Do you want to know what makes couples therapy and marriage counseling a success?
Great! You came to the right blog.
I have thousands of hours of experience helping couples enhance their relationships. I will gladly share my secrets below for obtaining the best couples therapy experience possible.
Why is this information so important for couples?
I hear too many disappointed couples sharing stories of how they “failed” therapy. Often, they share that they stopped couples therapy because there was no improvement in their situations. They felt their therapist appeared to side with one partner repeatedly. Or, despite many hours of venting, no solutions brought lasting change.
Additionally, I’ve also come to recognize that there is a desperate need for specific tools couples can use to analyze their therapy experience. With these tools, they can decide whether their current couples counseling is a good fit for them.
Why is a “good fit” key to couples therapy or marriage counseling?
Couples therapy is fast becoming more and more an essential part of many couples’ lives. In past decades, people thought that only couples on the brink of divorce went to couples therapy. It was a sort of relationship last resort. Sadly, couples would wait an average of 6 years, struggling with their marital issues, before seeking help.
Today, many couples understand and appreciate couples therapy. It is recognized as an important means of support and guidance in much less dramatic situations. Additionally, there is less of a stigma to the idea of working with someone like a marriage counselor for recovery.
This is a very good thing. Why? Because the success of the counseling process directly correlates to the amount of baggage a couple brings in. Early relationship help tends to be the most effective help.
Now, let’s talk about what you can do to make sure your couples therapy process is successful:
The 5 Most Important Things to Look for in Your Couples Therapy Process
Before you do anything, do make sure your potential therapist is a licensed psychotherapist. Preferably an LMFT, as they have training in couples therapy. Also, be certain that they specialize in couples work and do this work a majority of the time.
1. Determine Whether Your Marriage Counseling Sessions are Structured or Just “Venting Sessions”
- These sessions involve long periods of listening to partner’s complaints about each other. This can go on and on. Eventually, time is up and you both leave the counselor’s office feeling very frustrated and more hopeless than before.
On the other hand, structure has proven to be much more effective. It is time-saving, and crucial for driving lasting change in a couple’s relationship. I apply structure inside each session, and in my process with each couple. I also include structure in how I manage clients from the first call to the final counseling discharge.
What are the benefits of structure in couples therapy?
- Instead of venting, structure addresses your relationship needs at that moment.
- Counseling tools are employed.
For instance, if you were to let me know what you would like to talk about, I would offer a communication tool to use. This helps foster a more productive conversation about an unresolved issue. This might include ongoing fights, infidelity, etc.
- Longer session times are helpful.
I find that 90-minute sessions are much more suitable for couple’s work. You want to be sure that you both have an appropriate length of time to present issues, listen and learn something new, practice new skills, and resolve issues well.
- Structure, in the form of a program, offers a beginning and end to help couples reach their goals in less time.
My programs offer couples therapy for about 10-15 hours on average. The program structure includes a consultation, an intake session, an assessment, ongoing sessions, mid-process progress assessment, ongoing sessions, end of process progress assessment, and final discharge. Clarity is key.
Couples Therapy Success Action Step #1:
Learn whether the therapist you choose to interview includes structure in their sessions. Pay attention to their process. Do they seem knowledgeable about the issues you’re sharing? Can they articulate what type of process you and your spouse will undertake with regards to content and length of time?
2. Determine Whether Assessment is Part of Your Therapist’s Process for Marriage Counseling
- Assessing the relationship before you start working, midway through treatment, and near the end allows you and your counselor to see the entire relationship. They may use their own assessment tools. Or, use a research-based assessment like The Gottman Relationship Checkup.
- These assessments are an integral part of the counseling process. In fact, they can provide direction for interventions used to guide necessary relationship changes. We discuss these changes in session.
Couples Therapy Success Action Step #2:
Address whether the therapist you’re interviewing offers assessments of your relationship over time. Do they appear to track your progress? How does the therapist plan to check in with you about the state of the relationship and the counseling process?
3. Determine Whether Your Couples Therapist Says “Yes” to Sometimes Taking BOTH Sides
In general, successful couples therapists can’t take sides. In truth, that isn’t possible. Therapists are human. So, it makes sense to expect that your counselor won’t take one side all the time. But, expect that he or she will side with each one of you sometimes – when it makes sense. When it does happen, does it help effect change and bring balance and solutions to a situation? If it does, then your therapist is doing the right thing utilizing the art of therapy.
Couples Therapy Success Action Step #3
Ask the therapist you’re interviewing to answer honestly whether they tend to take sides in sessions. Acknowledge that if they say they “never” side with clients or insist that they are “always” neutral, their claim is not possible. Are they able to admit this?
4. Determine Whether Your Couples Therapist Can Offer Less Advice & Foster More Change
Professionally speaking, a therapist’s advice only inspires first-order change. For example, let’s say your husband spends too much time at his best friend’s house. Your therapist may advise you to create a new rule that limits him to 2, one-hour visits a week. This is fine, but those rules usually don’t work for long. Why? Because people don’t like to take other people’s advice. Eventually, we go back to our old habits.
Focus instead on therapy that produces second-order change. This results from work that disrupts unhelpful relationship interactions.
A skilled couples therapist helps to do this in the following ways:
- Your therapist develops a curiosity about what happens around the unwanted behavior (the husband that spends too much time with his best friend, because of a communication problem he has with his wife).
- The therapist reveals a pattern that explains why things happen the way they happen (the husband does not want to come home and prefers spending time with the friend every day).
- Your therapist offers a way to disturb the unproductive pattern (the couple is provided communication tools to change their interactions, quickly resulting in the husband spending much less time away from home).
Couples Therapy Success Action Step #4
While it may difficult to tell whether the therapist you’re interviewing is prone to advice-giving before having a session together, do pay close attention to their proposed solutions. Are they quick to offer solutions that have a one-size-fits-all quality? Do solutions lack depth or fail to consider the details of your situation? Be careful, you may find yourselves frustrated by therapy focused on short-lived, first-order changes.
5. Determine Whether Your Couples Therapist is Really Able to Help Your Relationship
When you have a consultation, it’s important that you ascertain not only whether the therapist is a good fit for you, but that the therapist can do the same.
Knowing their weaknesses as a person and as a therapist is key, as it helps them determine whether they are the best choice for your case. Sometimes they simply are not a fit. That’s okay. They should be able to say so and refer you elsewhere.
Couples Therapy Success Action Step #5
How does the therapist you’re interviewing use their initial consultation with you?
Are you in charge? Are you simply given the floor to ask and receive answers about price, time, and other basics? Or is the therapist engaged, asking to hear about your struggles and offering ideas and information about how they can or can not help?
Finally, if you’re currently searching for the perfect couples counselor or stopped counseling because it wasn’t helpful or productive, I hope you now have a list of items to look for and some action steps to take.
It is my sincerest wish that you obtain great success in your relationship. I hope, too, that you both can make the necessary changes together so that the loving relationship you’re longing for becomes a reality.
Begin Couples Therapy in FL with Idit Sharoni’s Team
Thank you so much for reading and considering the information in this post. If you need more help or support, please visit my couples therapy page. Or, contact me for a consultation. My Miami FL-based counseling practice would be honored to support you in improving your relationship. To start your journey, follow these steps.
- Schedule a free consultation
- Meet with one of our caring therapists for a 90-minute initial session
- Start giving your relationship the support it deserves
Other Services Offered at Idit Sharoni Relationship Experts
Couples therapy is not the only service we offer in our Miami FL-based counseling practice. Other mental health services our relationship counselors provide include affair counseling, communication counseling, and online therapy. For more useful relationship information, please visit my podcast!