Client not ready to implement change
- Poor therapeutic relationship
- Therapist is not a good ‘fit’ or match for the couple
- Inconsistent attendance to appointments
- Spousal abuse and/or abuse of children in the home
- Untreated mental illness in one or both individuals
- Unaddressed addiction in one or both of the individuals
- One of the individuals doesn’t want to be there
- Attending for their partner
- Checking the box to say I have done everything I can do
Choosing a Therapist
One of the most important elements in determining success in treatment is choosing a therapist that is a good fit for both of you. Take the time to research potential clinicians and discuss qualities and characteristics that are mutually desired. Ask your prospects if you can have a brief meeting with them to ask questions and meet face to face. Therapists can be very different in approach to treatment, therapeutic style, and philosophy.
It is very rare that a therapist who has been seeing one of you for individual therapy is going to serve as a good marriage/couples therapist for you. Not because the clinician isn’t qualified but because the relationship between the clinician and couple is imbalanced. The new person will often struggle with trusting the therapist’s work because the therapist may have preconceived ideas about the new person based on the history of work with the other partner. When establishing a therapeutic relationship, it is important that both individuals feel trust with the therapist. I recommend taking all of these things in consideration when choosing a therapist.
My Philosophy in Working with Couples
I work to empower couples to communicate and connect in a way that allows them to resolve their own issues, make decisions, and engage meaningfully together both during and after therapy has ended. I do this by establishing trust with each client without alienating the other, and by setting boundaries and mutually agreed upon goals.