It is a unfortunate fact that most couples who are struggling don’t access professional help. We are saddened by the amount of separations and divorces that come about unnecessarily. These decisions are some of the most important ones you will make in your life and you and your relationship deserve to be informed and given the best chance at success. We believe our clients deserve to be informed on what to look for when choosing a couples counsellor.
One of the reasons that you might be hesitating to seek out marriage therapy is the unfortunate reality that not all couples therapy is created equal. Couples therapy is a specialized area of counselling and requires Post-Masters degree training in relationship dynamics and tools for bringing about positive change. A suitable couples therapist need to understand what make relationships tick and have an understanding of the issues couples face and how to repair wounds and overcome their differences.
Choosing the right Relationship Counsellor: A Checklist
Being informed and making the right choice about who you select to trust your relationship with can mean the difference between reconnection and separation. For these reasons, we want to give you some guidelines for choosing the right therapist for you:
Ask your counsellor about his/her training and qualifications in couples counselling. It is not enough that they have a counselling qualification and are registered with a professional body. These are also important but there should be additional training in one or more of the top couples therapy modalities such as Bader/Pearson Developmental Couples Therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy, Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy etc. Don’t be nervous about asking as a good therapist will welcome this question. Like explained above, not all cunsellors who do couples counselling are trained in it so be wary of this.
Ask your counsellor about her/his views on the potential for change in a relationship. Try to gauge whether the therapist will help you find solutions to the issues or whether they see divorce as a good option. If a therapist pushes you in one direction, that is not good therapy. The truth is that human beings have an amazing capacity to change especially with the people they love. Even though some issues are more deep rooted than others that doesn't change the fact that all relationship problems are solvable. Change is very possible and the right therapist will believe in you, inspire you and give you the tools to work through your problems.
You both should feel comfortable, respected with your needs, feelings and experiences validated. If you feel like your therapist takes a side and one of you is ganged up on, this is a red flag that the therapist has a skewed belief about the cause of relationship issues. It is also unethical. The truth is the blame game doesn’t work and is an inaccurate view of relationship problems. A good therapist will not ascribe to this but will make you both feel heard and validated so you can get to real solutions.
Make sure that your therapist works with you on setting goals for change early on in the work. Although you should expect some room for fluid processing, good therapy will also have structure and focus so you can set the intention to work towards real changes. Not having a clear direction can be an exercise in spinning your wheels and you both will grow frustrated with that. Good therapy will help you to show up, set clear goals, challenge you to meet them, pick you up when you falter and inspire you to embrace the process.
Carly Goodfellow, MA, RCC is an Integrative Psychotherapist and Registered Clinical Counsellor in Vancouver. She is the Co-Director of Vida Relationships, a team of specialist relationship counsellors who are committed to effective relationship repair.