What is Couples Therapy Like?

Research shows that couples wait an average of six years after the first signs of problems in their relationship before they seek help. When distressed couples enter treatment they are already demoralized about their relationship. This state of demoralization often raises the question, “Can this relationship be helped?” Challenges in life are not uncommon, and overcoming them requires both courage and strength.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

When couples come to Suncrest Counseling, experienced and intuitive marriage therapists help them find the tools and skills they need to navigate through the rough times. We practice Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), which is a research-based treatment for couples seeking emotional connection and fulfillment in their relationship. We assist couples in their quest to understand emotional pain, with the ultimate goal of achieving emotional safety. Couples begin to understand family of origin issues, identify relationship expectations and logistics, and, with the support of marriage therapists, develop joint goals and visions within their family system.

Emotional Safety and Connection

Marriage therapists create a safe and comfortable atmosphere, which promotes growth and progress in the couple’s future as husband and wife. Couples learn to foster respect, affection and closeness. They learn ways to connect on a deeper emotional level and discuss difficult issues in a calm and safe manner. The therapist guides them in the process of strengthening and maintaining the gains they have made in the process of marriage therapy. Our highly trained therapists share their expertise and experience, as well as provide inspiring and powerful guidance as the couple seeks to find fulfillment and joy in their marriage.

There Is Always Hope

Hopeful Couple and Relationship

It can be uniquely challenging to remain hopeful in Couple’s Therapy, especially when many couples wait until their relationships are highly distressed before they seek therapeutic services. The emotions in couple relationships tend to be highly reactive, largely because it is so important to feel loved by our attachment partners. When things aren’t going well, the level of distress escalates at a rapid-fire pace, and as a result couple’s therapy can at times feel terrifying as deep emotions are accessed. However, the commitment and effort of both people in the relationship toward a common goal of bonding has power to triumph over any events which have disconnected them in the past. It is important for couples to know that even if they have never had the type of connection they want, it is not necessarily out of reach.

Remaining Hopeful During Couples Therapy

Imagine That The Relationship Can Be Different

When a relationship has been negatively colored by conflict, distance or betrayal, it can be hard for couples to even envision that it can be different. One way to access this is to specifically visualize what the relationship would look like if it were to change.

Recognize That Negative Patterns Don’t Change Overnight

They just don’t, or at least they don’t on a durable basis. Just like practicing a musical instrument over time generates automatic responses, so do couple interactions. It takes time to generate new patterns, which will often seem awkward and difficult at first.

Recognize And Celebrate Small Successes

Often negative emotion is so absorbing that it can instantaneously wipe out memories of anything positive in the relationship. Sometimes therapists can offer feedback about specific times they have seen couples connect in session to remind couples about these times. Couples can also watch for and write down small victories in order to perpetuate hope.

Communicate To Your Spouse That You Know It Has Been Difficult, But That You Want To Create Something Different With Them

It is very simple to say this out loud. Many couples report how useful it is for them to get caught up in a familiar negative pattern, and slow it down by saying, “Let’s try something different.”

Acknowledge That Your Reactivity Is Likely Related To The Fact That This Is The Relationship That Matters Most

Couples receive very paradoxical messages from each other, and often don’t realize that the reactive behavior they are seeing is a result of how important they are to their partners. Spouses who seem unreachable and emotionally withdrawn often become so, because they feel it is so hard seeing the disappointment in their partner. Thus, while they look uncaring, the opposite is often true.

They disconnect as a way to try to bring the emotional temperature down in order to prevent conflict and potential disruption to the relationship. They in essence disconnect because they do care about the relationship. Pursuing partners who often appear critical and blaming are also frequently misunderstood. They are often lonely and want their partners with them, but in desperation, they often raise the volume in a way that paradoxically pushes their partners away. When the therapist points out that they couldn’t get the same reactivity by saying the same things, because the therapist doesn’t matter to them, they can see that this is the case.

Recognize That Just By Showing Up To Therapy, There Is Likely At Least A Part Of The Spouse That Wants The Relationship To Work

Marriage therapists are very aware that most people would prefer to be just about anywhere else besides the therapy office. Therefore, if they bothered to show up and expend resources for the relationship, they at least in part want the relationship to work. There are occasions when people will show up just to say they “tried marriage therapy,” when they have no commitment and no intention of saving the marriage, but typically, this is far less frequent. Overall, if both people are committed to the marriage, showing up is a sign that they are on a pathway to repair.

last updated: June 2022
Article By Lori Schade, PhD, LMFT