Why Your Couples Therapist Should NOT Be Your Personal Therapist

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couples therapy

It's just trouble waiting to happen.

Believe me, I get it. Your romantic relationship is stressed and you want the best possible therapist to assist you. So, you plan to ask the professional who knows you best — your personal therapist — to also assist you and your partner in dealing with your relationship issues.   

Don’t do it!

It may seem like a great idea, but it's a recipe for disaster. Here are three reasons why you should not use your current therapist for couples therapy:

1. "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"

Yes, I’m turning to "The Brady Bunch" for this. Remember how jealous Jan was of her older sister Marcia? They argued a lot! When the parents intervened, their guidance fell on deaf ears, because Jan always assumed they were on Marcia’s side. 

No matter how unbiased your personal therapist promises to be, your partner is likely to believe that he or she favors you. 

Think about it: For months or years, you've been sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with this person. After a tough joint session, what's to stop you from using your private therapy time to share even more of your side of the story? It makes sense that your partner will think you and your therapist are in cahoots.  

For true healing to take place, you must both feel that the therapist is neutral and supports each of you equally.

2. Your relationship comes first

When therapists work with couples, 'the relationship' becomes the client.

Couples therapy examines how both of your actions impact the health of your romantic bond. You can explore who you are as individuals to bring greater meaning, honesty and passion to your partnership, but it's not the place for in-depth, individual work.

It's challenging to keep the focus where it needs to be when some sessions are about you as a couple, and others are about your personal growth. Do that, and you run into that fairness thing again.

Enjoying your personal sessions? Then, keep that therapist for yourself and find a different one for you and your loved one.

3. As a couple, you grow together

Your couples therapist is going to ask you and your partner to do a variety of things. If the therapist is new to both of you, you and your partner may be more enthusiastic to give their suggestions a try.

The therapist may have you role-play challenging situations and identify alternative solutions. They may have you interact with more supportive and less blaming language. For homework, they may ask you each discuss your day using the PAIRS’ Daily Temperature Reading:

  • Appreciation: Mention something the other has done for you and thank them. Example: "I appreciate that you made my favorite dish for dinner tonight."
  • New information: Share something new that happened during the day. Example: "I ran into a friend from college today." Or "I made an amazing sale at work this afternoon."
  • Puzzles: Ask about something you don’t understand. This helps prevent both of you from making erroneous assumptions. Example: "I wonder why the Johnsons are moving out of town?" Or "Why did you tell me not to invite the Smith’s to our party?"
  • Concerns with recommendations: Share your feelings about an issue you want to change. Example: "I feel so uncomfortable when I come home and find shoes by the door.  If you like leaving your shoes there, I can buy a decorative basket and you can put them inside."
  • Hopes, wishes and dreams: Share a wish you have for your future life together. It can be simple and realistic or wild and crazy. Example: "Why don’t we sail around the world together?" Or "I’d love to dance with you at our daughter’s wedding!"

Keeping the love alive in your relationship is important. 

So, search for a therapist who is new to the both of you. Your personal therapist may be able to suggest someone. And give your relationship a real chance for a fresh start.

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Janis Roszler is a therapist who specializes in diabetes-related relationship and health issues. Her blog articles and books can help transform your life. Have diabetes? Learn how to enjoy a more fulfilling romantic life. Read Janis’ books, Sex and Diabetes: For Him and For Her, and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes. Visit her website and follow her on twitter at @dearjanis.

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