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Should We Get Couples’ Therapy?
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Should We Get Couples’ Therapy?

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People often ask me if they “really need” couples’ therapy. I always smile a little when I hear the trepidation and doubt in their question. They sound like they’re trying to avoid a root canal, and they want me to reassure them that only very, very serious marital problems require therapy. 

Well, as a clinician with decades of experience in leading individual, group, and couples' therapy, as well as a person who has greatly benefited from therapy myself, I’m the last person you will ever hear saying therapy is not a necessity. And during this time of quarantine and political and economic strain, I think there has never been a more pressing time to safeguard our mental health and our relationships. 

So who needs couples’ therapy? 

  • People who want to recover after an affair.

  • People who want to improve their communication styles and find a way to stop yelling, stonewalling, name-calling, or other destructive behaviors.

  • People who want to re-ignite their sexual connection. 

  • People who want to find a way to forgive past hurts and let go of the past. 

  • People who struggle with trust or vulnerability. 

  • People with childhood trauma, especially sexual trauma. 

  • People with sexual anxiety and inhibition as a result of religious and cultural messaging. 

  • People who find that aging has impacted their ability to enjoy sex or reach orgasm. 

  • People grappling with health, money, or family issues that have impacted their relationship. 

  • People struggling with sexual performance or sexual pleasure.

  • People who feel that their relationship isn’t as fulfilling and meaningful as it can be.

As you can see, the reasons we need therapy run the gamut, but I find a good rule of thumb is this: If you have ever wondered if therapy can help you, it probably can.

Even if your issue isn’t ‘serious’ enough in your mind, I really urge people to seek therapy BEFORE an issue becomes serious. Treatment is always most effective when it happens before the issue takes deep root and spreads throughout your relationship. If you wait too long to seek therapy, it probably won’t be as effective. And in fact, this is is why I think therapy can get a bad rap, or people might say therapy doesn’t work: Because they waited to get therapy as a last-ditch resort before getting divorced, at which time their foot was already halfway out the door and the relationship was virtually unsalvageable. 

That is why I am also a big believer in preventive therapy. That is, seeking therapy and channeling intention into strengthening and deepening your marriage even when it’s humming along smoothly. You don’t need a weekly session if things are going well, but a bi-yearly checkup (like a dentist checkup) can help keep things healthy and fulfilling. 

Overcoming the stigma regarding seeking therapy in our society can be difficult, but it’s time we stop treating therapy like a shameful or embarrassing thing. We should ALL be in couples’ therapy at some point in time, if we want our marriages to be as loving and sustaining as they possibly can be, so we need to stop assuming that being in couples’ therapy means that your marriage is in trouble. It should mean just the opposite. When you hear someone is working in the gym with a trainer, you don’t think: Wow, they must be really unhealthy. Instead, you think, Wow, they’re working really hard on their health. No wonder they look so fit lately. I should do that too! 

Or when you hear that someone is taking a continuing education course like a cooking class or an art class, you don’t think, Jeez, they must be really hopeless if they need a teacher to help them. No, instead you’re impressed by how dedicated they are to expanding their mind and improving their skill-sets. That’s all therapy is, at the end of the day: Continuing education that we all need as we journey through this amazing, terrifying, beautiful universe together. 

And here is some good news regarding the COVID-19 quarantine: A recent survey found that online therapy can be just as beneficial as traditional in-person therapy. In other words, telehealth therapy can have the same positive impact on your marriage as in-person sessions would, and many times they often come at a reduced cost and can easily be worked into your schedule. So, there truly is an invitation hidden in this COVID-19 shutdown…an invitation to be more thoughtful and intentional about our marriages, and to channel our extra effort and energy into making our relationships as strong and passionate as possible. 

So who needs therapy? Well, I sure as heck do! I’m deeply proud of my career but I am also deeply proud that I am not ashamed to admit I am vulnerable and imperfect and that I sometimes struggle with self-care and being the partner I really want to be. Can you admit the same? 

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