It’s no secret that there is still a stigma surrounding couples therapy that can keep people from seeking the relationship help they need. Associating feelings of shame and failure with counselling means that many couples wait an excessively long time (an average of 6 years!) before they seek the help of a relationship counsellor.

It’s time to change these beliefs. It’s time to change how we see couples therapy.

One way to break the stigma is to be aware of all the benefits couples counselling can bring. Overall,
couples who seek help are better off than those who don’t. Relationship aspects like satisfaction, emotional intimacy, thoughts and attitudes, communication, and the way partners behave towards one another commonly improve which is fantastic because these aspects are what many couples tend to have problems with.

Another way we can re-think couples counselling is by changing the “why” behind going.

Many couples think that they have to be in deep conflict to seek help. Some even
avoid going to therapy altogether because they believe their issues are too severe to be fixed.

This isn’t always the case!

Past research has found that couples who are in more distress actually show the most gains throughout therapy. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine conflict with your partner ever getting back to where it used to be, but people really do surprise themselves once they’ve put in the work to resolve their relationship issues.

Similarly, why not use couples counselling as a preventative tool and a way to foster a healthy partnership?!

Although less common, prevention programs for couples exist. They tend to take a bit of a
different shape than “classic” couples therapy, but they cover many similar topics that help partners strengthen and optimize how they interact with one another. And the good news is they work! Couples who go through preventative counselling are better off than couples who don’t, which means that it is a powerful tool for maximizing an intimate partner relationship.

So, whether you’re fighting with your partner every day, or you’ve noticed an unhealthy pattern of
behaviour that has the potential to cause serious issues in the future, couples should not shy away from
counselling. There is so much to be learned about cultivating a healthy relationship, and couples therapy
(preventative or not) is one of the best and most scientifically-backed methods of doing so!

 

Blog post by Ally Nelson, Volunteer

 

References:
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Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (1999). The marriage survival kit: A research-based marital therapy.
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Jarnecke, A. M., Ridings, L. E., Teves, J. B., Petty, K., Bhatia, V., & Libet, J. (2020). The path to couples
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Johnson, S. M., Makinen, J. A., & Millikin, J. W. (2001). Attachment injuries in couple relationships: A
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Roddy, M. K., Walsh, L. M., Rothman, K., Hatch, S. G., & Doss, B. D. (2020). Meta-analysis of couple
therapy: Effects across outcomes, designs, timeframes, and other moderators. Journal of consulting and
clinical psychology, 88(7), 583. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000514

Rutherford, M. (2017 March 1). It’s Time to Stop the Stigma Around Couples Therapy. The Gottman
Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/its-time-to-stop-the-stigma-around-couples-therapy/

Wolcott, I. H. (1986). Seeking help for marital problems before separation. Australian Journal of Sex,
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