Couples Counselling: I Understand Why You May Delay Seeking Help
With so many myths and misconceptions contributing to the couples counselling stigma, it’s a fact that couples commonly put off seeking help. You are not alone if the idea seems intimidating or even uncomfortable. These are some of the most common fears and misconceptions I have come across and some information that may be helpful:
1. “The therapist will take sides.”
This is a common fear among couples. Everyone seeking therapy wants to know that they will be heard and understood. It can feel particularly vulnerable with your partner in the room who you may currently feel at odds with. As a therapist, the focus is on helping both partners understand themselves and each other. The couple is the client. At times I may draw attention to the behaviour of one partner that I think is helpful to recognize or understand, but I don't "take sides." This is always for the greater good of your relationship, never to say "oh that ____ is such a bad partner." I call it as I see it, so if both of you are doing things that are hurting your relationship I am going to tell you that.
2. “The counsellor will judge us.”
No one wants to feel like their lifestyle choices are being judged, especially by their therapist. There are many types of therapy and couple’s therapists out there. I believe that I have a clear role, to help couples understand why they have grown distant. I assist in teaching you how to resolve issues and this is done without judgment.
3. “Counselling will take years — and we need help now.”
I understand this concern. I cannot promise your entire relationship will be overhauled immediately. It depends on the concerns that are brought to therapy. Some couples find it beneficial to continue to come to therapy on an ongoing basis. Having said that, there is work being done from the start in therapy. We do 90 minute sessions which allows us to dig a little deeper and start making shifts. This change is not always immediately apparent. Like anything worthwhile, it requires commitment but that does not mean that change is not taking place. I usually ask people to commit to at least 5 sessions before giving up. You get what you put into the process and what you learn in counselling can be used well after the therapy has ended.
4. “We tried marriage counselling in the past, and it didn’t work.”
This is a tricky one to answer. I also see many individuals for therapy who say the same thing. There can be many reasons for this. It could be that the therapist was not a good fit, did not understand the issues, or perhaps it was not the right time for you or your relationship.
Also, there are two different "models" of couple therapy: conflict and capacity.
In a conflict model the content of issues couples bring in take center stage. Psychodynamic/analytic, solution focused and cognitive behavioural would fall into this category. The other model is capacity. Rather than focusing on the specific issues partners complain about (content conflict), we focus on determining what partners can and cannot do well while under stress. Content takes a backseat to process. We track shifts in emotion and arousal states, as well as moment-by-moment micromovement changes in the body and face. We gather this data to be used as therapeutic guideposts.
5. “I’m Ready, But My Partner’s Not Willing to Come.”
Fears about marriage counselling may weigh more heavily on one of you than the other. It is possible to get some benefit if only one partner participates in couples therapy. You can learn about disconnection in your relationship, your contribution to the issues, and gain insight into your partner’s concerns. However, you have the best chance of reaching your goals together.
When You Are Ready to Seek Help for Your Relationship
I know it is difficult to reach out and contact a therapist. I do my best to get back to you as quickly as possible. You are eager to get started and the sooner we schedule a consultation or your first session, you can be on your way to healing your relationship. I want you to feel as comfortable as possible in the process, so please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.