While a lot of people have I’m sure heard of marriage therapy, couples counseling, relationship coaching, or any other wording to describe the process of working with a professional to help make your relationship “better”, there are also a lot of common misconceptions about what the process actually looks like, who needs it, what you can get out of it, and the like.
So, we’ve compiled a list of “5 Myths about Couples Counseling” – and what is actually true along that thought process.
1) Couples’ therapy is only for those who are on the brink of divorce.
While many couples may come to therapy when they feel they are close to separation or divorce, marriage therapy is not only for couples at that point in their relationship. Couples counseling can be used after a major life change like the birth of a new baby, a move to a new city, or a job change for one of the partners. It may come at the onset of a physical health diagnosis. Often, people come to couples’ counseling after a rhythm changes: the kids are now all in school; the kids have all moved out; there used to be a stay-at-home partner and now both partners work. Relationship counseling can also be beneficial when most things are going “fine enough” but both partners want it to be better. It can often be used to enhance a relationship from baseline to thriving. Not just from “basement” (brink of divorce) to “baseline” (managing okay).
2) My therapist and my partner are going to end up blaming me for everything.
It can be a really vulnerable place, being in couples’ counseling. We hear you! As therapists, though, we are also particularly skilled at making that vulnerability also feel safe. The couples’ counseling process is not about finding the partner who is “at fault.” It is much more about discovering where and how things got off track, what works for each of you to bring it back to a place of more healthy functioning, and communicating clearly about needs you each have, compromises you can make, and commitment to continuing that process daily. A skilled couples therapist can help you realize opportunities for growth without it being a blame game. A very skilled couples’ therapist will help you see your relationship as the client, not a single individual as that. Therefore, the the therapist will seek to partner with both individuals in the relationship in a way that enhances that relationship.
3) We are going to go in for one issue in our marriage, and our counselor is going to tell us we have WAY more problems than that.
While it is very common for a client to start counseling with a particular challenge and purpose in mind, it is not uncommon at all to end up addressing many more things than that. Now, that being said, your therapist does not have an agenda to show you “how many problems you have” or “how many things you’re doing wrong.” A therapist is there to help detect patterns, clarify paths moving forward, and increase tools to overcome obstacles. Sometimes, sure, in the midst of all of that a few more things will come up, but the therapist will guide the conversations and sessions in a way it doesn’t feel too overwhelming or unexpected. The therapist may nudge you a bit but a skilled therapist paces with you, doesn’t force you to sprint ahead. They can also pull back when it seems like it’s getting to be “too much” and keep you focused on one, manageable challenge.
4) It’s going to be too hard---too emotional, too much time, too much work.
This is so relatable. Those are very real fears and are emotions and thoughts I think a lot of people would say “yep, my exact thinking!” And it’s partially right---but not all the way. Therapy is hard. Sometimes. But it’s like a mental, emotional, relational version of a hard physical workout: it’s tough while you’re in it but after awhile, you experience results and you’re glad for the work that led to those results. Also, when it comes to relationship counseling, here’s something else to consider: how you’re operating in your relationship right now is maybe hard, too. It’s a familiar hard. It’s a predictable hard. But it’s not easy. It’s not a time-saver. It’s not unemotional or full of positive emotions. That’s why you’re reading this. It’s why you’re wondering if you might be able to be happier, more fulfilled, calmer by participating in couples counseling with your partner. So, the answer here is “yes”—it may be tough, it may be emotional, it will take some time. But the qualifier of the word “too”---that’s a little bit false.
5) We’re going to leave every session either fighting or not talking to each other. Things are going to be weird.
Again, very understandable hesitation about couples counseling. This is not always the case, though! There are often couples who work through immediate tension in the first few sessions, and end up using therapy as part of a date night. In some sessions, the topic that week can shed light on your partner in a way that makes you feel drawn closer to one another, experiencing an increase in bonding and love. Some sessions end up playful, punctured with laughter. Additionally, not all “hard” sessions will end in conflict and an increase in tension. As you gain skills, including communication and insight, navigating those tough moments will become more manageable, though they still might carry some weight. There is some truth that some sessions may be hard, but it is certainly not an “all the time” phenomenon that should keep you away from couples counseling if you are looking for a boost in your relationship!
Alright, there you have it! MYTHS....BUSTED!
Have more questions? Want to get started with our couples therapist? Click here to drop us an email, click here to book online, or click here to read more about our counselor, Michael, who provides relationship/marriage therapy!
Talk to you soon!
Marble Wellness is a St. Louis counseling practice that specializes in counseling for anxious and depressed adults and kids, those with dealing with grief or chronic illness, overwhelmed moms, and stressed out couples. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website. If you have questions or would like to get started in working together in the therapy process, contact us today or request an appointment now!