When should a couple seek professional help, with a therapist, counselor, or educator?
Too commonly, we look for help when s*#@ hits the fan. We reach a point of “we can’t take this anymore” and problems are severe.
That’s when things get too expensive or too late.
The top fears are being left or abandoned, and/or regretting not working harder on the relationship.
So when is it a good time to find help?
Well, now. All the time!
It’s about fine-tuning expectations, respect, communication and intimacy.
Dax Shephard and Kristen Bell recently talked about the secret to their successful marriage on GoodHousekeeping magazine. Lo and behold! Therapy! The sub-headline reads: The happily married pair rely on a lot of couples therapy.
I noticed an actor and her husband on [a recent cover of a celebrity tabloid] that said, “In Couples’ Therapy!” The clear message is, “Oh, their marriage is ending.” There’s such a negative connotation. In my previous relationship, we went to couples’ therapy at the end, and that’s often too late. You can’t go after nine years and start figuring out what patterns you’re in.” —Dax
If something pisses you off, you’ve got to find the balls to bring it up immediately, and say it in a way that the other person can hear. If you’re still uncomfortable with both those things, you say, “I need to have a therapy session with you.” There may be something that really hurt your feelings that you’re scared to bring up. Go talk about it with a therapist who can mediate. You’ll walk out of the room feeling like you’re [on the same] team.” —Kristen
To take care of your car you will eventually need to change the timing belt. It’s expensive, but necessary. The smooth engine can be deceitful and then it happens, your stranded or have a broken engine. Which is even more costly.
We maintain our teeth just as well, to avoid cavities or rotten teeth.
Frankly, therapies, in general, are underutilized.
So, let’s talk about WHAT therapies are available. From free or low-cost to most expensive.
There are 2 broad categories.
The first is preventative—the cheapest option.
It’s for when you start dating, get engaged, have kids and start a family, lose a job, lose a loved one, typical struggles that are a part of life. We all need a helping to navigate and regroup as conflict emerges.
The second is reparative—the most expensive option.
For when there has been a big breech of trust, such as infidelity, this is when issues have become too large to handle alone.
Before going any further, there is a big problem with therapy right now, and it isn’t said enough.
Marriage therapists are sometimes rated very low, as Consumer Reports shared in their survey. Since couples are waiting too late to seek therapy, their effectiveness is inevitably low. By the time the couple is in the seat, one or both of them are checked out.
There’s a horrible stigma connected to seeking professional help. When we should be called “brave” because we don’t find ways to escape. We’re facing our fears and our problems.
Because we care about our future. We want to be happy and want to be loved and respected.
Quick Facts To Know:
- Most couples who divorce didn’t consult with a marital therapist
- The few who do, usually wait until problems are too difficult
When you see your problems as severe, you find talking to your partner as useless and try to solve it on your own, you start leading parallel lives, or loneliness starts settling in, then these are warning signs of inevitable separation.
Don’t wait for all these to happen before finding help, unless, of course, you want things to come to an end.
You’ve got options:
1. Marriage and Relationship Education (MRE)
This is offered in the form of a class or training, either online or in person. They cover a wide array of topics such as expectations, communication, problem-solving, forgiveness, perceptions and so much more.
If you want to get your feet wet and try something without spending a dime, you can try out our FREE 11-Day Communication Challenge.
2. Behavioral couple therapy (BCT)
This form of therapy focuses on the interactions between the couple, by replacing negative and punishing behavior with kind and generous actions. The emphasis is on communication, by expressing affection and handling conflict in a calm and cool way. Although, this will not always release resentment, there is #3.
3. Cognitive-behavioral couple therapy (CBCT)
Where the focus is on changing the way a couple thinks about their relationship, through selective attention (noticing some things and ignoring others), realistic expectations and beliefs, and fair judgment.
4. Integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT)
It teaches how to accept the incompatibilities and imperfections we can’t change, uses behavior techniques from BCT, and teaches adaptive emotional reactions to annoyances we inevitably face.
5. Emotionally focused couple therapy (EFCT)
The familiar pattern of one person withdrawing and another pursuing is identified and replaced with feelings of safety, love and connection. It’s very effective among those moderately distressed.
6. Insight-oriented couple therapy (IOCT)
This one examines past events much more fully than the other therapies, by understanding how past relationships are creating difficulty with a present partner.
All these therapies ignite empathy in some way.
These are all effective by research standards, if there is effort. When neither of you show up to these without effort, don’t expect much results. That goes for anything you invest in.
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