If you confide in a friend or family member that you’re unhappy in your marriage or relationship, chances are you’ll be asked if you’ve ever considered counseling. Does it work, and should you go by yourself if your significant other refuses?
Here are some varying viewpoints:
- The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists presents the following statistics after surveying families and couples who attended family or couples therapy sessions:
- More than 98 percent of those surveyed reported that they received good or excellent couples therapy.
- More than 97 said they got the help they needed.
- 93 percent of patients said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems.
- If your partner initially refuses to go to therapy with you, you can try going to individual therapy. However, statistics from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists also show that couples therapy is usually faster and more effective than individual therapy. Couples therapy allows both parties to work on their relationship and their dynamic together, which is supposed to lead them to success faster. And less time spent in therapy means less money spent.
- Some experts believe that going to individual therapy to work on marital problems will be harmful to your marriage. The thinking is that therapists can’t draw conclusions about the marriage without ever meeting the other party, that they may be “tarnishing” the spouse in the client’s eyes by encouraging clients to discuss what they don’t like about their spouse, and that couples can’t learn to relate to each other in healthier ways if one is not present.
- Successful marriage counseling may actually lead to divorce. Sometimes, marriage counseling “works” by showing a couple that they are not in a healthy relationship and by giving the couple the encouragement they need to end their relationship.
- Couples therapy tends to work better when couples seek help early. There aren’t any hard numbers to back up this assertion, but therapists believe that if a couple waits until their problems are too far advanced, one person may have already given up on the relationship, and saving the relationship at that point can be difficult.
How to Find a Couples Therapist Who Is Right for You
The first step is basic: find a counselor who specializes in working with couples, either exclusively, or primarily. Couples therapy is very different from individual therapy. In fact, try to find one who is a member of professional organizations devoted to couples counselors.
Ask the therapists you call whether they have studied evidence-based couples therapy or have taken evidence-based training. These are the two most well-known scientifically based or evidence-based treatments for couples. If not, research the methods they use.
Take the time to choose a therapist whose style and attitude you’re comfortable with—but not too comfortable. After all, the point of therapy is to analyze problems and work out solutions, not just talk.
Horizon Health offers private counseling services for couples and individuals in Western New York. Please call (716) 831-1800 to find out more.