There Are Two Good Ways To Find A Couple's Therapist That's Right For YOU

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How to Choose a Relationship Therapist that's Right for You

Choosing to see a relationship is a courageous decision. Here are tips how to choose the right one.

Choosing to see a relationship therapist is a courageous decision. In fact, the average amount of time a struggling couple waits to seek help is around six years!  

Research also shows that sooner is better than later in terms of having a good outcome. In an effort to encourage you to engage sooner, I'm going to try to help you simplify the process of on how to choose a couples therapist or relationship therapist who's right for you.

First of all, you should know that I am in favor of seeking couples counseling before getting marriedPremarital therapy helps you build a solid foundation for your marriage.

You don't need to have problems to benefit from learning about the stages of marriage, good communication tools, or conflict resolution.

If you can't find the time or money while planning your wedding to come in for private sessions, consider a workshop designed specifically for you at this stage of your relationship.

There are basically 2 ways to find a good relationship therapist:

  1. Ask someone you trust for a referral. This can be your doctor, attorney, clergy or a friend who's engaged in relationship therapy and had good results.
  2. Go online. There are many directories that screen a therapist's credentials before listing them. I recommend you take a look at Psychology TodayThe National Registry for Marriage Friendly TherapistsImago Relationships International, or Find A Therapist.

How do you know what to look for?

I recommend that you pick a therapist who has a degree in psychology or in marriage and family therapy with the corresponding license from the state where you live. Additionally, it's wise to look for someone who has advanced education, training, certification, and experience working with couples.

Many therapists say that they see couples, but you want to be sure that relationship therapy makes up a large percentage of the work they do. Seek out a therapist who's been practicing in the field for at least a decade when possible.

Research shows that the longer a therapist has been practicing usually the better client outcomes. Experience matters.

Once you've chosen a therapist, there are certain things you need to look for in the first appointment. 

1. You should feel safe and comfortable with the personality of the therapist. 

She should be warm and friendly and put you at ease. She should also be confident and reassuring about helping you to improve your issues and dynamics.

Additionally, the therapist you choose should be able and willing to explain how he or she works and what you can expect. He or she should also be willing to answer all of your questions.

2. Moving forward, you will want to be sure that your therapist does the following.

  • Caring and compassionate to both of you.
  • Actively tries to help you and communicates what she sees that might be standing in the way.
  • Effectively structures the sessions so that you feel safe and held.
  • Challenges each of you about your contributions to the problem without taking sides.
  • Understands your gender, cultural, and religious beliefs as they apply to your relationship.
  • Offers specific strategies and coaches you how to use them.
  • Is alert to individual problems such as depression, anxiety, anger, substance abuse or illnesses.

3. Remember that Relationship Therapy is not a quick fix but generally does not take as long as individual therapy.

Within 4-6 sessions, you should have a better understanding of your relationship with your partner. By then, you can expect to have learned better communication tools and ways to experience deeper connection and intimacy.

You might find that meeting weekly or bi-monthly is not intensive enough for the problem at hand. If you are in a relationship crisis, such as after the discovery of an affair, you might want to opt for a longer format.

I call these intensives or breakthrough sessions. Longer sessions can include one and two full days with a therapist dedicated to your growth and healing.

Couples workshops and group intensives are also very beneficial and offer you the learning from the Therapist as well as from the other couples attending. Sometimes the right therapy for you might be a combination of these possibilities. 

If you find yourself uncomfortable or concerned about the work you're doing with your relationship therapist, speak up.

If after addressing your concerns, the difficulties persist, it might be that this is not the right fit for you. In that case, you might have to find another therapist that will be a better choice for the two of you.

Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT works with couples committed to being in the healthiest version of their relationship, take the assessment quiz to see how healthy your relationship is.

This article was originally published at Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT. Reprinted with permission from the author.