Making Couples Therapy Work
Marriage can be tough, and sometimes a couple may need to seek professional counseling when navigating relationship and life transitions. If you are considering couples therapy, but are concerned that it may not work, then read on for tips on how to get the most out of your therapy session.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist in Belton, TX, I consult with couples to determine how to best meet their individual needs. One of the common concerns I hear working with couples is whether couples therapy will actually help. And for many, this hesitation is enough to keep them from even trying. According to healthy relationships expert and leading researcher, John Gottman, the average couple will wait six years before seeking outside help for relationship issues. And sadly, during this time, many couples become more entrenched in their frustration as resentment builds towards their partner, making it even more difficult to feel hope in the relationship.
To set yourself up for success as you begin your journey towards healing and growth in your relationship, let’s discuss a few things that will help you feel confident as your work hard to create the best relationship with your partner.
How can relationship counseling help?
Couples therapy is designed to help you get crystal clear on a number of things. First, counseling can help you visualize what you want your life together to look like. You both have dreams for your relationship. But sadly, many of those dreams are never communicated or understood by your partner. Second, therapy can help clients understand how to be the kind of partner your relationship needs. When each individual understands how to be the type of person their partner needs, then the relationship can grow. Third, couples therapy can help you find the blindspots that keep the relationship from thriving. To put it simply: we don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes what we discover in couples counseling is that there are actually issues, behaviors, and traits in ourselves that are harming the relationship and keeping it from moving forward. And, fourth, therapy provides couples with the tools and knowledge they need in order to make their vision a reality. Having a vision for your desired relationship is vital, and the skills you learn in couples therapy are what helps you get there.
Couples who are most successful in therapy
Now that we understand the purpose of therapy, let’s discuss how can you set yourself up to be most successful. Below are five tips for couples as they begin marriage counseling.
Successful Couples are Committed to the Process.
Successful couples understand that healing relationships takes time. Finding the right therapist is important. An experienced licensed professional counselor can help with family conflict, family of origin issues, blended family concerns, etc. Equally important to finding the right therapist, however, is committing to the work – this means really digging in and committing to the process, even when it gets difficult or painful. Couples who just want to “try out” counselors will find it easy to identify reasons why a counselor won’t work for them. However, successful couples will interview their therapist first and then work together to ensure the therapist’s treatment plan creates a positive impact on their relationship
Successful Couples Focus on Themselves.
Yes, there will always be things about your partner that you want to change. And often, you may feel a strong need to center in on those changes during counseling (i.e. -focussing on your partner’s issues rather than your own). Successful couples communicate these desired changes in terms of their own feelings and needs. For example, instead of, “You never listen to me when I’m telling you about my day.” Try, “It’s important to me that you know how difficult my day is. I feel dismissed and unimportant when I don’t feel you are listening to me.” This shift to your own feelings and needs will decrease defensiveness while allowing your partner to understand you better. Successful couples are able to receive feedback about themselves and focus on considering how they might be able to shift their own behaviors.
Successful Couples Get Curious
Imagine that there’s a world within your partner that you are completely unaware of. Their thoughts, feelings, dreams, motives, and desires are all part of what makes them tick. Couples who are successful in counseling put on their detective hats, grab their magnifying glasses, and become curious to understand their partner’s perspective on a much deeper level. This is accomplished by asking questions instead of making assertions. An assertion can become a question simply by asking, “is this right?” All of the assumptions you may have about your partner can become questions as you “wonder out loud” and desire to know more about your partner and what’s really going on under the surface.
Successful Couples Acknowledge that there are Other Perspectives.
Two people can walk away from the same experience and have completely different understandings of the events that took place. Successful couples acknowledge that agreement and validation are two different things. You can validate your partner’s perspective without having to agree with them. Doing so helps to create a safe space in your relationship where your partner can feel seen and heard. Understanding this key difference can be tricky, but therapy can offer techniques and assistance to couples who need help validating and understanding their partner’s perspectives.
Successful Couples Put it to Use.
The hardest part of counseling is taking what you are learning about yourself and your relationship and putting it to use once you leave the therapy session. Successful couples are able to apply their new-found insight and skills in real time with their partner. They look for the chance to allow therapy to matter in the day-to-day hustle of life.
How to Get Started with Couples Counseling Therapists in Belton, TX
For couples in Belton, TX and the surrounding area who are seeking therapy, take the first step today! Simply complete the Work With Me application. Once you do, my assistant will follow up and let you know what to do next!
Josh Kellar is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor, offering mental health counseling services in Belton, TX. Using evidence-based therapy, Josh offers client-centered, solution focused therapy to help couples and families. Josh enjoys using his extensive experience as a licensed therapist to help couples and families thrive in their relationships and feel safe to express their individual needs.