What Successful Couples Therapy Looks Like
So what does effective couples therapy look like? I explain to all of my potential couples that even if therapy is a complete success, that doesn't necessarily translate to them remaining together. Effective couples therapy simply means each partner is able to make decisions based on what is real instead of what they are hoping is going on. All of my clients know that I believe growth starts with an awkward conversation. I help my couples say the thing they are terrified of saying to their partner, most often because they don't want to hurt the person they love. Whenever these conversations don't take place, couples remain stuck in the same rut and patterns that got them into counseling in the first place.
The first thing to make sure of is that both people are equally motivated to do the work to repair the relationship. I can't tell you how often a couple comes in and it becomes apparent quickly that one of the partners is simply going through the motions. People never want to look like the villain during separation/divorce, so they will do couples counseling so they can say, "I did everything that I could." Clients could save so much time, money, and emotional energy if someone was just willing to say, "My heart just isn't in it any more."
The next thing to assess is what the motivation is. I explain that a healthy relationship is one you want to be in, not one you feel like you need to be in. If fear around money, what could happen with kids, or winding up alone forever are the reason someone is staying, therapy will have a hard time being effective. Why? Because people are almost never willing to admit it when one of these is the reason they are staying. No awkward conversation, no growth. Effective couples therapy starts with building enough trust with your therapist so you know they don't have an agenda. You are navigating uncomfortable situations, gaining clarity on the issues, have a plan of attack on how you will address them, and each partner is able to recognize the effort their partner is putting intto doing things differently.