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Meg Luce: How to succeed in couples therapy

Meg Luce
Columnist

You might be perfectly content with your relationship and have no need for couples therapy.

If so, yay for you! However, if you get caught in the same old arguments or things are feeling distant and stale, you may want some professional support. If so, it makes sense to get the most from your experience. So, what factors will help you succeed and get all you can from couples therapy?

First, according to an extensive literature review in the November 2019 issue of The Journal of Family Therapy, “…evidence supports the effectiveness of systemic interventions.” The JFT review included many studies of multiple models of couples therapy over decades. The findings document how the format of couples therapy (a type of “systemic interventions”) can effectively treat relationship distress, psychosexual problems, anxiety and mood disorders, and many other issues.



Since we know relationship therapy can be effective, what can clients do to optimize their experience once they decide to take a seat on the couch? Here are some common-sense suggestions couples seeking therapy may not have considered.

1. Choose a couples therapist who has specialized training or experience

Working with individuals requires a different skill set than helping distressed partners. Believe it or not, a person can get through a graduate-level education without much knowledge about treating couples. You may ask a prospective therapist about their training or experience in relationship counseling, and they can let you know.



2. Choose a therapist who can be a leader

It’s frustrating to go to therapy and have the same old fights that brought you there. I have told clients, “Hey, you can argue at home for free!” You want someone who can interrupt the patterns that are getting you into trouble in the first place. Of course, as the client, you will need to pipe down and allow the therapist to guide the session, which leads me to the next point.

3. Be a learner

You are in therapy to learn to do things differently. Succeeding in couples therapy is having a learning mindset. Rather than doubling down and making it your mission to prove that you are in the right, focus on listening and applying what you are learning. You might see how you are inadvertently getting in your own way of having the relationship of your dreams!

4. Focus on your part, not your spouse’s

It’s tempting to stay focused on your partner’s contributions to the problems. But when you dedicate yourself to changing your side of things, your chances of reaching your goals for a happier and more loving relationship increase by a long shot. This doesn’t mean staying in a relationship in cases of abuse. If there is abuse in the relationship, you may need to leave to be healthy and safe.

5. Pick a therapist you like!

According to “What the Evidence Shows” from the American Psychological Association (November 2019), a strong therapeutic alliance between therapist and client is a robust predictor of positive outcomes in individual and couples therapy. So, choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. Find a therapist who can walk the line of giving empathy and support as well as challenge you to look at your stuff!

Succeeding in couples therapy means having self-focused goals to improve the relationship. These goals could involve renewing the spark, building trust, healing wounds, speaking up, calming down, listening better, or learning to lead from your wise adult self rather than putting your inner defensive 3rd grader in charge!

Succeeding in couples therapy doesn’t mean staying together at all costs. Sometimes a couple may decide they will be happier apart, and succeeding could mean that the couple decides to separate with a spirit of goodwill.

One more thought, find a therapist who wants to work themselves out of their job! By this, I mean someone who wants you to learn all you can from therapy and apply it in your relationship at home. Practicing outside of therapy will help you and your partner succeed in creating a relationship you love.

Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com

Since we know relationship therapy can be effective, what can clients do to optimize their experience once they decide to take a seat on the couch?
Metro Newspaper Service

 

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