5 Scenarios Where You Should Definitely NOT Go To Couples Therapy

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When should you NOT try couples therapy?

I usually hold hope that my clients can build the healthy and loving relationships they want with time and effort. But there are times when another service might be more helpful, such as discernment counseling or closure therapy (I’ll explain below).

RELATED: 5 Questions Your Couples Therapist Absolutely Must Ask Before You Get Divorced

Here are 5 scenarios where couples therapy isn't a good idea.

1. Divorce is on the table.

If your relationship is so on fire that one or both of you is seriously considering divorce, you might actually benefit from a service called discernment counseling before you move on to couples therapy.

Discernment counseling is specifically for couples who have a lot of ambivalence about whether to move forward. It can help you both decide if you’re ready to commit to the work required by couples therapy, or if you’re better off ending the relationship now.

You can find a discernment counselor through the directory at www.moderncommitment.com. Many coaches, like myself, also provide discernment counseling as a service to their clients. 

2. You or your partner have already decided to split up.

If one of you has made the final decision to break up, couples counseling won't be effective and discernment counseling won't be necessary. Instead of couples therapy or discernment counseling, you might benefit from closure therapy.

In closure therapy, your therapist will create a safe space for you two to process the end of your relationship. They'll help you celebrate what was wonderful about it and ultimately let it go.

Closure therapy isn't for everyone, but if you and your partner still have a warm and respectful connection and you value processing what happened together, it could be the right option for you.

3. You have opposite needs about a major lifestyle decision and neither of you is willing to give up your dream.

You may have a fantastic relationship, but you have reached a point where your dreams for your futures are conflicting with each other. Giving up what you need would feel like giving up the bones of your own body. Your partner feels the same way.

An example: one partner is offered their dream job in another country, but the other partner has elderly parents who need care and is unwilling to move away from them. Some couples can work through these difficult decisions and find ways to compromise, but others may decide it's time for a respectful and gentle ending.

Couples therapy can help you determine if a compromise is even possible, but if you and your partner already know it isn't, you might benefit more from closure therapy.

RELATED: How Does Marriage Counseling Actually Work? 6 Things Couples Needs To Know Before They Go

4. You or your partner have unaddressed substance abuse or mental health issues and are unwilling to seek help.

Couples who have struggled with addiction or with mental health issues can have strong, wonderful relationships. Where couples counseling can get stuck, though, is when one partner has an issue that they aren’t willing to seek help for.

If your partner is actively addicted to a substance and taking no steps to address that, couples counseling isn’t likely to make big changes for your relationship until that issue is addressed. Similarly, if your partner has a severe mental illness, couples counseling can be useful but only to the extent that your partner is willing to get the additional help that they need from individual therapy.

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5. Your partner emotionally, mentally, financially, or physically abuses you.

If your partner systematically belittles, gaslights, or even physically abuses you, you’re better off seeking individual counseling, because couples counseling could make the abuse worse. It's important to learn how to identify an abusive relationship, how to create a safety plan, and how to leave safely if that’s what you choose to do.

There are services like loveisrespect.org that offer a 24/7 text and phone call crisis line where you can reach out to for support. You might feel confused about whether your relationship fits this category or not, but there are resources that can help.

If any of the above circumstances fit your situation, then you may need alternatives to couples therapy. Discernment counseling, closure counseling, or even individual counseling could be more helpful than couples counseling in some of these cases.

In the end, only you and your partner know what's best for you.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why Your Partner Wants To Go To Couples Therapy That Have Nothing To Do With You

Susanna Guarino is a zen practicing therapist+musician and couples therapy expert who loves working with people on their journeys to healthier relationships and becoming their most authentic selves. For more information, visit her website and schedule a free consult. 

This article was originally published at Good Earth Counseling. Reprinted with permission from the author.