Top 5 Myths About Couple's Counseling
Couples therapy can be a wonderful opportunity for a couple to rebuild trust, connection & intimacy in their relationship. It can also help couples find clarity about their relationship, especially if they are ambivalent about staying in the relationship. In my practice, I get calls from a wide variety of couples that vary greatly in their commitment and motivation for couples counseling. Some are very clear about the issues that they would like to resolve through couples counseling and both partners appear to be equally motivated and dedicated towards resolution and re-connection. Others are not on the same page and one partner is ambivalent about the process of couple’s therapy and also about their decision to remain in the relationship. Regardless of their commitment, couples have a myriad of questions & at times, some misconceptions about the process of couples counseling.
Based on my experience, I have put together the top 5 common misconceptions about couple’s therapy.
1. Quick Fix-
Many couples are under the impression that couples counseling would be a quick fix to their relationship problems. The reality is that on average, couples wait 6 years or longer before seeking counseling to resolve their relationship distress. By the time couples reach out for counseling, in most cases, they are on the brink of separation or ending their relationship. I explain to my couples that it took them a really long time to get to where they are today in terms of communication break-down and dysfunctional dynamic. I help them understand that they will have to devote a reasonable amount of time to undo the damage and repair what is broken. It doesn’t take much effort to break a connection but it surely takes everything that you have to rebuild and repair.
2. Guaranteed Outcome-
Couples often ask me if I can guarantee the outcome in couple’s therapy. It is practically impossible to predict the outcome of counseling in general-individual or couples. Also, the outcome in couple’s therapy is different for different couples. For some, it leads to a stronger & secure relationship and for others, it leads to a decision to separate. For most couples, couples therapy is truly the last resort and the issues they are struggling with are very serious and at times beyond repair. There are also cases when one partner has already made up their mind that they are done with the relationship, before they even begin counseling. In such cases, people feel comfortable in the safety of couples counseling to let their partners know of their decision. The best way I can describe the process of couples counseling is an opportunity for couples to make an informed decision about their relationship.
3. Me vs. You-
It’s very common for couples to “present” their side of the story to the therapist with the expectation that the therapist will consider all of the “facts” and decide who is right and who is wrong. The purpose of couple’s counseling is not to put partners through a trial in a courtroom where one of them is the plaintiff and the other is defendant, the goal is to help both sides discover how they have contributed to the issues and what can be done collectively to repair and reconnect. The role of the therapist is not be the judge or the jury but to be a guide and a facilitator.
4. Whose side are you on anyway-
In individual counseling, your therapist’s allegiance is with you as the client and your goals, needs, well-being is always a priority. This is not the case in couple’s therapy. A couple’s therapist’s alliance and allegiance is always with the relationship and the goals & interests of the relationship are always in the forefront. A primary function of a couple’s counselor is to help & guide both parties to come to a win-win resolution. In my work with couples, I always tell partners that I work for the both of them and I am unable to take sides. I also help them understand that at times during the session, I might work with one partner to pursue a line of exploration of their feelings that are difficult to access or to perhaps model empathy or relationship skills. However, it certainly does not imply that I am playing favorites because given enough time, I will switch to their partner and work with them.
5. God-played by therapist-
Couples often look to their therapist to tell them if they should or should not stay together. The truth is that no one other than the couple should make that decision. The role of a couple’s therapist is to facilitate the process of working through past hurt, resentment, repairing the broken connection, offering a third party perspective on finding a middle ground and if all this fails, helping the couple to explore options beyond the relationship. A couple’s therapist cannot play God and decide the future of the relationship for the couple. I believe strongly in everyone’s right to self-determination & autonomy and I strive to support individuals and couples exercise those rights to make decisions that are in their best interests.
Written by: Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C. specializing in sex therapy, couples therapy & marriage counseling, premarital counseling, individual relationship therapy & LGBTQQI couples counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay, in Dublin & Oakland.
If you and your partner are interested in improving your connection and strengthening your relationship, couples/marriage counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay can help. Dr. Clark utilizes an integrative approach to help couples strengthen all facets of their relationship.
Call 925-400-3541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30 minute phone consult or fill out the contact form and you will be contacted within 12-24 hours.