Choosing a Couple Therapist for your relationship can be daunting, and as many couples do not seek out therapy until they have been in distress for an average of six years, often the stakes are high when they do. This may be your last resort, and if so, you will want to find a therapist that is a good fit.
IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: Often couples try a therapist and, finding that they are not a good fit, give up on the profession of couple therapy entirely. However, if you consider the process of finding a good mechanic, dentist, or family doctor, often the first person you try does not work out, yet you keep looking. I would encourage the same attitude for couple’s therapy, because the evidence is there that it can, and does, work. Especially if you have a good working relationship with your therapist.
1) Search for a therapist that specializes in couple therapy—Many therapists who actually spent a large amount of their training and further education on individual counselling will also see couples. However, couple therapy takes a different skill set, and at times, a different perspective than individual therapy. As there are educational degrees, programs, and further workshops that are specifically geared towards couple counselling it would make sense to seek out a therapist that has attended these. Feel free to ask them what percentage of their practice are couples, and to see a list of their attended workshops, education, and professional bodies that they belong to. If your therapist hesitates to provide you with this information, it may be a sign to look for someone else.
2) Your couples’ therapist should be there for you and your relationship. This means a few things:
a. You should never feel “ganged up” on—if your therapist is making catch all statements that seem blaming, or if the relationships issues are being presented as one sided, then there isn’t enough safety for positive change to happen, for either of you. Before leaving the therapist, however, you may want to bring up the issue with them. They might not realize that this is how they are coming across. Their response to your feedback will speak volumes.
b. In general, your therapist should not be making the decision of whether or not you should stay together as a couple. This is an immensely personal decision, which involves a number of factors. Your therapist can help you to explore these factors and examine your decision, however, it is less than helpful for them to state that your relationship is irreparable. Because as the research shows, most relationships are reparable. And when it comes down to it, you are there to see if you can heal your relationship. You want your couple’s therapist to be optimistic about the possibility of that outcome.
So I encourage you, when you look to book your appointment with a couple’s therapist, ask about their credentials, practice, and workshops. Inquire about what couple therapy modality they use, and whether it is evidence based (common ones would be Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy & The Gottman Approach). And once you meet them, if it is not a good fit, find someone else who is. Don’t give up.
Written by: Erika DeSchiffart, a psychotherapist with Capital Choice Counselling Group.
Capital Choice Counselling Group specializes in helping you find the right counselor for you. Our group contains several therapists who specialize in the area of couple therapy. To book an appointment or for general inquiries, please call 613-425-4257.