Whether you’ve been to couples counseling or not, you may have some perceptions of what you think it might be like. Maybe you’ve even been to couples counseling and had a negative experience. If that’s the case, that sucks and I’m really sorry about that. If you’re considering going to a counselor and find yourself hesitating because of certain beliefs or assumptions, this information is for you.
These are common misconceptions of what many people believe couples therapy is like
1. The Therapist Will Takes Sides
Each partner has a story to share about their experience in the relationship. My philosophy is that both stories are valid and deserve sacred space that enable each partner to be fully heard and validated. A good couples therapist doesn’t take sides but seeks to build a relationship with each partner and identify a common goal to work towards. A portion of time may be spent addressing a partner’s specific feelings and needs but that doesn’t mean that preference is being shown or sides are being taken. After all, an unspoken need carried by one partner will ultimately have a negative impact on the overall relationship satisfaction.
2. Attendance is All That’s Needed
As long as you keep showing up change can happen, right? Wrong! Keeping appointments is obviously important, however, you need to be prepared to do the work. Commitment to your relationship’s growth is necessary. Couples often seek therapy because they desire some change in the relationship. Whether it’s a desire to improve communication, intimacy or conflict management, the work continues outside of the doors of the therapy office. New skills learned need to be practiced in between sessions. That’s where the real growth occurs. Like with any new skill you want to develop, you have to practice in order to see real improvement and change.
3. The Therapist Will Keep Secrets
This will vary depending on the therapist that you see. I have a “no secrets policy” in my office. All my couples that I work with are aware of this and understand that secrets can be counterproductive and in some instances even toxic. Secrets about ongoing extramarital affairs, for example, are more harmful to the relationship’s needs than it is helpful. Let’s say an affair is kept secret and a spouse learns about the affair at some point after months of couples counseling. Any work and progress that was done in therapy is immediately eroded as the result of this revelation or discovery. Say no to secrets for your relationship’s sake.
4. There’s Always a Happy Ending
I honestly wish that were the case but if I am being real (and you can trust that I’ll always keep it real), I’ll tell you that is not always the outcome. No therapist can ever guarantee a specific outcome. Also, varying levels of commitment from one or both partners will impact the progress, length, course and overall outcome.
5. Couples Counseling Isn’t Needed if the Relationship is Ending
Even couples who have decided to terminate their relationship can benefit from couples counseling. A couple’s therapist can help partners essentially complete an autopsy of their relationship. Couples can explore what went wrong and what role they each played in the relationship’s demise. A relationship can end with greater clarity and insight. This can further each partner’s personal growth and healing in preparation for the future ahead they will lead separately.
6. Things Have to Be Really Bad First
There’s a common misconception that couples must be at their worse before they decide to seek professional help. My response to that is “Why wait?” A few months ago, I wrote about signs to look for to know when to seek help early. I don’t believe it’s ever too early to get help.
Don’t let these and other common misconceptions hold you back from seeking the help you want for your relationship. Contact me for a complementary consultation and together we can decide if couples counseling is the right for you.