Written by Paoula Saoud, Clinical Psychologist at The Valens Clinic.
Couple therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is aimed at helping a couple in need. It is where you go to learn how to be better partners. It is not about blaming, finding fault, or laying down criticism. Couple therapy recognizes conflicts and weaknesses in a relationship, addresses them and improves relationship by utilizing a variety of therapeutic interventions. It is essential to approach couple therapy with an open mind and realistic expectations. The effectiveness of therapy depends on the willingness of both partners to actively engage in the process and work towards positive change in their relationship.
What to expect from couple therapy:
The format of the therapy depends on the approach, it generally includes a history overview of your relationship, during which you will tell ‘’your story’’, it is followed by an identification of the weaknesses, strengths, and conflicts that both of you are facing, which helps establish a treatment plan with specific expectations and goals. Based on the assessment phase, the couple therapist will develop a structure for each therapy session.
Misconceptions about couple therapy:
- A stranger cannot help my relationship: this myth is related to thinking that you need to be personally invested in a relationship to give a good advice. In fact, the absence of a personal investment will help the couple therapist to look at your relationship with an objective and trustworthy eye to help you navigate your difficulties.
- The psychologist will take my partner’s side: Couple therapy is a dyadic approach which means that the psychologist helps promote a compassionate and validating space for the couple to better communicate with each other, the therapist acts as a ‘’translator’’ of the feelings and needs of each person in the interaction.
- Couple therapy is for people who are always fighting: conflicts are not the only sign that the couple is not doing well. In fact, as a couple you should have a conflict because you are both not the same person. You didn’t grow up in the same family, you don’t have the same experiences about triggers, and you don’t have the same expectations and beliefs about life and relationships.
- Couple therapy is only for ‘’big problems’’ or ‘’troubled relationship’’: Couple therapy is not only for people who are on the verge of a separation or a divorce, it is not a ‘’last resort’’ nor only sought when the couple is in crisis. Couple therapy proves to also be beneficial at the beginning and throughout the relationship to find better communication strategies, resolve perpetual conflicts and strengthen the bond.
- Couple therapy is a quick fix: therapy in general is a long process that requires time and effort. Couple therapy is most effective when both partners are engaged and decide to turn towards each other to work together on their relationship.
Who should consider couple therapy?
- Couples who are dating, engaged, or married.
- Couples who express feeling of unhappiness in the relationship
- Couples who feel stuck in perpetual conflicts or situations
- Couples experiencing a range of negative emotions and attitudes such as: contempt, resentment, anger, blame, criticism, frustration, disagreement, emotional withdrawal, outbursts etc.
- Couples experiencing issues related to infidelity, trust, in laws, sexuality, parenting, lifestyle discrepancies etc.
- Couples experiencing mental health difficulties such as anxiety, mood disorders, substance use disorder etc.
During couple therapy, you can expect:
- Gaining more insight into the relationship dynamics.
- Understanding effect of past experiences on current conflicts and perpetual problems.
- Better and efficient communication strategies.
- Effective problem solving.
- Turning towards each other instead of against each other.
- Better emotional understanding and emotional expression.
- Enhancing friendship, connection, and intimacy between partners.
- Identifying, understanding, and changing dysfunctional behaviours and attitudes.
- Better understanding of each other.
- Changing negative perceptions of each other and the relationship.