What is couples therapy?
Couples therapy is a type of short-term psychotherapy that aims to help partners enhance their relationship. If you and your spouse or partner are facing certain difficulties in your relationship, you may opt to seek couples therapy in order to improve your relationship. The difficulties that may lead couples you need to seek couples therapy are of various types, and they include we train conflicts, feelings of disconnection, issues related to sex, or even difficulties caused by external factors. Couples therapy isn’t exclusively for anyone of a specific age, race, or faith. Types of couples therapy techniques: Several techniques and strategies exist in couples therapy and each technique is utilized to tackle a specific issue in the relationship.
The Gottman is one of the most researched couples therapy methods and the most well-known. The Gottman Method of couples therapy utilizes assessments of the couple’s relationship and uses interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory. There are several goals that the Gottman method aims to achieve throughout the couples therapy sessions; these include increasing intimacy, respect, affection, empathy, understanding, and decreasing conflicting verbal communication, the barriers that foster stagnancy in the relationship. The Gottman method identifies other behaviours that help hold the relationship together:
- Build love maps: getting to know your partner’s inner psychological worlds such as their likes and dislikes, their social circle, how their childhood was and so on.
- Share fondness and admiration: frequently expressing feelings of appreciation to your partner.
- Turn towards: becoming more aware of the times when your partner needs affection and comfort and recognizing the different ways to respond accordingly.
- The positive perspective: partners learn to view the other party in a more positive light without too frequently turning to criticism.
- Manage conflict: learning how to manage conflicts in the relationship by using three steps; understand and accept each other’s feelings, discuss the problem, and when the discussion gets too heated, use self-soothing techniques to remain calm.
- Making life dreams come true: supporting your partner’s life dreams and helping them reach their goals.
- Create shared meaning: understanding the couple’s inner psychological world including the rituals and stories that have a shared meaning for them.
- Trust and commitment: trusting each other enough to lean on one another when they need to.
The Gottman method also specifies specific behaviours that are deemed to be detrimental to romantic relationships, these include criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling (withdrawing from interaction).
Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)
Emotionally focused therapy focuses on the attachment and bonding between both partners. Sometimes partners may exhibit different patterns of attachment or their attachment styles may change over time, which may lead to feelings of disconnection. the therapist in this case helps both partners understand these changes and leads them to regain their connection. This type of therapy utilizes the attachment styles theory in order to eventually create a more secure attachment bond in the relationship.
Ellen Wachtel’s approach
This approach utilizes self-reflection rather than blame to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship in order to strengthen the bond between the couple.
Other therapy modalities
Couples therapy may also make use of other well-known research-based therapy modalities such as cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and behavioural therapy.
What are the benefits of couples therapy?
Reframing the relationship
Couples therapy helps couples see their relationship in a different light. It opens their eyes to more objective lenses and teaches them how to avoid using blame when viewing or recalling disagreements in the relationship.
Adapting effective behaviours
Alongside how couples perceive their relationship, couples therapy guides both partners to adopt more functional and effective behaviours and to avoid any actions that can cause physical, psychological, or economic harm.
Couples learn to communicate effectively with one another. Effective communication involves talking to each other in supportive and understanding ways, rather than ridiculing one another for exampleWhen partners in a relationship avoid expressing their personal feelings, they tend to put themselves at risk of becoming emotionally distant from each other. Effective couples therapy encourages partners to be able to express their thoughts and feelings to one another, which in turn fosters feelings of closeness and secure attachments.Overall, couples therapy helps to promote resilience in the relationship by emphasizing the couples areas of strengths rather than only focusing on problem areas. couples therapy helps couples to get more enjoyment out of their relationship and teaches them how to effectively function together as a unit.
What makes couples therapy successful?
Being open to change
To begin with, each person in the couple should truly look inside them and dig deep at their motives. They should recognize whether they truly want to make things better or are they attending couples therapy just so that they can say that they “tried everything”.Being truly motivated to change themselves for the benefit of the relationship is a big factor that affects the success of couples therapy. It’s also important to be honest with one partner and to be vulnerable enough to admit that you would like to establish a more intimate connection through couples therapy.
Choosing your therapist together
After having decided with your partner that couples therapy is the right choice for you both, you should both work collaboratively in order to choose the right therapist for the job. To get the most out of the sessions, both parties should be able to agree on the selected therapist.To begin this process, you should interview at least two or three therapists and choose the one who is well trained, has strong leadership skills (who can intervene during arguments rather than watch the couple and argue), and will not sugar-coat the truth from both of you, and whom you both can trust.
Managing external social factors
To get the most out of couples therapy, it’s important to set boundaries with our friends or family members. Any change in one’s life can be perceived as stressful at times, which is why you will need to have supportive individuals throughout the therapy process and having that support system genuinely contributes to the success of couples therapy.
How to approach the therapy process
When going into couples therapy sessions, it’s crucial to be honest with both your partner and your therapist. Having honest communication helps both partners understand each other’s point of view and it also helps the couples therapist better understand the situation at hand.Therefore, couples should opt to work as a team with each other and with their therapist in order to achieve the best possible outcomes out of their sessions. be sure to set realistic expectations with all parties regarding the goals of the therapy sessions.It wouldn’t be realistic to expect that one or two sessions would magically restore or develop all of the love and understanding the couple can achieve, instead discuss your expectations with your therapist in order to become more aware of what is realistic and what is not.
How to encourage your spouse to go to couples therapy?
Starting the conversation about attending couples therapy with your partner can be intimidating and difficult and it is not uncommon for partners to get defensive when the idea is brought up. They may think that they’re being blamed for the quality of the relationship, or they may be afraid of being vulnerable and exposing their flaws during the sessions. Here are some tips to start the conversation about going to couples therapy.
Saying something like “we need therapy” in the middle of an argument with your partner or having this important discussion when your partner is stressed or exhausted is not the ideal way to go about suggesting couples therapy. It’s much smarter to bring about the idea when you are emotionally connected and during a time when your partner is ready to have an open discussion.
Having the conversation
When having a conversation regarding attending couples therapy, it’s important to listen to each other respectfully. It’s also effective to admit to your own behaviours that could have affected the quality of the relationship. You may both discuss the pros and cons of attending couples therapy by having a discussion revolving around the areas that need improvement in their relationship. It may be expected that your partner becomes defensive during the conversation and it’s important to recognize that this is an expression of their pain. You may need to listen non-defensively while emphasizing your partner’s feelings and trying to understand where they’re coming from.Always focus and shift the conversation to the main goal of improving the relationship rather than changing one partner or the other.
A lot of the time, individuals may have concerns or questions about attending therapy in general whether it’s couples therapy or even individual therapy. it would be beneficial to look for answers regarding these questions and concerns together as a couple to understand more about the process of couples therapy. It’s also encouraging when both partners have a say when it comes to choosing the couple’s therapist as well as when they would be attending sessions together. Find a therapist and an appointment time that suits both partners equally.
A definite no?
What if one partner is completely resistant to the idea of going to couples therapy? Then don’t push it. You may instead opt for alternative solutions such as going to individual therapy as a start and trying to bring home some tools that may help the relationship. Sometimes, when one partner starts to go to individual therapy the other may, with time, become encouraged to attend some sessions themselves, especially if you express the insights and progress that you have gained through your individual therapy sessions.Another idea is trying a couples self-help book at home and reading it together, which may include strategies used in couples therapy and could eventually encourage them to attend sessions together.
“Start wherever you can start and resist forcing or giving any ultimatums”.