Couples face constant challenges together—that's a normal part of any relationship. Some challenges they can handle on their own, but others require the help of a therapist to successfully work through them. You wouldn't be alone, however, if you or your partner are reluctant to get help. Couples often resist counseling because of commonly held misconceptions. We rounded up seven myths about couples’ therapy and the truths behind the misinformation.
Read on for seven myths about couple's counseling keeping you from success.
Couples Therapy Has a Poor Success Rate
While seeing a therapist who is not specifically trained and experienced enough to deal with the specialized problems facing a couple may have a low success rate, seeking out a therapist with a specialty in couples therapy, and who sees a high percentage of couples in their practice, will yield better results. A therapist certified in a research-based form of therapy such as Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) can bring much relevant information and many effective techniques into your treatment. Certification in such forms of counseling requires many hours of training and supervision. "There’s no way to ensure that a relationship will improve. That’s part of the risk—things might not get better," says Holly Parker, Ph.D. "At the same time, sometimes the reason partners can’t imagine how their relationship could change is because they haven’t come across what works, not because their situation is irreparable."
It's important to ask the right questions and find out if a therapist has extensive specialized training to work with couples. These therapists may charge a premium, and may or may not take insurance, but the difference in the level of treatment can save your relationship.
Couples Therapy Will Take Forever
With a well-trained therapist using a research-based model, therapy is more of a short-term process than you might think. There are certainly exceptions, but three to six months may have you well on your way to a more stable relationship. It may be somewhat longer if there are significant complexities or psychological symptoms present. Cases involving infidelity or other betrayals may also require more treatment time before you see positive changes and healing, but a properly trained therapist may get you on the road to change much faster than a therapist who does not specialize in this area. It doesn't have to take “forever” to see results.
I'll Be Blamed for All the Problems
Unless there is some form of abuse or neglect, this is rarely the case with a skilled therapist. Most experienced couples’ therapists will explore the underlying cycles of interaction—i.e., the behaviors of both partners. These collective activities are viewed as "the problem." Each partner needs to understand their role in order to change it. It's highly unlikely that one partner will be solely blamed for the relationship problems you're trying to fix.
My Partner Needs To See a Therapist Solo
When a partner has significant psychological symptoms, couples therapy may not be the only treatment recommended. However, it can be a good place to start. Effective couples therapy can actually help reduce one's symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other psychological disorders. A stronger and supportive relationship will naturally reduce the suffering of both partners, even when one partner is struggling with a psychological disorder.
Couples therapy can run concurrently with individual therapy for one or both partners. They aren't mutually exclusive, and one doesn't need to precede the other.
The Therapist Will Tell Us if We Should Be Together or Not
There are some therapists who may say this if you are having many, many challenges and are considering a long-term commitment like marriage. If you are already married, be sure to choose a marriage-friendly therapist who values restoring your relationship if possible. Many couples therapists will (and should) put this as the first priority in most cases. The role of a therapist is to help you understand how your relationship has gone wrong and to guide you towards a way to repair it for as long as you are willing to make this effort. The decision of whether to remain in a relationship should always be yours, not your therapist’s.
We Can't Fix Something That Has Been Broken for So Long
"Couples therapy gets a bad rap as the place where relationships go to die, so making a decision to reach out to a couples therapist can seem like an admission that the relationship must be taking its final breaths," says Parker. But even long-standing problems can be resolved with proper treatment. There are methods to assist in addressing old wounds and injuries that have helped many couples. The only couples who are not helped are those where both are unwilling to make an effort. If you are simply looking to check off the box, “We tried therapy," then it probably won't help you. Regardless of how long you've been in a dysfunctional pattern, if you both are genuinely committed to the treatment process, there's still hope.
Talking About Our Problems Will Make Things Worse
Chances are that your own attempts to talk about your problems have made things worse. Or, you may even have previous therapy experiences that made things worse. The skills of the therapist and their ability to constructively handle negative emotions and reactivity between couples will be an important factor. The therapist must create a safe space for you and your partner where discussions are productive.