Many couples that enter couples and relationship therapy do so have a lengthy period of not getting along, poor communication, decreased or lack of intimacy, issues related to infidelity, trust, and a lot of other potential issues that have brought them to a breaking point in their relationship. Too often, couples will seek or enter treatment when irreparable damage to the relationship has occurred, i.e., feelings are hurt, trust is lost, hateful words are exchanged, they are not communicating, are unwilling to see each other’s point of view, or compromise.
Unfortunately, many couples will enter therapy too late to resolve issues that may have been permeating the relationship for some time or save the relationship. Maintaining a relationship just like establishing a relationship requires commitment and consistency from both partners to survive, therefore, couples counseling is the most effective way to manage issues in the relationship.
Couples therapy is very different from all other types of therapy as it involves working with individuals in a combined setting, persons in a romantic relationship, that often have two very different views of the problems in the relationship. Couples therapy is not individual therapy with two people, nor is it a small version of group therapy, it involves working with romantic partners that are in a relationship, and have built a life together.
Reasons Couples Typically Seek Help Include:
- They are entrenched in an ongoing battle that has persisted and shows no signs of ending
- They continue to struggle with or are unable to identify the reasons they have remained in the relationship
- They continue to exchange negative comments and insults toward each other rather than words of encouragement or love.
- They seem to fight over everything, i.e., money, friends, household chores, the children, etc., many of which may not be the real reason for the problems in the relationship (exchanging verbal attacks)
- Intimacy has decreased significantly or ended
- They enter therapy believing the therapist can “fix” their problems or their partner
- They have tried everything else and nothing has worked
- They need help coming to a decision about where they see their relationship going, changes that need to be made, or need support with ending the relationship
Goals of Couples Therapy Include:
- Helping couples identify the problems and or “real” issues in their relationship
- Improve communication
- Increase and enhance intimacy
- Develop better coping strategies to manage conflict
- Identify ways to manage conflicts on their own in the future
- Rebuild or establish trust
- Set the boundaries in therapy so each partner will feel safe to express his/her point of view in a way that each person can be heard and understood
- Identify, recognize, and accept their involvement in the current problems in the relationship.
Initial Couple Therapy Sessions Include:
- Conducting an intake to obtain basic information on the partners and background of the relationship
- Meeting with each partner individually before officially starting couples therapy
- Explain what couples therapy involves, i.e., therapists do not “fix” your problems, they are nor referees
- Explaining to partners what is expected of them during couples counseling
- Ask partners to commit to regular and consistent therapy sessions
- Listening to their partner without judgment or hostility
- Learn to appreciate their partner and the relationship again
Summarize the session and begin planning for the future
- If it is determined the relationship cannot be saved learn how to end the relationship without creating or causing additional harm and distress
Relationships like most things in life require work and dedication to not only succeed but thrive. Both partners must make a commitment to ensuring its survival. When both partners make positive changes that have meaning to the other, it serves as reinforcement and is a catalyst for more positive change. When high levels of anger and resentment are present, it is challenging to get to the place of owning your role, let alone be willing to change.