How to get the best results from couples therapy
Couples usually start thinking about couples therapy when they are feeling desperate or confused about their relationship. Over the years, I have found the following tips to be useful for couples.
Find a therapist with solid training and experience in couples work. For couples therapy to succeed, three people must be committed to it: the two partners and the therapist. Your job is to consider how you’d like your relationship to be different. The therapist’s job is to help you each feel safe, to help you build a more solid connection, and to help you start talking and sharing authentically. The goal is for you to become more responsive to each other while also maintaining your own individuality. While there are many tools and techniques that are used by a talented couples therapist, successful therapy also depends on you and your partner.
What else can you do to increase your chance for a successful outcome?
Focus on changing yourself rather than your partner. Typically, people come to couples therapy wanting their partner to do most of the changing. But no one can “make” your partner change, just as your partner cannot change you. Of course, this is not easy to do when you are feeling distressed about your relationship and what your partner is doing or not doing. But an effective couples therapist can help facilitate things so you feel safer and more understood, and it becomes easier to be more vulnerable and look at your part in this relationship.
Think about concrete goals you want to get from couples therapy. Couples therapy helps you to learn about yourself, your partner, and the patterns in your relationship which led to conflict, distance, and dysfunction. It seeks to repair unresolved resentments from the past. It teaches you to more effectively deal with current or future problems. Trust is strengthened when you both can be more responsive to each other’s needs. Effective couples therapy facilitates a framework for you to each nurture the other and take your relationship to the next level.
The more effort you put in, the better the chance for a good outcome. Relationships wither when there is neglect, and they can flourish when two people make a deliberate effort to nurture it. That takes time. But time alone is not sufficient; you need quality time, time for just the two of you. Put other responsibilities to the side, at least temporarily. Keep in mind, though, that both you and your partner must be willing to make that time commitment. If your partner isn’t willing, it may be time to reconsider your goals for your marriage and what you are willing to accept or not.
Be willing to be vulnerable and take action. Progress can be made much faster when a couple is prepared to take risks of trying to interact differently outside the session. People often save their tough issues for a therapy session, because they feel safer there. But effective change is impossible without insight and action. The more you are willing to transform new insights into action, the healthier you and your relationship can be. After all, people are coming to therapy wanting change, not just more awareness. Change requires courage and action, which you can find with and through your partner.