Resident clinical psychotherapist, Andrew Macdonald chats through all the concerns you and your partner may have about couples therapy.
Imagine this, you’ve convinced your partner that it’s time for you to get some couples therapy because things have been pretty rocky lately.
Maybe there’s been infidelity or maybe you just aren’t connecting anymore.
Conversely, maybe you and your partner are planning a marriage and think it might be a good idea to build a solid foundation for the years to come.
Whatever the reason, there’s some important things to consider when searching for a couples therapist.
Who picks the therapist?
A good couples therapist should offer an initial free consult, usually 15 minutes, where you can meet them, ask questions and afterwards talk to each other about what you liked and what you didn’t like about them.
Research into therapy indicates that a good trusting therapeutic relationship with your counsellor significantly contributes to the positive outcomes of the work.
In other words, if you feel like the therapist isn’t getting you or something doesn’t feel right, then keep looking.
I encourage couples to “shop around” and to both come up with options in terms of who they might see together.
The risk in this is that the selection of therapist may be used as a mechanism for conflict within the relationship.
Basically, we’ll never like the one our partner picks.
This might reflect your personal styles and differences, or perhaps even another vehicle to disagreement?
We shocked our therapist
Imagine you’re feeling vulnerable sitting there in a session with your therapist explaining how a PNP session turned into trust being broken in your relationship and your therapist says “what’s PNP?”
It’s important to find a therapist that has some solid understanding about the world in which you both (or more) live.
Even more important is to find a therapist that you feel you can say anything to without feeling judged.
Relationships take on so many forms, yet so often in my clinic I hear horror stories of clients being judged or made to feel shame.
Whilst the therapist doesn’t have to have their own lived experience (eg. PNP) what you are really searching for is how they manage, engage and help you with situations that are perhaps less heteronormative/cisnormative and their responses to these.
I feel my therapist is on my partners side
Ask a couples therapist who their client is and the answer should be “your relationship”.
Regardless if the work improves your relationship or you both decide to walk away, the therapist should be focussed on the dynamics that exist between you, around you and in you both.
Sure, there’s times when one partner gets more focus, though the therapist should balance this with an explanation and consideration of the other/s.
For example, “Sam, are you okay if we explore what Alex just said because I think it might be significant?”
On the flip side, (this is me getting all therapeutic), I would be curious what the therapist is doing, saying or enacting that is making you feel like you do and how this may parallel dynamics in your relationship.
In other words, is this a jealousy thing that already existed?
Does couples therapy work?
This article is based on just some of the challenges folks face in searching for a couples therapist.
Remember, if you’ve both agreed to find support, there’s positive intent there as a good starting point of wanting things to be better.
The question you may be now wondering… Does it work?
“Are you asking, will it keep us together?”
For some yes, and for some no. But hopefully if it’s no, then the effort put into exploring your relationship and each of you in it, helps provide sense making and peace as you move on to find something else.
Andrew Macdonald is a clinical psychotherapist and counsellor providing video-based sessions Australia wide. Visit Jefferson’s Place to book an appointment.
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