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Should we go to couples therapy?

If you have a partner, nurturing your connection and working on your communication as a couple is always critical, but it can be even more important when you’re raising adolescents. These years can be turbulent, often requiring tricky negotiations with your children, sibling rivalry management, and a new set of parenting decisions. Not to mention, it’s natural for parents to have slightly different parenting styles, which can be such an asset for your family, but does take a little extra communication to make sure you’re still a united front. 

If your relationship with your partner has been struggling for a while, you may want to consider couples therapy. Not only could it help if you’ve been arguing about your adolescents — or worse, blaming each other for their behavior — but it could help you both model a healthy relationship for your children. 

And even if you’re feeling pretty good about your relationship, couples therapy can help you establish a better understanding of yourself and deepen your connection to each other. 

Reasons couples seek out therapy

Some of the common reasons include:

  • Fighting more than usual
  • Feeling stuck in frustrating patterns
  • Dealing with issues of broken trust
  • Inability to communicate effectively
  • Unresolved resentment or tension
  • Serious parenting disagreements or challenges
  • Constant criticism or defensiveness
  • Less intimacy and a growing disconnect
  • A child in therapy

Types of couples therapy

There are many different types of therapy available — both in-person and, increasingly, online — but two of the most popular forms of couples therapy are:

  • The Gottman Method: Named after the married researchers John and Julie Gottman, this approach is based on the couple’s research into predicting what leads to divorce (with impressive 94% accuracy) and using that knowledge to repair and improve relationships. 
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): Pioneered by therapist Sue Johnson, this method stems from what’s called attachment theory. It focuses on rebuilding the emotional connection between partners and has been shown to boost relationship satisfaction for at least two years.

If your relationship has already reached the crisis stage, however, with at least one of you leaning toward splitting up, there’s also a type of therapy specifically for this situation: discernment counseling. Therapists who specialize in this area help you figure out whether to stay together or not. 

Either way, the goal is coming to a clear decision on how to proceed. If the verdict is splitting up, the good news is that couples who go through discernment counseling but still separate report more amicable breakups and co-parenting — which can make a huge difference for your children. 

How to find the right therapist

Start by asking for referrals from your friends, family, or healthcare providers. Word of mouth and personal recommendations can be a great way to find someone who’s vouched for. Many therapists offer a free consultation (15-20 minutes), allowing you to ask questions and see whether it’s a fit. It can feel overwhelming, but don’t be afraid to shop around — it’s essential that you find someone who makes you feel comfortable. 

Here are a few things you might want to inquire about:

  • What type of couples therapy do they offer, and how does it typically work?
  • How much experience do they have (e.g. years in practice, numbers of couples counseled, etc.)?
  • Are they registered and licensed? What are their credentials and/or degrees?
  • Have they worked with couples like you or who have experienced similar issues? 

If the therapist has a website or blog, you can also get a sense of their personality and philosophy that way, or by reading online reviews and testimonials. If you haven’t been discussing this or looking for providers together, once you find someone who seems suitable, the next step is getting buy-in from your partner. Many people find they just have to get the ball rolling by booking a first session! You may encounter some resistance or discomfort, but be assertive in sharing what you think needs to be worked on and why therapy is effective for those issues. And of course, emphasize your goals, such as better communication, more unified parenting, and/or reduced tension. You’ve got this. 

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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  •  Brody, Jane. “To Predict Divorce, Ask 125 Questions.” The New York Times. August 11, 1992. 
  •  Wiebe, SA, et al. “Two-Year Follow-up Outcomes in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: An Investigation of Relationship Satisfaction and Attachment Trajectories.” J Marital Fam Ther. 43(2):227-244. April 2017. 
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