Statistics suggest that couples generally get to marriage counseling seven years later than they should have so that by the time a couple finds themselves sitting across from a therapist, everything that could possibly have hit the fan has already hit it. Because of this, finding the right therapist is key. There are many things to consider when choosing the right couples therapist.
Of course, you want to make sure that the therapist is properly licensed and credentialed. Keep in mind, that those therapists that graduated at the bottom of their class share the same licenses and certifications as those therapists that graduated at the top of their class, so you may need to do some research.
Upon interviewing a prospective therapist, don’t be afraid to ask where he or she went to school and what types of continuing training he or she pursues. Remember, you’re looking to see if the therapist has specific training in various types of couples therapy’s. Some of these therapies include:
- Emotionally Focused Therapy
- Imago Relationship Therapy
- The Gottman Method
- Narrative Therapy
A good couples therapist will be well-versed in more than one therapeutic method since not every method is for every situation and you don’t want to be forced into the only technique that a perspective therapist knows. In addition if a couples therapist is a member of an organization promoting couples theories, that’s a plus.
Once you have established that a prospective therapist is properly credentialed and is well versed in therapeutic context, go ahead and schedule a first session. In the first session, you are looking to make sure that both you and your partner feel that the therapist understands and gets you. It does not help if one of you feel like you can work with the therapist and the other one does not. You are not looking for somebody who you can have over for coffee, go to a movie with, or invite over for Christmas dinner. The therapist is not your friend. You are looking for someone who can understand both of you, who does not minimize the emotional strife in the relationship, and who you feel can help you. Ask questions, ask what theoretical perspective the therapist intends on using, and above all ask about homework. Homework, or exercises when not in session are effective couples therapy tools and should be utilized throughout the therapy. Otherwise, therapy only happens in the 45 minute or an hour block you have scheduled once a week.
Make sure your therapist has enough time to see you once a week. Initially couples therapy should be conducted on a weekly basis.
Lastly, you are not looking for a referee to witness fights and arguments and decide who is right or wrong. You are looking for somebody who can understand the dynamics of your relationship, and help you to find a better way to navigate the emotional waters of crises in your relationship.