Couples therapy, for many individuals, continues to be seen as this mysterious, unforeseeable process that can be very anxiety-provoking to embark upon. Depending on your culture, beliefs and value system, turning to an “outsider” may be a very difficult decision for either partner.
As a couples therapist, one of the first questions that I ask when I receive a call is, “is your partner motivated to come in as well?” Typically, when couples need therapy it is because they have accumulated many disagreements that are causing distress.
It would seem predictable that couples may disagree on how they should get help.
Below are a few strategies that I recommend to motivate your partner to attend couples therapy:
- Set aside some time to talk – Many times couples realize they need help during a heated argument. A crisis call to a couples therapist may seem like the best way to jumpstart the process. This strategy may quickly backfire and lead to a change of mind or your partner feeling forced or pressured to attend. I recommend setting some time aside to talk about entering into couples therapy when both partners are calm or getting along. This will give each partner a chance to express in a healthy way how much they value their relationship and fears of losing it.
- Choose your therapist together – This strategy allows a sense of fairness and partnership to unfold even before therapy begins. The therapeutic relationship is a vital part of a successful outcome. It is important that each partner gets to weigh in on what attributes in a therapist are most important to them. I recommend you each talk with the therapist before making a decision.
- Start individual therapy – In the case that your partner continues to be unmotivated to attend couples therapy, schedule an individual session for yourself. This is an excellent form of self-care for any individual dealing with the emotional distress of relationship problems. This strategy can help motivate your partner to start once they see the positive changes in you!
- Stay positive and be patient – Just because your partner is not ready to attend couples therapy when you are doesn’t mean they will not ever be ready. In matters of domestic violence, adultery, addiction and mental illness, it is imperative to get help right away for your safety. If your partner is contemplating attending and may need more time to think I recommend giving them the space to do so.
Porsha Jones, LMFT
Pjones @ GROWcounseling.com