Couples Therapy: How To Make the Best of It

Going to couples therapy is not an easy decision in any relationship. While couples therapy isn’t necessarily a sign that your relationship is at risk, as it can benefit any couple, issues in the relationship often trigger couples to seek out help as a last resort. Should you decide to enter couples therapy, there are many ways to make the best of your experience and enrich the relationship you have with both, your partner and yourself.

Key takeaways:
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    Couples therapy can help you learn healthier communication strategies and how to navigate any issues in your relationship.
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    It’s most impactful for both parties in a relationship to decide on their own that they want to engage in couples therapy together.
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    EFT has been found by research to have a 75% success rate for helping couples improve their relationships.
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    Reassuring your partner you love them and want to fight for the relationship and do what’s needed to make it work can help when asking them to attend therapy with you.
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    Despite your wishes to attend couples therapy, both individuals must be willing to put in the effort and work to make meaningful changes.

Marriage or couples counseling currently accounts for approximately 53% of the population that marriage and family therapists serve. According to research, 51% of millennials have attended couples therapy, just a few percentage points higher than the generations before them. The good news is that since the 1980s, couples therapy success rates have skyrocketed from around 50% to 75%. This is due to a new method of therapy — emotionally focused therapy (EFT).

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy provides a safe, neutral ground for both parties in a relationship to voice their thoughts, feelings, and concerns to one another with the training, support, and advice of a non-biased, non-judgmental mental health professional.

Just as there are a variety of personality types, relationship dynamics, and causes for entering couples therapy, there are a variety of treatment methods that can be used based on both the specialization of the therapist and the unique needs of the couple. The duration of time needed for a successful couples therapy experience depends on the nature of the therapy used, the unique situation of the couple, and the individual’s willingness to put in the work needed to make positive change.

What is EFT?

Emotionally focused therapy is an evidence-based practice backed by extensive research that shows its effectiveness. It is rooted in the Attachment Theory and explores how early attachment patterns before the age of 7 contribute to the way we interact with our partners and express and receive love as adults. Once we’re able to understand the attachment style of our partner, we can more easily understand how they interact in relationships and further open the lines of communication and understanding.

What can I expect from couples therapy?

Every couple is sure to gain something a bit unique from their couples therapy experiences. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 97.1% of clients surveyed reported that they received the type of help that they were seeking, while 98.1% said that the services they received ranged from good to excellent. The most important things to expect in couples therapy include:

  • Whatever you bring to the table will be up for discussion; you hold the reins.
  • Your therapist will likely intervene to teach you healthy ways to communicate, express your emotions, listen, and address any issues at hand.
  • Should there be deeper issues at play that can best be addressed individually, individual therapy sessions with another therapist, not familiar with the couple, may be recommended.
  • The content or arguments and context of issues between you and your partner are likely to change over time but it is how you navigate these issues and struggles that will define your success.
  • The goal of therapy is to equip you with the tools needed to successfully navigate any issues or struggles that you and your partner face.

How do I invite my partner to couples therapy?

Inviting or convincing your partner to join you in couples therapy can sometimes be difficult. This is because people have different ideas surrounding therapy, and oftentimes see it as a failure in the relationship, when this is not the case. Wanting to go to therapy shows that you love your partner and are willing to put in the hard work that it takes to make your relationship work and last. It is a good idea to start the conversation with this framing.

Other tips include:

Remain calm and refrain from blaming or making ultimatums or threats. You should not pressure your partner into going to therapy. It’s going to be most impactful if they decide to go for themselves.

Discuss your feelings, struggles, and why you want to seek some assistance.

Reassure them that you love them and are willing to fight for the relationship and do what it takes to get to a place where you both feel happy and content.

Destigmatize the idea of therapy for them as much as you can. The stigma surrounding seeking any sort of guidance from a mental health practitioner can deter many from getting the help and support they need.

Prepare goals or a list of what you’d like to discuss and accomplish with your partner.

Form a plan together with your goals in mind so that you can stay focused on the issues at hand while remaining open to hearing what your partner is voicing as well.

Seek out the right therapist together. It’s the relationship you both have with your therapist that can make the biggest impact at times, as well as the work you are both willing to put in.

Your partner may not decide to join therapy with you, and that is okay. You can still seek the help of a licensed therapist to navigate what you are going through on your own. Perhaps after seeing you attend therapy and the progress you make, your partner will become more open to attending with you in the future.

The decision to attend couples therapy is not an easy one. There is often stigma, emotions, fears, and misinformation surrounding the notion of therapy. Your partner may be resistant to going, or perhaps you may feel resistant to the idea of it. At the end of the day, the statistics do not lie: EFT has a 75% success rate for couples as opposed to older therapeutic methods that were used before the 1980s.

If you feel like you and your partner could benefit from a couples therapist, the sooner you discuss your options and begin the work, the sooner you and your partner will be on a path toward better understanding one another and working together.

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