Here are 4 tips for talking to your partner about entering counseling:
- In a serious, calm voice, without interruptions, clearly describe your feelings. Briefly review the things you have already tried to "fix" the relationship. Explain that your next (and perhaps, final) attempt is to seek therapy.
- Do not blame or yell.
- Keep it brief. Don't go on and on, sitting for hours recycling the same stories and feelings.
- Do your research; have names of therapists handy.
—Lori Edelson, Counselor/Therapist
3. Where can we find a therapist or coach?
There are several avenues to finding a compatible relationship professional:
- Ask family and friends who you know may have worked with someone.
- Ask your OB/GYN or primary care physician.
- Find someone online. When you search online, you have the opportunity to read professionals' profiles, and get a "feel" if you resonate with their approach to therapy.
- Check out the 1,000+ professionals on YourTango Experts, and get to know them by reading their blogs. Go to the pro's website and sign up for their newsletters or participate in a free or low-cost tele-class.
- Additionally, you might seek spiritual guidance in whatever way that feels comfortable for you.
4. How do we know if the pro is right for us?
Most therapists offer a free phone consultation. Take advantage of this. It gives you an opportunity to talk with them and see if they specialize in your presenting issue. I once had someone tell me she scheduled an appointment because she liked the sound of my voice. Trust your instincts!
When you are ready, contact one or two. See if they offer an initial consultation, during which you can consider:
- Do you and your partner feel understood?
- Do you feel a sense of connection with this professional?
- Has this person been able to help others with similar situations or needs?
- How does your partner feel about this person?
- Do you feel that this person is balanced in the sense that they can understand both of you and your views and needs in the relationship, without siding with one of you?
- Can you see yourself trusting them with your relationship tender spots, questions, doubts, fears, etc?
Answers to these questions are all clues that you have found a compatible pro with whom to work.
5. How do we know if couples counseling is working for us?
Once you've started therapy, make sure you're both comfortable with the therapist. Be honest, even when it's difficult. The office should feel safe and professional. The therapist should be involved, focused, and offer meaningful feedback.
If you don't feel good with the therapist, it might be a good idea to look for a better match. A professional therapist should let you know if therapy is not helping, whether to consider separation or divorce, whether you are adequately motivated to reconcile, or if you have individual problems to work on first.
Trust your instincts! If you have a therapist who lets you yell at each other during the session, this does not foster a feeling of safety (with your partner OR therapist). Therapy is working when you have permission to "create a space" for alternative modes of interactions, reconnection and change. When it offers you communication tools and coping skills. If you are going to a therapist's office to do the same thing you do at home (i.e. fight)…it's time to try a new professional.
If one or both of you feels that the pro is siding with one of you, and no longer balanced, then bring up this concern right away, and move on if need be. Also, sometimes the timing for relationship growth and healing is not the same for both people in a relationship, and while it may be wise to move on from a pro for couples help, the same pro may be a wonderful fit for one of you individually. Individual help from a pro can be of tremendous help for your personal relationship patterns, and go a long way in helping you be able to create a happy, thriving relationship and marriage.