min read
March 7, 2023

A Quick Guide To Couples Therapy

Anna Zelig, LCSW, walks us through the How, When, What and Why of couples therapy.

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Anna Zelig is a licensed clinical social worker who trained at the Ackerman Institute which specializes in relational therapy. Zelig specializes in many areas of relational therapy and has a strong focus on couples counseling and family issues making her the perfect person to tell us how, when, and why couples should attend couples counseling.

It is a commonly held belief that everything in life takes work. We readily enlist the support of personal trainers to help us get stronger, golf coaches to improve our swing, and tutors to help children master difficult material in school. Why then do so many couples think they should either accept relationship challenges or be able to navigate these challenges on their own? Couples therapy is an opportunity to increase intimacy, improve communication, and better navigate areas of conflict. It takes courage to begin couples therapy, so here are a few tips to ease your transition.

HOW? How do I find a therapist and know if it’s the right fit?

Finding a therapist can feel like dating. It may be challenging to know what to look for in a therapist or how to know whether you’ve met the right match. You can start by asking The Lanby’s Care Team for a referral to someone within their extensive referral network. Many therapists offer a complimentary consult call which gives you a chance to ask questions and make sure that the fit feels right. During this call you may be asked what brings you to therapy and your goals. You can also ask questions, and it is helpful to think about what you would like to know. It may be helpful to have both partners on this call to get a sense of what it will feel like in the couples therapy setting. Does the therapist elicit trust and comfort even during this brief initial interaction?

WHEN? When to start couples therapy?

Many couples wonder when to start couples therapy. While there is truly no wrong time to get started, couples often express that they wish they had started sessions sooner. If you noticed a small fire in your home you wouldn’t wait until your house was engulfed in flames, you would call for help immediately. Similarly, couples therapy can be a helpful process at the early stages of conflict. There is no need to wait until the conflict escalates to seek support. Couples therapy is useful for couples who notice they are at an impasse, for those who would like to improve their communication, or increase intimacy.

I found a therapist, now WHAT? What should I expect from our first session...

Starting anything new can feel daunting. As a couples therapist, I wanted to share some of the things I am thinking about during an initial session. It can be helpful for couples to think through some of these things before their first session.

-       Why now? What is bringing the couple to therapy at this time? It is important to hear about contextual pieces impacting the decision to start therapy. For example, a recent move, birth of a child or illness could be the catalyst for beginning therapy.

-       How does each partner view the problem? Who is impacted and in what ways are their views of the problem similar or different?

-       While couples come in wanting to talk about their problems, I also want to understand their strengths. What are the things that this couple does well? What aspects of the relationship do they want to make sure they maintain and continue?

-       Every couple has a distinct pattern or cycle. I like to think of this as a well-rehearsed dance where each partner knows the steps. You know the scene, you start a conversation in a calm way and then suddenly things quickly escalate, and one or both of you are triggered. You are back in a familiar place without knowing how you got there. You recognize the cycle and have been here before but feel lost about how to do things differently. Couples therapy will help identify your specific pattern, or “cycle of interaction.” Once you are aware of this cycle, it becomes easier to do things differently.

-       If therapy were to be successful, how would you know? What would it look like and how would you be engaging with each other? Before starting couples therapy, it can be helpful to think about how you want to be interacting with your partner differently.

Healthy relationships in which we feel connected and understood are one of the most important determinants of happiness. Couples therapy offers support in finding greater meaning and richness in your relationship.

As a member of The Lanby, your Care Team is available for support in all facets of your life including referring to specialized therapists. Book a consult call today to learn more about what The Lanby has to offer. 

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The Lanby Editorial Team