by Wilson A. Llerena, MS, LGMFT
February 27, 2020
The initial thoughts and feelings when entering couple therapy are usually the same: “I hope this works” or “How can this stranger help me?” Most individuals experience great anxiety in response to the sense of the unknown and the vagueness of the therapeutic process. You are betting on your relationship without a clear idea about what the odds are. By exploring the myths associated with therapy, the hope is that your fears will be alleviated and the benefits of the process will be highlighted.
Myth #1: Couple therapy is for people with serious relationship problems or for “crazy” people.
Closer to the truth: While some seek couple therapy to deal with very serious problems in their relationships, others simply don’t see eye-to-eye on a specific issue and need help navigating that. Some couples even come to therapy as a proactive measure and are quite happy in their relationship! The therapist’s role is to be a guide for the couple and help each partner assess what they want in their relationship. The role of a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, like all our therapists at the RCC, is to focus on the relationship process, rather than on the content. Therapists pay close attention to the interactional patterns between partners, suggesting ways to interrupt cycles of negative interaction and how to create positive ones. Treating underlying mental health issues, such as severe clinical depression and anxiety may be coordinated with a concurrent psychiatrist and individual therapist referral, in order to ensure the most effective treatment for the couple unit.
Myth #2: The couple therapist will just tell us to break up.
Closer to the truth: Sometimes couples will ask things like, “Can our relationship be saved?” or “Do you think that our relationship should end?” The therapist should never decide the fate of a couple. There is always the risk that attending therapy will speed up the trajectory that the relationship may already be on. There may be times where conversations traverse very difficult topics and emotions get heated, but a therapist helps each partner work through this in a healthy way, communicating in ways that allows both partners to feel validated and secure in their relationship. The goal of couple therapy is to create healthy, working dynamics between partners that serve them well outside of the therapy room during arguments or difficult circumstances. The therapist will go through your options in your relationship to help you explore and decide what is best for you and your partner. Couples who are committed to positive changes and to their relationships often do very well in implementing those changes through the therapeutic process.
Myth #3: The therapist will just dig up our emotions and not actually solve any problems.
Closer to the truth: Therapy is difficult work and is not a complete science – session length and treatment goals vary from couple to couple. While you will be trusting a trained stranger (i.e., the therapist) with topics you may not have even discussed with your partner, the therapist’s role is to create a safe, non-judgmental environment for you to process your emotions in a healthy way. This may make you feel very vulnerable. But vulnerability can be powerful and by taking the risk to share it, you create opportunities for emotional intimacy to blossom, thereby strengthening your relationship. Being emotionally present and connected with your partner is a good first step to solving your relationship problems together.