Couples Therapy: Frequently Asked Questions
By Dr. Bonnie Ray Kennan, MFT
How do I find a good couples therapist?
A skilled couples therapist will help you to interrupt your painful and destructive patterns and replace them with effective ways of interacting. Do not go to a couples therapist and have the same kinds of conversations you have at home. A good couples therapist has a great deal of specialized training. Couples and individual therapy are different. A capable couples therapist is directive, a strong leader who is willing and able to spell out what needs to be changed and how. She doesn’t sugar-coat the truth about the problems you have. In short, a good couples therapist has a strong, specific skill set and is someone with whom you feel confident and comfortable.
What if I want to work on my relationship and my spouse/partner does not?
Ideally, both partners will be in therapy, but if your partner is not willing, there are still things you can do. If you are tired of the relationship distress, start working on cleaning up your side. Small changes in yourself will surely be noticed by your spouse, and will impact the relationship. Often, spouses become curious and then want to come to therapy because they see how it can benefit them.
We’ve tried couple’s counseling before and it didn’t work. How will this be different?
I’ve seen couples who have had five or six couples therapists. Hopefully you don’t have to try that many times. If I am the right therapist for you, this will be a dynamic, high impact experience that will change your relationship. Minimally, you should become clear on whether you want to stay or go and have a sense of what it will take to change things.
How long does couple’s counseling take?
Plan on a minimum of 12-16 weeks. While some have benefitted from two or three sessions, it is unlikely that lasting change will occur in fewer than 12-16 weeks. Generally, longer sessions go deeper and are more effective than traditional 50-minute sessions. Eighty-minute sessions are recommended. After the initial assessment and working contract is established, sessions every other week may be most efficient while being effective.