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couples therapy goals

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“You need therapy,” is a sentence our society has weaponized in a way. When someone says it to you, they’re usually very upset with you – in fact, you could be in a serious conflict. It feels like such an insult when somebody says such a thing. Even though therapy can be a positive and beautiful practice, when someone says we need it, it certainly doesn’t feel as if they wish for positivity and beauty in our lives. It’s somewhat like a condemnation, but it shouldn’t be seen that way.

Superdrug Online Doctor surveyed couples and individuals to learn about the impact that therapy – both individual and couples – can have on a relationship. Some of their findings confirmed the stigma around therapy, with 20 percent of women waiting up to half a year before telling a partner they were in therapy. The survey also found a good amount of concern that one’s partner would judge them for being in therapy. But ultimately, the study found that therapy is beneficial to a relationship. We also consulted individual, couples, and family therapist Latasha Matthews (pictured below) on the subject, and she expanded on some of the ways individual and couples therapy can benefit relationships.

 

Latasha Matthews

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Individual therapy can open dialogue

Finding a natural opening in the conversation to bring up complex or deeply personal topics isn’t always easy. When you’re in a relationship, and especially a long-term one that involves cohabitation, you can fall into the rhythm of only talking about groceries or work or weekend plans. When are you supposed to mention you recently had a troubling memory about your childhood or realized that you have self-esteem issues when it comes to your career? It’s tough to work it into the conversation. But the SuperDrug study found that as much as 51.7 percent of individuals in therapy sometimes tell their partner what is discussed in their therapy sessions. Just having that opening of, “How was therapy today?” can provide a safe space to bring up deeper topics.

couples therapy goals

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Some things are a one-woman job

We asked Latasha Matthews what issues an individual might work on in one-on-one sessions that would ultimately benefit their romantic relationships. She says, “Some of the personal issues that take place in individual therapy that would positively impact a romantic relationship are childhood trauma, trust issues, finances, anger and boundary setting, and selfishness.” If you examine those topics, you can see how they might be problems a person developed before entering a relationship, and exist whether or not the person is romantically involved with someone. Left unresolved, each of those problems – like anger issues or trust issues – can certainly be triggered by a romantic partnership, so there is a lot of value in a person seeking one-on-one therapy to address them.

couples therapy goals

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It can boost intimacy

Even if just you go to therapy and not your partner, you’re doing some heavy lifting for your relationship that you can both benefit from. The SuperDrug study found that couples in which at least one person has gone to therapy rate intimacy as good or excellent. Since therapy can help one become a better communicator, become more comfortable with vulnerability, and perhaps establish boundaries that allow for closeness that is healthy without being codependent, one can see how even just one person in a couple attending sessions could make for a better relationship. Imagine the benefits when both individuals frequent therapy.

couples therapy goals

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It can improve communication

If either your relationship or issues outside of your relationship are causing extreme emotions, it’s easy to take those out on a partner or react impulsively in the heat of an argument. Matthews says individual therapy is good because it offers “A neutral supportive party to help you process feelings and emotions and provide coping strategies [that] can help the person receiving individual therapy communicate better with their mate.” When discussing relationship problems with your partner, emotions run high, things can be messy, and it can be difficult to see the real problem clearly, which is why Matthews adds, “A therapist can identify underlying symptoms that could cause problems in the couple’s relationship.”

couples therapy goals

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Getting outside perspective

Over half of Americans in relationships believe a partner would benefit from individual therapy, according to the SuperDrug survey. That means that over half of individuals in relationships feel that their partner has issues that A) run deep enough to require professional help and B) are too complex for them to help their loved one with. Believing that a partner has serious unresolved issues that are impacting their ability to lead a fulfilling life and/or have a healthy relationship is a rather large burden to carry. If your partner has suggested (perhaps more than once) that you attend therapy, consider going, even if you don’t think you need to. The act of complying can relieve your loved one of a lot of stress.

couples therapy goals

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Nobody’s judging

There can be a lot of fear of judgment when one goes to therapy. The societal stigmas don’t help. If you’re in a relationship and then start therapy, there might be the fear of, “Well my partner will think I’m starting therapy because of him or because I’m unhappy in this relationship.” However, the survey found that over 20 percent of women in therapy began therapy after entering their relationship, so starting counseling once in a relationship isn’t uncommon. And while the study found men in particular fear that their female partners will judge them for going into therapy, women are more likely than men to disclose to a partner when they are the ones in therapy. How judgmental of it can women really be if we openly tell others when we are in therapy?

couples therapy goals

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Your partner isn’t your therapist

No matter how much your partner loves you and wants to support you during difficult times, when things get really rough, it can be a lot of pressure to ask them to lift you up. It can be a lot to ask just one person to keep you afloat during challenging times. Matthews says, “The individual therapy provides a space for the person seeking support to have a resource as he or she navigates life changes such as grief, job loss, meaning of life issues, mental health challenges, and physical health concerns.” Some of those topics are major, and probably should be discussed with a mental health expert instead of just those in one’s social circle.

couples therapy goals

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Find out what he’s really saying

As humans, we’re generally bad at expressing ourselves. This becomes especially true when emotions are high. You and your partner may have the same argument over and over again, and in it, you aren’t even really talking about the root issue. Something on the surface triggers deeper problems, but you don’t know how to identify or express those. It can be very hard to communicate that without seeming to place blame. “The benefits of couples therapy is it allows the couples to improve communication skills, discover the root cause of major problems, and create better understanding,” Matthews says. A therapist can hear what you’re actually trying to say, and help you express that, too.

couples therapy goals

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Heal after there’s been hurt

In some cases, events may have occurred that cause a couple to grow apart. Issues like infidelity, keeping secrets, mishandling shared money, or deprioritizing the relationship can cause problems when it comes to trust and overall intimacy. There can also be times when you reach an impasse with a difference and need to address that in a constructive way. When exploring how couples counseling can help these matters, Matthews says that couples therapy can “Encourage acceptance of one another, restore emotional and physical intimacy, decrease emotional attachment and avoidance, restore loss of trust, and provide a safe environment that allows the couple the opportunity to heal.”

couples therapy goals

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Address some practical matters

If you’re going to build a life with someone, you’re going to have to talk about some things that don’t even relate to intimacy or romance but can ultimately affect both of those things. In couples therapy, Matthews says, “Couples can talk about sex, finances, infidelity, parenting issues, communication, relationship goals, roles and personality styles, and personal stress and conflict.” Some of these do pertain to what we see as traditional relationship problems, but some just relate to running a household, rearing children, and managing finances. Keeping your preferences for those matters separate isn’t an option when you marry and/or have children with somebody. So couples who are making the shift from caring for just themselves to caring for a home or children can really benefit from couples therapy.   

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