Couples therapy can be so helpful to work through issues and learn positive ways to communicate with your partner.
The couples who see the most impactful results are those who start sooner. Destigmatizing couple’s therapy and preparing for the process together can set you and your partner up for a successful therapy experience.
When is it time to find a couples therapist?
In our last blog post we talked about how everyone has a personal threshold for distress. (You can check out that post here) What makes taking the first step towards couples therapy more challenging than individual therapy is that one person in the relationship may have a higher threshold of distress than the other. This means one of you may be ready to start therapy sooner than the other. Sometimes this results in not starting therapy until there is a crisis, and then it may be too late.
Being proactive instead of reactive is key; the same way we are proactive in other areas of our lives. For example, we drink water before we are thirsty so that we can stay hydrated. If we wait until we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. In the same respect, we can begin to “water” our relationships instead of waiting until there is a crisis or major breakdown of communication that may be hard to bounce back from.
If you are not communicating, your conflicts have increased and are repetitive, and/or you are having a hard time seeing the positives in your relationship, you will more than likely benefit from couples therapy.
Make sure that you are open with each other and are both on board with beginning the process of couples therapy. If one of you feels forced into it you will be wasting your time and money, and it will be just one more thing that didn’t work in your relationship. If this happens, you may not ever be willing to try again. Therapists have found that the couples who get the most results out of their sessions are the ones where both parties are ready and open to the process.
Going to therapy doesn’t mean your relationship is bad or destined to end, just like going to therapy as an individual doesn’t mean you are bad or you are a failure. If you are experiencing any of the things discussed above, it’s possible there are simple shifts that can be made to set things on a more connected and loving course.
Once you are both ready, you will want to work together to find a therapist that you both feel is a good match and can help you with what you want to work on.
How to find a couples therapist
When you are beginning the process of finding a couples therapist you will want to discuss whether or not you want to use your insurance. There are pros and cons to using insurance and doing research on this will be helpful so that you can make a decision together that you are both comfortable with.
If you find a therapist you like that does not take your insurance, don’t write them off completely. Determine if paying extra is worth it. Take into account that taking this step is an investment and your return on the investment may be based on finding the right therapist, not just one who is inexpensive or takes your insurance.
It’s a good idea to discuss what you both think is important in a therapist.
You will want to come to a consensus about your preferences, such as gender, specialization, beliefs/philosophies, religious beliefs, etc. After you discuss and agree on these points you could select a few options and let your partner pick from those options. Or you can both pick a couple of options and then come together to decide on your top pick.
Most therapists will agree to do a phone or in-person consultation to see if you are a good fit. There may be a charge for this, but most times it is offered free of charge. Initial consultations do not follow the same format as a typical therapy session; it is a chance to get to know more about the therapist and their approach to therapy before you commit to working with them. So this is a good opportunity to make sure both you and your partner are comfortable and ready to begin with your chosen therapist.
Once you find a therapist there are things you and your partner can do to prepare for therapy so you can make the most out of each session.
How to prepare for couples therapy
Couples therapy is different from individual therapy because the focus is not just on you, it is on you and your partner as a unit. Therefore, the therapist will be helping you address problems you are having with each other and what your mutual goals are. Identifying the issues you are having and discussing your goals before your first session will be helpful. Agree ahead of time that you will be open to feedback on what you can do to work on the problems, and not just blaming each other.
If there is any paperwork or forms that need to be completed, ask if you can get them ahead of time and fill them out before your appointment to save time. Read through everything and if you have questions be prepared to ask them at the beginning of your first session.
Prioritize each appointment. Don’t push the appointments for another event that comes up; if you do then you are signaling to your partner that something else is more important.
Couples therapy will be most effective if you both agree to be open and honest during each session. Some people are nervous about sharing information because they are ashamed or feel like they will be judged. Remember that your therapist is trained to listen, guide and support their clients, not judge them. You are investing time and money into each session and you both deserve to get the most out of it.
Making the decision to start couples therapy is a positive step in the right direction to work on problems that you and your partner are struggling with, and this is an opportunity for you to grow as a couple and as individuals. If you are both ready, you find a therapist that is right for you and you both fully commit to the process, it can be the best decision you ever make for your relationship.