Copyright 2013 Roberta Gallagher
What courses did you take in school that taught you how to be connected to other human beings?
If your education was like most, you were taught no skills and given no information to help you successfully and comfortably interact with the human race – let alone, with your intimate partner. Yet you may be expecting yourself to “naturally” have the skills and information to be successful with this most important part of life.
Consequently, a decision to end relationships is often made without seeking professional help. Or couples seek help too late.
When to Get Help
Being more angry than loving with your partner is a sign your relationship could be headed for trouble.
Feeling unheard when you make a request or ask for cooperation is also a sign that something is not right.
Suffering in silence when you have been hurt, or feeling suspicious, distrusting, or paranoid – these are big clues that you and your partner need some help.
What to Look For
A couples counselor typically uses a different approach from individual therapists. The skills needed to help partners and spouses work through rocky relationships together are very different from those applied in individual therapy.
In choosing a good professional to help heal your hurts, restore your trust, and repair your relationship, check out whether the therapist’s or coach’s priority is to seek solutions rather than to help you leave your marriage.
However, do ask when divorce or termination of a relationship could be the right course.
A good relationship coach will be a licensed mental health counselor. Look for these credentials after their name:
LCSW – licensed clinical social worker
LMFT – licensed marriage and family therapist
LMHC – licensed mental health counselor
These professionals are credentialed by the state to have the good academic training for helping people resolve emotional conflicts. To ensure you have the best coach, be sure they also have one or more of these state regulated professional licenses.
Most Relationship Problems are Solvable
Change is absolutely possible no matter how old we are. We are all capable of transformation. The right therapist or coach will ignite that hope and teach skills that will empower you and your partner to have a relationship that is fulfilling.
The best couples counselor will show that she understands your perspective and feelings. Side taking is sometimes necessary in couples or marital counseling, but there needs to be balance. The counselor should have the courage to confront a partner who is being disrespectful and overly powerful in the relationship.
If you are intimidated for fear of losing your partner, the therapist should focus on building your strengths so that you can say what you are feeling and be fully heard.
You always want a therapist who invites feedback and checks in with you as to whether you feel satisfied with the process.
Set concrete goals early. Within two to three sessions your should see some progress. The therapist orcoach should request that you bring to the session specific situations that cause hurt and anger.
Couples in crises need to focus on the present and the future. But it is important to spend some time on how your present behavior is influenced by your family of origin.
Finding The Best Relationship Expert for You
Although the best way to find a good therapist is word-of-mouth, some people are embarrassed to ask, and turn to the internet for direction.
Review websites for specific information about fees, special training, and all other office practices. Interview the potential therapist on the phone to get a sense of whether they are truly interested in you, and that their philosophy and approach to this very specialized work is in keeping with your values.
Experience as a couples counselor or marriage and family therapist is a very important factor being the right choice. Not every therapist has training in working with couples.