Understanding the How & Why of Choosing a Couples Therapist
by Kristin Kallas, ALMFT, LMHC
People do not know where to start when they finally take the big step of couples counseling. Most couples have never experienced couples counseling; for decades, “counseling” was taboo! Discussing couples counseling with friends and family wasn’t an option. People feel shame and embarrassment linked to admitting needing help in their relationship.
There are steps to consider when making that giant leap to couples counseling. All the facts bring comfort and confidence in choosing a couple’s counselor. As a Couples Therapist, helping couples have all the right questions to ask and the credentials to look for is part of my responsibility as a Marriage and Family Therapist.
- Find a therapist who speaks of building rapport in describing how they work with clients.
- Choose a Relationship therapist that both parties are comfortable with, including considering their background, age, and gender
- Ask the therapist what they perceive as the goals and ensure they align with what you want for your relationship.
- The therapeutic process involves ongoing consent! Speak Up! Participate in balancing the therapeutic time; you can not get what you want from therapy without using your voice.
- Trust yourself.
Typically, statistics report that couples go to couples therapy seven years too late! They arrive with the mindset of couple’s therapy as their last-ditch effort. There is this stigma that relationships shouldn’t be complex and that admitting your relationship has troubles is shameful. In reality, relationships are complicated! There are signs to look for in your relationship that are yellow flags, saying hey, we need help.
- Speaking disrespectfully to one another consistently
- Repeating the same fight over and over
- Resentment and stonewalling your partner
- Withholding affection or sex as a weapon
The most crucial goal of couples therapy is that each partner feels their voice has been heard in the session. Therapists can help couples express their feelings about present concerns, such as managing finances, division of household labor, work, sex, and raising and disciplining children. Marriage Therapists can help couples after infidelity or help couples work through other issues like lack of communication or rebuilding trust.
Couple’s Therapists help relationships work through many difficult life adjustments such as:
- Staying connected after having a baby!
- Dealing with an “empty nest”
- Processing regrets over never having kids
- Dealing with general disconnectedness
- Handling changes in sexual relationships or lack of intimacy
- Making major life decisions together
- Navigating betrayal, including infidelity
- Rebuilding trust, friendship, and respect
Many mental health professionals qualify for marital and couples therapy, but not all therapists have specific licensed clinical training. Credentials to look for include LMFT, ALMFT, MFT; Sex therapists also have training in this area. Marriage and family therapy is built on a foundation of systems theory, which, when applied to life’s problems, paves a path to wellness without stigmatization (no judgment necessary)!
MFTs are specifically trained to view couples issues in the context of our primary relationships – partners, parents, and children, as well as our secondary and tertiary connections. MFTs use a wide lens to capture the more extensive system that makes up a client’s experience. When an individual, a couple, or a family is dealing with a difficult situation, working with an MFT is an excellent choice. They will acutely assess your situation and provide treatment tailored to the unique problem or problems you face.
MFTs often come into the field due to our own recovery journeys. Marriage and Family Therapists have a unique skill set that differentiates them from other mental health professionals. We are often overlooked or listed under “or similar training” on a job description after “LCSW, LCPC preferred.” MFT training is intensely clinical compared to other professional programs. Marital and couples therapy is a worthwhile investment for couples wanting to strengthen their relationship.
Remember that your relationship is unique, and what works for one couple may or may not work for all. Making progress in counseling depends significantly on the therapy process and your commitment to making changes and improvements in the long term.
AAMFT Blog May 2017 blog.aamft.org Angela Skurtu LMFT
What Is Marriage & Couples Counseling? https://www.choosingtherapy.com/marriage-couples-counseling/