By Jen Vishloff
7 Myths about Couples Therapy
Coming to counselling is hard enough without myths and misinformation making it even more intimidating. Let’s bust some of those myths!
Myth # 1 Couples therapy is only helpful if a relationship is in crisis
FACT: Couples counselling is actually more likely to be effective if couples seek help before the negative cycles in their relationship become deeply entrenched.
Think about any behaviours in your life that you’ve tried to change. It’s generally easier to change behaviours before they become habits that you engage in automatically, and the same is true with the way we interact with a spouse and respond to conflict with them.
Myth #2 Couples therapy doesn’t work
FACT: While older research from the 1980’s demonstrated a bleak view on the success of couples therapy, research on the therapies used today (particularly emotionally focused couples therapy) shows that couples therapy has a 70-75% rate of effectiveness. The success of couples therapy is further impacted by when couples attend, their level of motivation and willingness to do homework, their capacity to have empathy for their partner, and the fit they feel with their therapist.
Myth #3 Couples therapy is just a place to vent
FACT: A couples therapist trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or The Gottman Method will help slow things down so you can better understand your own process and share that with your partner. The goal of couples therapy is not just catharsis, but rather to peel back the layers to see the things that are keeping you and your partner from feeling like you’re on the same team when facing a conflict.
Myth #4 Couples Therapy takes a long time to create any change
FACT: While some couples come to therapy with deeply entrenched patterns that can take months or years to unravel and change, many couples report having a better understanding of the negative cycles present in their relationship, and greater self-awareness after only a few sessions. Many couples can start to see concrete changes in their relationship with 8-20 sessions.
Myth #5 A couples therapist will take sides
FACT: When you come to couples counselling the therapist treats “the couple” as the client rather than each individual. That means that the therapist acts in accordance with what is best for strengthening your bond (barring any safety concerns if intimate partner violence is present in the relationship). That said, therapists are humans and may naturally feel more aligned with one partner -it’s their job to manage this feeling and ensure they are siding with the relationship and not one partner. If you ever feel that your therapist is taking sides bring it up with them.
Myth #6 Couples Therapy is just learning Communication Techniques
FACT: While some discussion of communication strategies may be helpful, the goal of couples therapy is not to learn communication techniques you can read about in a book. A couples therapist will help you to better understand the root cause of your conflicts and disconnection and guide you towards strengthening your bond.
Myth #7 If you need couples therapy early in a relationship, you’re doomed!
FACT: While it is possible that a couple coming to counselling at any point in their relationship will decide to separate, negative patterns within relationships are much easier to change before they have been deeply entrenched through years of interaction. Meaning, change is often easier if you come to counselling when problems first appear than it is to make changes 5 or 10 years later.
Jen Vishloff is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who provides individual and relationship counselling for adults. If you’re interested in working with Jen you can click here to book an appointment.