*For ease of reading, the term “couple” will be used to denote “people in an intimate relationship,” and is not limited to two people.
Going to therapy with your partner(s) can be daunting. Sometimes, people have the idea that couples therapy is a last resort – a death knell of a dying relationship or sign of failure.
Some might fear that the therapist will inevitably take sides and favor one partner's story over the other. Others still dread a judgemental therapist who sticks their nose up at relationships that don't precisely follow the rules of normative romance – queer, polyamourous, kink, what?
I'm here to tell you that, although these scenarios are rare, having anxiety about seeking help in your relationship is normal – but don't let those fears deter you from finding support when you need it!
So, What Can You Expect from Couples Therapy?
A safe, nonjudgmental space, for one.
When I work with couples, one of my first (and ongoing) priorities is seeing to the emotional and physical safety of all partners.
You can expect to learn and practice new skills with your partner.
In couples therapy, it's not uncommon to learn new things about yourself, your partner(s), and new ways of interacting. Therapy is also a space to put those newly acquired skills to use.
You can expect some discomfort, as well.
Discomfort and conflict is, often, a necessary part of working through issues in couples therapy. When things heat up, it can be hard to keep going, but sometimes there is a breakthrough waiting to happen. Remember, I will be there to de-escalate, moderate, and help cool things down.
Sure, it's chaos – but it's controlled chaos!
Some areas couples commonly spend time in therapy include, but are not limited to:
- Identifying Patterns of behavior
- Connecting and building intimacy
The number one area my clients want help with in their relationships is communication – and for a good reason. How we communicate (verbally or nonverbally) with people plays a significant role in the quality of our interactions. Couples therapy is an excellent environment to evaluate if our way of communicating is facilitating openness and intimacy or if it is pushing our partner(s) away.
That said, communication isn't just about what we say and how we say it. Communication is also about how we understand the messages our partner is sending up. Even the most carefully articulated message can get lost in translation.
Identify patterns of behavior
Feeling stuck? Having the same argument over and over? Sometimes people in relationships find themselves enacting the same conflict-inducing patterns time after time without even realizing it. Sometimes we are aware of these dynamics, but we don't know why or how to change it.
Identifying these patterns, investigating where they come from, disrupting them, and replacing them with healthier ways of interacting are all common goals of couples therapy.
Connect and (re)build intimacy
Another common area of intervention in couples therapy is increasing intimacy in the relationship. Many couples feel they've lost the spark they once had.
First, it is crucial to recognize that intimacy has a multitude of meanings. It spans all levels of connection with your partner, and a person's intimacy needs can vary greatly. Couples therapy can be a place for partners to explore one's relationship to sex, sensuality, romance, and emotional connection; discover new ways to connect; develop a sense of compassion for your partner(s) to deepen feelings of love and trust.
LGBTQ+, Polyamourous, and Kink Couples
Not all couples look the same. And, certainly, not all couples conform to the standards set by our cis- and heteronormative, monogamous, and vanilla-sex-having society.
I am proud to offer a space that honors and respects the natural diversity of human sexual, romantic, and intimate relationships.
No matter the identities or numbers of people involved, everyone deserves relationships that are happy, healthy, and safe. Sometimes, as with any couple, this involves therapy. Therefore, I feel it is important for providers to make couples therapy accessible and inclusive to diverse and marginalized relationships.