Finding the Right Couples Therapist for You
Updated: Aug 18
Finally reaching out for help with your relationship is a significant decision. It can be filled with feelings of hope and fear. If you were anything like me you may be asking yourself, “how can I know whether they are the right person to help with our relationship?”
When looking for couples counseling there are a few major elements I encourage clients look for. One being expertise! Couples work is definitely some of the most challenging in the world of mental health as there are two important people, instead of one, that are being considered. Expert couples therapists have specific training in one or several methods of couples therapy beyond the traditional approaches to working with individuals, such as CBT, trauma informed, DBT, motivational interviewing, or ACT. Couples therapy methods that your couples therapist should have training and use of could include Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Gottman Method Therapy, Relational Life Therapy, & Discernment Counseling, Narrative Therapy, & Solution Focused Therapy. If you’re interested in the differences between these types click here. Expertise also includes years of practice, so you should be looking for someone that has at least 3 years post graduate training, specifically in couples counseling. If you happen to begin working with an associate counselor or intern you like and have connected with just ensure that they are also engaged in adequate supervision.
The second significant item I would encourage looking for is a personality type that you and your spouse work well with. If you are looking for strategies & tools you want a therapist that can be solutions focused & is comfortable with providing clear direction. If you are working through relational trauma and needing more awareness about how your childhood is impacting your relationship you may need a therapist who is patient & recognizes much relational rapport will need to be built before intervention. Humor, calm energy, & realistic outlook may be other personality traits that could be helpful. Most importantly, the single greatest predictor for success in the relationship between client & therapist, so experiencing a non-judgemental, open, & safe environment with your therapist is crucial. This has to be something both partners share with the therapist.
Lastly, it’s important that your marriage therapist creates structure, safety, & healthy boundaries in the therapeutic environment. This one is tough because you won’t really know if this is the case until you begin working with them. An example of a lack of structure might be inconsistent meeting times, lack of focus on progress or treatment plans and goals, or chaotic sessions. Emotional safety is extremely essential and a lack of it could include one or both spouses being allowed to escalate beyond what is productive or being permitted to keep secrets from one another. If any of these areas are lacking it would be best to discuss it directly with the therapist to seek resolution & change.
Your partnership is the most intimate & important attachment in your life. Please decide to trust a qualified professional to help you & be wise in who you choose to best meet your needs.