We’ve all heard stories about relatives and friends who seemed to have a decent relationship…. until they went to couples counseling. Then, they broke up. It’s scary to think the very resource anyone might turn to for help, might be the thing that causes relationships to fail. In fact, when I put this question in Google, several articles came up, like articles called: “Why You Shouldn’t Trust Couples Counseling”, etc. So, can couples counseling save you relationship? I’m a couple’s counselor and I believe that YES! couples counseling can save your relationship but there might be a few things to know when you are looking for a couple’s counselor.
What is the success rate of couples counseling?
This is a fair question to ask any counselor. We are a solid Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) “house” of counselors. That means we are deeply trained in EFT at Awakenings. EFT is based in the most scientifically-researched theory – Attachment Theory. In the research, ninety percent (90%) of couples who go through EFT find significant improvement in their relationship. In fact, about 70-75% no longer consider themselves in relationship distress!!! Wow! That’s good news about the success rate of EFT couples counseling. No other theory can boast these same results. The difference between cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and EFT is like giving a person a fish or teaching them to fish.
How long does couples counseling take?
This is another good question to ask about couples counseling. Couples often wait 6 years after feeling quite a bit of stress in their relationship before reaching out for help. Stage 1: Again research shows that it can take about 16 sessions before couples start to feel more organized in their thinking about their relationship. In 16 sessions, they should be able to describe the repeating pattern they are stuck in very succinctly. They should each be able to say what they are doing or not doing that contributes to their “stuckness”. (We all begin couples counseling being able to say what our partner is doing!) And then they should be able to articulate a better “move” – something they CAN do to get their needs met without triggering their partner. Stage 2: Perhaps after 24-40 sessions your whole relationship can change! By this stage, you know there are better ways of relating than criticizing or withdrawing. In fact, you practice in you therapy sessions telling each other more vulnerably what your needs are, about the longing you have for your partner, about the worries you have inside concerning being worthy, being good enough, being loveable, and being attractive. Both sexual and emotional needs and concerns are addressed in both stages.
What questions do they ask in couples therapy?
Therapists want to understand a few things in the beginning of therapy. Like:
- What brings you to therapy at this time? – they are looking to find out if there was a particular trigger or a chronic disconnect that made you search for counseling.
- What drew you together in the first place? Knowing about the good times, and about the feelings of connection and attraction help a therapist learn your strengths.
- What is an example of a time when things don’t go so well between you? This is a process question designed to start the work. The therapist might ask this question about emotional connection and sexual intimacy as both parts of a relationship are essential to a strong bond. Basically, this question gets you down to business. Then there are a series of questions to follow:
- Can you describe the trigger of a conflict or misunderstanding in precise ways?
- What feeling did you have about the trigger?
- Where did you feel that emotion in your body?
- What did you tell yourself it meant regarding your partner’s actions.
- What did you do in reaction to your emotions?
These questions lead the therapist’s understanding about your cycle. About how you get triggered and maybe how your reaction triggers your partner. EFT therapists want to work in emotion because this is where change happens. Just relating stories about conflicts is not the same thing as digging in to find out what you feel in the midst of conflict and stress. If you understand your emotions and your automatic responses (fight or flight) you will have more power of choice. You will then be able to act in ways that draw your partner close, create safety and intimacy.