What Happens in Couples Therapy?
by Cynthia M. Braden, MFT
Partners who come in for Couples Therapy
usually start with one of these situations:
1. Both partners want to try to stay together,
2. Both are sure they want to separate,
3. Both are wondering whether to continue the relationship,
4. One partner wants to continue the other doesn't,
5. Partners are separated and need help with relationship and/or kids,
6. Someone wants individual therapy first
As the first step in Couples Therapy, it is important to know approximately which category you fall into. In other words, we don't want to be doing 'reconciliation' therapy with someone who really wants an amicable divorce, but is afraid to say so. So, as in all things, it's important to be honest.
If you are very confused about the relationship, and not really sure you want to continue, Individual Therapy is probably the best option. If you are in a crisis or domestic violence situation, Individual Therapy is also best to start. This gives you a chance to really vent and problem solve, because if your partner is there you will always have to exercise some restraint, and maybe not completely tell the truth. Maybe your partner can come in later, but it is okay to get started at first by yourself especially if you're very unsure or in a conflictual situation.
If you are both quite sure you want to stay together and generally getting along okay, coming in together is probably best. In my office, I am flexible about both people being there, and Couples Therapy is usually a combination of individual and couples sessions. Some therapists require that both parties attend all sessions to avoid jealousies and the perception of hidden information or 'ganging up on'. We can do it however you feel comfortable.
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