Let’s be honest: there are a ton of misconceptions about what therapy actually entails. And Hollywood has had a field day with their portrayals of what a therapy session looks like. The most common visual shown, is of a client laying on a couch, looking at the ceiling and talking about whatever comes to mind.
In reality, though, therapy doesn’t always resemble its Hollywood portrayal. The result of the Hollywoodification of therapy has been loads of misconceptions about what people who are seeking help perceive therapy to be.
In my own practice, I see a lot of misconceptions, but especially as they relate to couples’ therapy. Today, I want to dispel a few common misconceptions of couples therapy that I see quite frequently.
Couples’ Therapy Doesn’t have to be “Last Ditch Effort”
By the time many couples enter my office, it’s a “last ditch effort.” In other words, they’ve tried working through marital issues on their own, devoured every Self Help book or blog they can get their hands on, and their gas tanks are nearly empty.
First off, there’s nothing wrong in trying to work through issues together without the help of a professional or reading books or blogs to get educated on the various schools of thought in couples’ therapy. However, when it comes to making strides in your relationship, however, having an unbiased third party can work wonders.
Far from a last-ditch effort, couples’ therapy can be extremely useful at various stages of any relationship. If one or both sides are struggling with finding fulfillment or are experiencing frustration or betrayal, couples’ therapy can be extremely helpful. Whether you’re just getting the initial inklings of something being “off” in your relationship or you’re weeks away from separating, couples’ therapy has been proven to help bridge the divide that has entered your relationship.
Learning to Listen
One observation I commonly see when couples are in my office is a lot of talking at one another and very little listening.
Instead of waiting for the other person to finish to get their own point across, I encourage couples to actively listen to their partner. Active listening manifests itself in a number of ways, but I try and ask my patients to repeat parts of what their partner said back to them to ensure understanding. From there, I ask each partner how these issues make them feel before having the other person respond with what has been bothering them.
This act of back-and-forth listening can help build compassion and empathy for both partners in a way that simple “getting things off the chest” doesn’t do.
No One-Size-Fits-All Solution
I like to let people know that therapy is unique to each couple since everyone brings in their own unique histories and perspectives. Not to mention that some couples have children while others don’t, and this factor alone drastically changes the way I approach couples’ therapy.
I believe in the power of couples’ therapy, because of the intimate nature of the sessions. While people can learn different techniques from a book or blog, having a licensed therapist who is actively helping to introduce new skills for communication etc., can be incredibly valuable. And while couples’ therapy doesn’t always result in salvaging a relationship, it often does. In my experience, regardless of the outcome- both partners come out the other side with more insight and clarity.
When In Doubt, Reach out
If you and your partner are going through a rough patch, consider reaching out to a couples’ therapist. Just starting the conversation can actually be quite beneficial. And once you decide to seek therapy, I suggest that you ask lots of questions- nothing is off limits. This initial dialogue is a great way to dispel any preconceived notions or misconceptions you may have about couples’ therapy. Please feel free to be in touch if I can be helpful in finding you a therapist or therapy resources!