Does couples counselling work?

Constant arguing, slamming doors, threatening to leave and being terrified of what happens if you do leave! This leads to a common question: Does couples counselling work? Is it effective? A good question to ask is what does effective mean? If it means, “Do you promise we will stay together?”, then perhaps not. If it means, “Will we be able to make the best choice and decide how and if we remain together or end the relationship?”, then yes, it can be. In an article researching the treatment of couple distress, approximately 7 out of 10 couples experience a positive impact when they attend couples counselling.   “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy”

Another article states that 97 % of people say they got the help they needed! Unfortunately, therapy does not guarantee that the couple will stay together or magically be happy. In that same article, it was stated that approximately 38% of couples who receive marriage therapy get divorced within four years of completing therapy.   Now if that sounds all doom and gloom, remember the number above 97 % are satisfied with the therapy they received!!! Also remember, that sometimes what a couple needs is to end the relationship!!

If you are unsure that couples counselling is for you there are a few factors that may contribute to its success or failure. One indicator of success that we look at when working with a couple is the level of commitment that each person has to attend therapy, engaging in improving the dynamic and creating a healthy relationship.

If both people are willing and engaged participants who genuinely care about their partner then great strides can be met in changing the dynamic, whatever that change may look like. If one person is only attending therapy so they can say they’ve done everything but they have already hired a lawyer and leased an apartment, then the outcome of therapy is already headed down the road of change… even if only one person is truly aware of it. Another factor that contributes to the success of couples counselling is when each person can take responsibility for their part in the problems within the relationship and be willing to make changes to strengthen the relationship.

At Shift, we help a couple look at their individual needs in the relationship and determine which ones are destabilizing the relationship.  As needs cannot be magically met the couple will need to find ways to accommodate each other if the needs are going to be met. This is done by working with the therapist individually for one session to determine what the individual needs are for each partner. In another session, the couple is able to share their needs with each other and determine what needs are being met and what needs are not. It is often encouraging to see that some or many needs ARE being met. Sometimes people tend to only see the problems. Those needs that are not met are then the ones that are discussed. Each person will state their need and how they require it to be met, then through discussion they will either be able to meet the need or not. If too many needs cannot be met then a couple will choose how they can change the look of the relationship. This choice could include leaving the relationship. Sometimes that is the healthiest thing to do for all people involved. Good therapy will also assist in any change that may need to occur, this may include changing some of the expectations of the relationship, or ending the relationship, or encouraging one or both partners to work on meeting their needs through individual therapy.

Regardless of the conflict between two people, having a place to honestly and openly talk about the problem and determine if it is fixable or not is a positive thing. The therapist’s office is a neutral space where conversations that may be too spicy or emotional to have at home can be navigated. Your couples therapist at Shift will assist you in communicating respectfully with each other, being honest with yourself and your partner and determining what each person’s needs are within the relationship and if those needs can be met. Think of them as your navigator, they only give direction not solutions. Give us a call at 780 705-6463 to book your initial consultation now!