Are you unsure what marriage therapy or couples counseling looks like? You’re not alone. There has been a negative label placed on marriage therapy for a long time and misinformation has spread. Luckily, we have started to see a turn from the negative to the positive and many celebrities, movies, television shows, and mental health providers are speaking out about the benefits of therapy.

As grateful as we are to see an increase in the interest of therapy and an increase in positive representation in movies and/or television shows there still seems to be a lot of myths about therapy that even the movies and/or television shows are spreading. I am here to help debunk some of these myths and provide some realistic expectations of marriage therapy and couples counseling.

Let’s Break it Down

What it is not:

Therapy is not a fix to all major problems.

What it is:

Therapy is an open safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings about the relationship.

All too often we have couples attending sessions and exploring everything they believe is going wrong with the relationship and expecting things to be resolved or improve after a few sessions. The reality is that therapy can and will often take a handful of sessions before we even start to notice change. Even just the acknowledgment of issues and concerns within the relationship, in a safe and comfortable space, can be the step needed to start to see change within the relationship.

What it is not:

Therapy is not an opportunity for a screaming and/or yelling match between partners.

What it is:

Therapy is one of the best resources to help better understand healthy communication and relationships.

During therapy sessions your therapist will direct you and your partner towards a healthier form of communication. Before attending therapy with your partner you should ask yourself if you are open to influence and accepting of suggestions towards how to improve your relationship.

What it is not:

Therapy is not a last ditch effort to “save” the relationship.

What it is:

Therapy is a guide to a better and healthier relationship.

This is a common theme we see in couples therapy. Therapy is often dangled as bait for a partner in order to maintain the relationship. Marriage and Couples counseling is not only used as a resource to help “save” a relationship but it should be used to help improve the relationship at any point in time. I encourage client’s to not wait until the last minute to attend therapy if you believe there should be changes within your relationship.

What it is not:

Therapy is not an opportunity to blame your partner.

What it is:

Therapy is an opportunity to grow as individuals and as a couple.

Marriage and Couples counseling results in not only the relationship improving but the individuals within the relationship growing as well. It can be easy to pinpoint and blame our partner for their wrong doing but are we willing to look at ourselves and identify what we can be doing better as well?

What it is not:

Your therapist tells you exactly what you need to do.

What it is:

Therapist will provide suggestions to improve connection and groundwork for the relationship.

Yes, your therapist will provide suggestions that we know help improve relationships and that help resolve issues within relationships. This does not mean that these suggestions will always work for you and your partner. Your therapist will cater suggestions and homework assignments to you and your partner and what works best for your relationship dynamic. You and your partner are in control of what suggestions you follow through with and you can adjust any suggestions to best fit your needs.

What it is not:

Therapy is not a space for judgment towards behaviors and your therapist will not identify all the things your partner or you are doing wrong.

What it is:

Therapy is a Non-judgmental space and your therapist can normalize behaviors and emotion.

Nobody is perfect. What is perfection anyway? It is all subjective and relative. Therapy is your moment to explore behaviors and where they come from. Therapy allows you to recognize you are not alone and that change is possible. Therapy can help us as individuals and as a couple learn from past and/or current behavior and better get to know ourselves and who we would like to be.

What is is not:

Your therapist will never provide proof or say your relationship won’t/isn’t going to work.

What it is:

Your therapist will help Identify what is contributing to a negative cycle or unhealthy patterns within the relationship.

When identifying negative cycles within relationships your therapist is providing an opportunity for change and growth. Because there are negative cycles or unhealthy patterns currently within a relationship does not mean those can not be changed. Your therapist is there to help couples identify these patterns and provide support to change them.

What it is not:

A therapist who takes “sides”.

What it is:

Your therapist or counselor is an unwavering 3rd party and will explore multiple perspectives.

I’ll tell you a secret, it is okay to disagree. Disagreements do not have to lead into arguments unless we let them. As soon as we identify who is “Correct” or who is “Wrong” then we neglect to recognize differences in opinion. In couples therapy your therapist will help guide each individual into better understanding their partner’s perspective and not identify who is “Correct” or who is “Wrong”.

What is not:

Your therapist telling you to break up, or the problems can’t be fixed.

What it is:

Therapy is helpful in finding solutions to stuck patterns or problems.

We know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Oftentimes we find couples exhibiting the same solution to different problems and driving themselves crazy when it does not work. Your therapist will never tell you that your problems can’t be fixed but they will help you identify alternative solutions to continued problems.

Marriage and Couples Therapy Looks Differently for Every Couple

This is YOUR opportunity to grow as a person and a couple. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need from your therapist or identify what you believe might be helpful to explore during sessions. This list is not a patent blueprint for every therapist and/or therapy session, these are some common themes and approaches most marriage and couples therapists have. If you are interested in attending therapy as a couple or individual but are hesitant as to how it might go, please feel free to reach out and ask for a consultation.