Four factors that increase the likelihood of success in couples counselling
Many couples have considered couples therapy at some point when they have been going through difficulties in their relationship, but may have decided not to go ahead with it for various reasons. Although there are no guarantees with any type of therapy, I believe that there are some factors that may increase the likelihood of success and I will now explore them within this article.
Taking that first step to enquire about, or access therapy, can be slightly daunting for the majority of people. This is partly because of not knowing what to expect, or even if you've had therapy before, there may be some fear related to not knowing whether you will connect with your therapist this time around. The first thing that could positively influence the outcome of couples therapy is if couples arrange a counselling appointment at the onset of the difficulties as opposed to using therapy as a last resort to 'save' or 'rescue' their relationship. Although accessing therapy at any time is sometimes better than not accessing it at all, the earlier that you can arrange a counselling session, the more likely it is that issues can be addressed and hopefully resolved. For example, if there are communication issues or there has been infidelity, exploring the impact on the relationship when those issues initially emerge, may be easier than waiting until things have escalated or have become a lot worse.
The second factor that can have a big impact upon the success of couples counselling is when both parties are committed and want to be there. If therapy is used as a ultimatum, or only one person wants to be there, then the engagement process and a positive outcome may be more difficult to achieve. A big part of the therapy process involves engaging with the therapist and expressing open and honest feelings within the therapy room so it makes a big difference when both parties are committed to the process. Another key factor whether you are accessing individual therapy or couples therapy is for you to recognise the importance of 'doing the work' outside of the therapy room. This may involve the completion of homework tasks set by the therapist, or testing the strategies that you have developed within therapy when you are both at home or in other environments.
My belief is that therapy cannot work if the only work taking place is during the time period when you are with your therapist. Therapy is more effective when the process flows within the therapy room and also when you do the work at home too. The final factor is trusting the process and committing to therapy for as long as it takes. Many couples find it difficult when painful issues are discussed within therapy, or when they feel themselves or their partner getting upset so they may end the therapy after only a few sessions. Therapy can undoubtedly stir up some negative emotions and feelings for clients but if you stick with your therapist and with the process, the likelihood is that you will achieve the outcomes that you desire.
Ultimately, if you can be patient, open-minded, committed, trust the process and do the work, then couples counselling has a higher chance of being successful. Remaining stuck in the negative patterns that could be ruining your relationship is a risk and going for therapy has an element of risk attached. The question to ask yourself is 'What type of risk am I willing to take when it comes to my relationship?'