Is the first date too early for couples therapy?
The above question was posed to couples and therapists alike in this recent article, and while the statement itself might be a more hypothetical question, the thought behind it is a good one. At what point is it beneficial to seek out couples’ therapy?
As reflected in the article, many people perceive couples therapy as a solution to a problem, as opposed to a preventative measure. This line of thinking makes intuitive sense; if there does not seem to be any overt problems, then why seek out a treatment?
However, what this misses is the fact that difficulties in relationships are inevitable. It is not if we will have problems, but when. And when they occur, prior couples counselling could have provided the couple with a strengthened bond with which to face the difficulty, as well as different tools to manage the conflict. The research is there to support this idea as well, as an evaluation of premarital education found that “the best studies of the best programs have found positive effects” (p. 32).
This then leads us to the initial question—so if preventative couples counselling is a sound idea, when is a good time to attend? The answer may be different for every couple given their particular context, and there is no best practice yet developed from research. Nevertheless, if you find yourself moving towards a significant commitment with your partner, it may be a good time to assess whether a premarital program or couples counselling might be appropriate.
Therapy can also take many forms, it does not necessarily mean a long-term process, it could look more like a couple “tune-up sessions”. As the aforementioned research also states, finding a couples therapist as opposed to a premarital education program is also a question to consider, as a couples therapist may be better able to tailor the process to your needs. If you would like a guide on how to choose a couples therapist, you can refer to our previous post here.
In conclusion, when it comes to couples therapy, this therapist’s answer reflects a quote by Scott F. Fitzgerald, that “it’s never too late, or too early” to start.
Blog written by Erika DeSchiffart, counsellor with Capital Choice Counselling Group.