[How] Can Therapy Help My Relationship?
While the practice of psychotherapy dates back to the 1870s and has roots as far back as the 9th century, relationship therapy, also known as couples therapy or marriage counseling, is a relatively new concept. The first three “marital clinics” opened their doors in the United States between 1929 and 1932 during The Great Depression. Instead of being managed by mental health professionals like clinical psychologists or psychologists, clergy or even gynecologists led most of the early therapy sessions. Until the 1960s, practitioners focused on individual therapy and each partner’s “difficulties adhering to traditional gender role expectations.” Additionally, therapists of the time mostly believed that one spouse “must be wrong,” and the goal of therapy was helping them to understand that.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
There are hardly any similarities between today’s couples therapy and those marital clinics of old. Today’s therapists work with people in any adult relationship, not just married couples. The focus of treatment is never to train one member of the couple to conform to any preconceived ideas, and relationship counselors don’t work to convince one partner they’re wrong. Instead, the goal of today’s relationship therapy is to nurture and strengthen the relationship and each individual in a healthy way.
Most importantly, couples counseling isn’t always a last-ditch effort to save a marriage or prevent a breakup. Happy couples find regular therapy sessions help them maintain and enhance their healthy relationships. Together, they learn how to work through disagreements and other relationship issues, improve their emotional and physical intimacy, and understand one another on a deeper level.
Working with a therapist is always a good idea, and the first step to improving your relationship is to decide to go. Sometimes, though, one partner is more reluctant than the other to believe counseling can make a difference. If you’re in this situation, maybe the following facts about relationship counseling can help you convince your significant other to reconsider making an appointment to see a therapist.
Therapy is for all sorts of couples and all kinds of challenges.
Any couple can benefit from relationship therapy, including same-gender couples, long-married couples, engaged couples, or dating couples. A therapist can help couples work through financial disagreements, parenting frustrations, lack of affection or compassion, infidelity, emotional issues, or even substance abuse. Many couples struggling through the ups and downs of their marriage or romantic relationship can benefit from talking with a counselor who is impartial, fair, and committed to being an active listener for both parties and an advocate for the health of your relationship.
Relationship counseling is highly effective for most couples.
Therapy of any kind will not work unless the patient or patients put in the effort that’s required and have a willingness to resolve their issues. Each must also be comfortable with both the idea of therapy and the counselor with whom they’re working. When all of these factors are present, though, treatment can be incredibly useful for couples with relationship issues.
Research has shown that 70% to 75% of couples who undergo one particular method of therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), “successfully move from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvements.” These studies have shown particular effectiveness with high-stress couples, including couples struggling with infertility, chronically ill children, or a partner with PTSD.
EFT focuses on building or rebuilding an emotional attachment bond between a couple. An attachment bond is a safe space where each member of the couple feels security, comfort, and calm. Created in the 1980s by Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Leslie Greenberg, EFT is a short-term, yet powerful, treatment.
There’s not just one approach.
Emotion-Focused Therapy works for a lot of couples. However, there are several other approaches to couples therapy. Imago Relationship Therapy, created by Harville Hendrix and his wife in 1980, focuses on building or strengthening a couple’s communication skills and helping couples overcome core issues like neglect or abandonment that may have also been part of a partner’s childhood. The core premise of Imago therapy is to establish a dialogue between the couple with active listening, so an Imago therapist will use tools like mirroring (repeating what a partner says), validation, and empathy during sessions.
A third model used in couple’s therapy is the Gottman Method, which was developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The Gottman approach helps couples productively address conflict, build a “life of shared meaning together” and share fondness and admiration for one another.
Therapy can help with intimacy.
While it’s not always easy for couples to discuss their problems in the bedroom, sometimes it’s a critical aspect of couple’s therapy. Human beings are sexual creatures, and most everyone will experience some sexual concern in their life. Sex therapy is a form of relationship counseling that helps couples talk about sex with each other and hopefully reignite that old spark.
According to an article in Psychology Today by Laurie Watson, a certified sex therapist and podcast host and former couples therapist, this form of therapy helps couples overcome disappointment, hurt, inhibitions, and resentment to get to the root of their intimacy problems. “I have rarely encountered a problem between two ordinary people that I didn’t feel was somehow workable and resolvable,” says Watson.
There’s no judgment in couples therapy.
Maybe you’re the spouse who cheated or the member of the couple who has a gambling problem that’s tearing apart the relationship. A lot of people avoid therapy because they assume they’ll be treated as a bad guy or villain. But counseling isn’t about assigning blame or validating the negative labels assigned by a disappointed or hurt partner.
A couple’s therapist strives to refrain from judging a patient based on his or her transgressions or beliefs, even if they disagree with the counselor’s moral code or belief system. A good counselor will offer support, not personal opinions. Rest assured, the therapist’s office is a safe space.
Relationship therapy benefits more than just two people.
A couple’s relationship problems are rarely confined to just two people, especially when children are involved. Embattled or emotionally struggling spouses or partners may think they’re hiding their troubles from the kids, but invariably, they’re not doing as great a job as they think they are. And if the relationship ends permanently, the impact on the children can be life-changing.
That’s why marriage and family therapy are so intertwined. Many family therapists are also marriage counselors and will work with both couples and their children or other family members. A licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) will address the behaviors and relationships of everyone involved to be sure anyone who is affected is receiving the treatment they need.
Relationship therapy can make you a better person.
All couple’s therapy or family therapy sessions aren’t conducted with both partners or with the entire family present. A couple’s therapist will often incorporate individual therapy sessions into a couple’s treatment program, as well. Even though the goal of a one-on-one counseling session will be to gain more insight into the relationship, a patient can learn more about themselves this way.
For example, sharing more detailed information with a counselor about your day-to-day life, your spouse’s least favorite traits, or the real depth of your sadness will give the therapist a complete picture of your relationship without the stress of a partner’s defensiveness or denial. Besides, though, getting these things out in the open allows your therapist to help you deal with your emotions, thoughts, and behavior more healthily. Also, you might not even realize the impact your relationship-related stress might be having on your emotional, mental, or physical health until you start to explore your feelings with your counselor.
Even if couples therapy doesn’t result in a repaired marriage or partnership, the tools and techniques you learn from your counseling sessions can help you to build a strong and healthy relationship with your next significant other.
Couples therapy shouldn’t wait.
While nearly 2.2 million couples get married every year in the United States, almost 800,000 get divorced. Couples therapy can help you work through existing struggles, avoid future issues, build your strengths, and overcome your weaknesses.
A lot of couples, even those in happy relationships, have challenges but avoid addressing them. According to Gottman, the average couple waits six years to make a therapy appointment. Most people don’t enjoy discussing difficult subjects or showing their vulnerability, and a lot of people think that couples therapy means finally admitting there’s a problem in their relationship. Others worry about finding a mental health practitioner who’s a good fit for them and their partner.
Therapy Group of NYC’s mental health professionals can help you ease into couple’s counseling with compassion and professionalism. They’ll create a personalized treatment plan that works for your particular relationship goals. Don’t wait six years. Schedule a convenient teletherapy appointment with the Therapy Group of NYC today.