Couples Therapy

The Anxieties and Benefits of Couples Therapy

Coming to couples therapy can be a frightening prospect.  Many people worry what this means about the relationship.  As a result, often couples wait a fairly long time before they decide to get into couples therapy.  During this time, very often, problems continue to develop. As a result of the waiting, couples therapy often starts our as a form of crisis therapy.  Both people often feel they are at the end of the line.  At the same time, they usually want the relationship to survive and to work better, but the built up fear, anxiety and resentment is often the first thing that needs to be addressed. No one sees the world with perfect accuracy.  We all have our own subjective experiences of it.  These experiences are, to varying degrees, influenced by our personal psychology.  To the degree there is an issue that is unresolved, more of our experiences in the world (romantic relationships, work relationships, etc), tend to be organized along the lines of our pre-occupations.  A person whose parents were angry and volatile may always find they are anxious around their boss.  Other authority figures may be experienced as being like the parents, even when evidence to the contrary is readily available.  (And, yes, this is where terms like transference comes in – although one may never hear it in therapy). It is the therapist’s job to try to understand the various communications and to develop hypotheses with the client about his or her experience.  The therapist helps the client become aware of motivations, thoughts and experiences which are normally outside of conscious experience.

Anxiety and Defensiveness Can Get in the Way of Getting Help

Some of the worries that typically get in the way include:
Some of the defensive statements that get in the way include:

What if the therapist says we don’t belong together?

A reasonable therapist will never make a decision as to whether or not you both belong together.  In fact, most of the time this fear is really one’s own fear that one has attributed (in the form of a pronouncement) to the therapist.  We all have worries when things get rough.  Our natural fight-or-flight instinct adds to the fear that we should leave/we don’t belong together.  Again, this fear is normal and most couples quickly get past it.
Couples Therapy

Going to therapy does not mean one is a failure or that the relationship is over.

Being a person is difficult, and being in a relationship is also difficult.  Many people benefit from help understanding their place in the world, the reasons for their repetitive problematic interactions and frustrations or fears.  We all idealize relationships when we enter them, and there is a natural process of recognizing nothing is ideal.  Often times people take that to mean the relationship has run its course.  Instead, there are very easy ways to improve the relationship – through reflection, growth and mutual understanding.  Contrary to the fear, therapy not only does not mean the end of the relationship – it can actually improve a relationship to a level of contentment, connectedness and satisfaction well beyond the previous best times.

Therapy is expensive.

OK, there is some truth to that.  However, going out to dinner or other distractions are expensive as well.  Therapy is an investment, and quite honestly, can be the best investment one can make in their relationship.

Sometimes it is a little problem.

That might be true, sometimes it is just a little problem.  However, if the problem continues to cause irritations, arguments (or not talking at all), and it has not passed it is worth considering seeking help.  Another sign is a problem which repeats.  We all repeat thoughts and patterns and often we cannot change these repetitive patterns without outside help.  A little problem that repeats, grows and causes increasing levels of unhappiness very likely is a real sign that help is needed.

I will just talk to a friend.

OK, this is a mixed topic.  Sometimes a friend CAN be helpful.  However, despite their best intentions, friends can also cause more problems.  Here’s why:  we are generally taught that being a good friend means ‘taking someone’s side.’  So, going to your friend and complaining about your partner often results in your friend ‘taking your side.’  That might feel good in the moment, but you may not be considering ways in which you both contribute to the situation.  A skilled therapist can help you both see the bigger picture, ways in which early modeling and current life are impacting your relationship – and more importantly – ways to get out of that rut!

It’s just a communication problem.

Again, that might be there case.  If so, great! That’s easy to work with!  If it is more, it really does take a skilled, insightful therapist to help sort out the problems and help find new ways of relating to each other.

Is Couples Therapy Scary at First?

Yes!  Most people coming in to therapy the first time are really nervous. However, once the work has actually begun very often couples will find that the process of therapy is enormously rewarding. Growing as a couple, and as an individual in the presence of your partner are both products of being in therapy together.  The emotional depth that can be reached, and the acceptance for self and other can lead to a new stability in the couple and a much greater level of emotional intimacy – more than ever imagined.

If you have any thought of going to therapy, you should listen to your intuition.  It could be a really important decision and it could vastly improve your relationship and your life.

A Note About Me:

I have over 30 years in the field and over 25 years doing couples therapy.  I have taught couples therapy in graduate school.  I am gentle, compassionate and insightful.  Most people feel much better just getting started with me.  Contact me in the form below or call me at 415-440-0678.  I offer a free phone consultation. I will work with you to determine the best way to help you move forward.
Couples Therapy

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