Can a therapist help relationships?
I believe the answer is yes. A therapist can help relationships.
It is difficult to get two people to agree on certain things indeed on all things. This is very true if they have been arguing, and have come to see their partner as an enemy. Relationship therapy can help restore or develop a way of dialogue and mutual empathic understanding that can help heal wounded relationships.
Relationships are about trust, so it won’t come as a surprise that therapeutic enterprises to help relationships also involve the establishment of trust. Couples who enter therapy, are seeking a solution – a fix, but my aim is to get an understanding of both sides of the problem, from both partner’s perspective including how their past is involved in the present. The goal of therapy is not to “fix” the problem, but to build or re-establish or develop those aspects of the relationship that helps both partners to communicate better.
The goal of treatment is to talk, learn how to communicate feelings and understand pressures, both on the self, the other and the couple. My role, as I see it, is to create a space where the damaged relationship can find a voice to explore a way forward. It has to be acknowledged that the result may be the ending of a relationship, but even in this circumstance, the ending can be less painful.
Life for many of us is stressful, children, elderly parents, money, work or just life can eat up time and lead to less time for each other.
If your relationship is in trouble, there are a few things you can try before getting a therapist:-
- Avoid important relationship discussions late at night. The chances are that you’ll be tired or have taken alcohol, or both – agree a time the next day, or even at the weekend, when you are alert, clear headed and free of interruptions.
- If either member in the relationship feels it is difficult to open up emotionally, or isn’t good at talking, or feels they get interrupted all the time, or shouted down, then it’s worth working to the 10-minute rule. This means that you sit down together to discuss things calmly and you each have ten minutes of uninterrupted talking time to put your view across. Neither or you must interrupt or swear, or shout, or charge out. You just talk when it’s your turn, and listen when it’s not. If you need another 10 minutes each, then have it. But agree before you start that you won’t let this discussion go on all night. Discussions that go on and on will not foster communications.
- Try to be pleasant and respectful to each other even if things aren’t going great. A smile and a thank you when appropriate keeps things civil, I believe that if you are shouting at, or being shouted at, then there is no useful communication. Basically whilst saying you are angry about something in a calm but assertive way is better than ranting at your partner.
- Avoid being just critical, and certainly avoid generalising – i.e. I do not like the way you do this, is better than you always do…
- Also avoid withdrawal, men are more inclined to this than women, but try to talk about it!
- Do try and do things together, date nights may sound corny to some, but why not. Consider taking it in turns to organise, and be prepared to ‘have a go’ at something new.
When do you definitely need therapy?
Most therapists will tell you that couples tend to come for therapy as a last resort. And often they leave it so long before coming that at least one of the partners is past caring. So, do seriously consider therapy in time to do some good, especially if:-
- One of you is very insecure, clingy or jealous and this is ruining the relationship;
- You’re both moody with each other most of the time;
- One or both of you can’t discuss feelings with the other;
- Discussions always turn into rows;
- One or other of you is unhappy much of the time;
- When you are arguing over the same thing over and over again.
- You’ve stopped having sex, and this is an issue for one of you.
Men and women are different in terms of communication, work at understanding this and see it as a style rather than an attack. Research shows, that women feel it is more important to have emotional connection, and do this through dialogue and exchange. Men are more inclined to talk about things, and whilst women will explore the relationship, men will offer ‘solutions.’ This difference becomes more relevant as relationships age, but when relationships hit trouble, then these differences become far more polarised.
How do I choose the right therapist?
A lot of research suggests that the relationship with a therapist (rapport) is far more important than their gender or way of working. They may be very learned and have masses of qualifications, but you need to feel good and comfortable. Think of the first session – some therapists do not charge for a first session – think of this first session as a rehearsal. Trust your instincts, if it does not feel right, then seek another therapist.
- Do you feel comfortable telling this person intimate details about your life?
- Do you like their manner towards you?
- Do you trust them?
- Do you feel safe with them?
- Do you feel they want what’s best for you?
A good therapist:
- listens to what you say
- values what you say
- shows empathy and understanding
- doesn’t talk down to you
- checks you’re getting what you want from therapy
- deals with any worries you may have about the therapy, such as how you’ll manage when it comes to an end
- Expect to feel awkward and nervous at first. You’ll more comfortable as time goes on.
- Be prepared to be completely honest with yourself. Be prepared to face up to your fears. This can mean remembering and talking about distressing memories, intimate topics and private thoughts and feelings.
- There may be tasks, or homework, to do between sessions, such as trying out new ways of behaving or keeping a diary. Don’t skip these exercises. You’ll get better and quicker results if you complete them.
No therapist has all the answers, this is a two way process the more effort each of you makes will lead to a better outcome.