1. Things are difficult right now and coming in right now seems natural. Therapy goals may be easier to agree on and emotions and anxiety in the relationship are near the surface which can make the process of therapy go quicker. However, therapy requires a lot of history and fact finding at first and building a relationship with the therapist, so the couple should be prepared for things to start slow at first. Some couples report immediate improvements just because therapy has started and each sees the other as putting in the effort needed to make changes.
2. The fight that led you to consider therapy has dissipated. But that doesn't mean therapy won't help. Many couples come in and talk about the frustration of unresolved arguments. These couples go through cycles where each pulls back from the brink and what follows is a period of “calm” where each decides to be nice to make up for the disagreement. Therapy may bring up unresolved issues quicker than they would in the natural cycle of the relationship. This may be stressful because of how disagreements go, but therapy is about changing the pattern and the quicker that can be shown, the quicker the couple can see a different future for the relationship.
3. Therapy may be too late to save the relationship in certain instances. There is a point where going back is more work than either, any or all of the partners are willing to put in, and one may have moved on in more ways than one. For these relationships, therapy can ultimately be used to make the ending as amicable as possible. In this type of therapy, the progression is to emotionally uncouple from each other and, in instances where children are involved, to come up with a plan going forward to make it as easy on the child(ren) as can be by working on parents plans.
4. In this same vein, seeing a therapist after a relationship ends can be useful to help some people transition from relationship to being single. New labels for the self can be integrated or old patterns can be better understood before a new relationship.
5. For some, couple's therapy may first start as individual therapy for one or both of the partners. There are myriad reasons for this, including affairs, addictions, or depression or anxiety. Depending on the couple's therapist you are seeing, you may be able to combine individual and couple's therapy with the same therapist, or see someone separately. Personal issues can be exacerbated by the interactions in the relationship, so a couple's therapist may see causes and links between the individual problem and the relationship, offering a different avenue to healing and dealing with the personal problems.
6. Premarital therapy can help a couple to identify possible bumps before they happen and ultimately help by having a plan in place beforehand.
7. Sex therapy is something that works well individually and with the relationship. As one or both partners get a better sense of their own sexuality, it may be important to have help integrating this into the relationship if some things are at odds with the partner or so serious that is spells the end of the relationship, such as issues with sexual orientation or polyamory.
Ultimately, if you've put in the work to find a therapist, it can be beneficial to proceed and not let the legwork go unused. Therapy is a journey of the self and the relationship, and the understanding gained will not be wasted.
This Topic of the Week is written by Brian Swope, MFT.