4 myths about couples therapy—and the truth

GettyImages 1324946088 e1713453080995

Jessica Holton realized the stigma around couples therapy when she and her then-boyfriend—now fiancée—were looking to go.

“When we shared with people we were looking to find a couples therapist, a lot of people said, ‘I didn’t know you were going to break up?’ And we were like, ‘No. This is the most important thing in our lives, and we want to take care of it,’” Holton tells Fortune.

Oftentimes, there’s an unrealistic expectation that relationships should be easy thanks in part to TV and in movies, and if they are not, we’re not with the right person. 

“We expect that a healthy relationship doesn’t need support, when that couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Holton.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Benu Lahiry agrees with this sentiment, saying the “right” way to do relationships is subjective, but our perception of “right” is colored by what we see and hear from things outside our own relationships.

“We are inundated with people’s opinions of what is right because we all want to feel good about what our choices are. So a lot of the reasons that you don’t see people reaching out for support around couples therapy is that it’s hard to acknowledge to ourselves and to other people that maybe I’m not getting this right,” Lahiny says.

Knowing what people typically get wrong about couples therapy led Holton to co-founding Ours, what she calls a relationship wellness company. Relationship wellness, she says, is showing up for each other and having a constant desire to grow together. It’s the intentionality of creating and maintaining a strong foundation.

Below, these experts set the record straight on some common myths about couples therapy that might be standing in the way of getting the relationship support you need.

Myth 1: Couples therapy is for relationships on the brink

People seek counseling for a variety of reasons, says Lahiry, who is also the chief clinical officer at Ours. She says she sees couples who need support through unexpected life changes or family planning. Many couples also go before a big step, like a job promotion, moving in together, or deciding to get married.

Every couple has something they could improve on, whether it be communication, time management, or navigating decisions. Having an unbiased third party to hear both sides and help navigate those conversations is a large part of the appeal to couples therapy, says Holton.

Myth 2: One session will fix everything

One session likely won’t change the trajectory of your relationship. The reality is that couples therapy, like other therapies, is more of a marathon and less of a sprint.

“It’s not fast, the therapeutic process takes work. And it’s not just the therapist that can do all the work,” says Lahiry.

The work—like spending more intentional time with your partner, or talking and listening to each other more—needs to happen outside of the therapist’s office too, says Lahiry.

Myth 3: If a session isn’t ‘happy,’ it’s unsuccessful

Therapy is hard work, and it’s not always a fun experience. That doesn’t mean it’s not working or worth it, though.

“Just because it doesn’t feel happy doesn’t mean that it’s not a productive and healthy session,” says Holton. “It doesn’t always feel good and anyone who’s been in therapy knows that. It’s the same for couples therapy; you can only do so much in a session.”

Still, each difficult conversation breaks down walls and allows us to reframe our emotions and understandings of one another.

“To have a successful experience in couples therapy, you have to be willing to sit in your own discomfort and acknowledge that your own psychology has played a role in this,” Lahiry says.

“I think sometimes, to push people out of their perspective scares them. Because if I don’t have my perspective, then what do I have?”

That scared, uncomfortable feeling often turns people off of therapy, Lahiry says. But there is no growth in the comfort zone.

Myth 4: The cost of couples therapy is too high

In a world where couples therapy is only sometimes covered by insurance, the decision whether to attend a session often falls on the bank account. It’s a valid concern; couples therapy can cost $200 or more an hour. 

The way Holton says she justified the price is that she was investing into her relationship.

“Sessions are a financial investment, but so is going to dinner or to a show,” she says. 

Having time devoted to just chatting with your partner about your feelings can be hard to schedule around work or family commitments, so Holton says putting it on the calendar with a therapy session is a way to ensure those conversations are had.

Still, many of us aren’t going to an expensive dinner each week. Luckily, the tools learned in therapy and conversations fostered there don’t actually have to happen on a therapist’s couch.

Card decks with conversation prompts are a way to facilitate those discussions. We’re Not Really Strangers is a popular company that has decks for relationships, and famed psychotherapist Esther Perel has a deck for couples called Where Should We Begin: A Game of Stories.

Many of these kinds of prompts can be found on Pinterest or other places online—for free. 

Though a deck of cards might not help guide or center a conversation like a therapist, it can be a jumping off point when unsure where to start.

“We’ve built so many of these tools to accompany therapy, which is lowering the barrier to getting started in conversations like what you would cover in therapy sessions,” says Holton.

“Seeing what these tools look like without even bringing someone new into your relationship is a less intimidating way to connect to each other.”

Though couples therapy is a way to be open and honest when there may be issues or miscommunications in a relationship, it’s not a cure-all. When trust is broken or other factors come up, sometimes breaking up is ultimately the best decision for that couple.

“I’m not a magician. I can’t wave a magic wand and just make all your problems disappear,” says Lahiry. The risk that being alone might be an outcome can deter people from having difficult conversations or seeking therapy to work through issues. But staying in a relationship that isn’t fulfilling and not speaking up about what is bothersome is just as harmful.

“The most important thing is creating a space for honesty, and finding how we can talk about the hard stuff without it feeling inflammatory,” says Lahiry.

More on relationships and marriage:

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top