TL;DR: As the leading online therapist directory, GoodTherapy.org provides struggling couples with the experts they need to turn their relationship around.
With 40 to 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce in the United States, there’s no doubt most couples will go through rough patches in their relationship. Big life changes like having children, moving to a new city, losing a family member or experiencing sexual difficulties can all put stress on a relationship.
But who should couples turn to during those times? GoodTherapy.org.
With a directory full of thousands of mental health professionals from more than 30 countries, GoodTherapy is the best resource for couples looking for a qualified therapist.
“The reason we need therapists sometimes to improve our relationships is because we don’t always know how to resolve things on our own, and people benefit from a neutral, objective third party, a therapist who’s trained and has the expertise to understand relational systems and relational dynamics,” said Noah Rubinstein, founder and CEO of GoodTherapy.
I spoke with Rubinstein in detail to discuss the most common struggles couples experience, the strategies therapists use to help couples overcome those struggles and how couples can find the right therapist for them.
4 struggles therapists help couples overcome
1. The search for redemption
According to Rubinstein, from childhood on, we all seek redemption in some form or fashion to resolve unfinished business in our lives, whether that’s finally receiving attention from a distant father, earning approval from a critical teacher, getting a withdrawn partner to open up and so on.
“We all have these burdens from our childhood, and there are many different types of burdens,” he said. “Because of these burdens that we carry, most of us are seeking partnerships with people who will help us to solve that, to complete that, to undo whatever needs to be done. The problem with all of this is that it’s unrealistic to get these deeper needs met by our partners.”
2. The end of the honeymoon phase
The honeymoon phase (those first several months into a relationship when everything seems perfect), is often the time when people are getting their needs met by their partners, but when reality sets in, that’s when trouble can start.
“The honeymoon ends when those deepest emotional needs … are no longer met,” Rubinstein said.
By expecting to have all of our needs met by our partners, and then realizing they can’t met every need, we wind up feeling unsatisfied in our relationships and look for redemption elsewhere, including work, hobbies or even affairs.
“Fewer people actually look at their needs in therapy and learn how to redeem themselves, which, in my view, is really the gift of therapy,” he said.
3. The belief of cultural misconceptions
Movies, TV, the Internet – all of these mediums create myths about what dating, love, romance, relationships and marriage are supposed to be, including:
- There’s only one perfect person out there for you
- Your partner will only have eyes for you
- Your partner will always want to and can meet your sexual desires
- A good relationship is only based on unconditional love
- A happy relationship has no conflict
4. The exiling of parts of ourselves
When someone’s needs aren’t being met, redemption is being sought elsewhere and stereotypical relationship expectations come into play, couples may resort to behavior that exiles their partner, like creating unnecessary conflict, alienating him or her from family and friends or tiptoeing around the issues.
Rubinstein calls this third behavior “false peace keeping,” which he describes as couples walking on eggshells in order to keep each other happy. In turn, this leads to unhappiness for everyone.
“When people start exiling parts of themselves to stay in a relationship, they grow apart, they become resentful, they lack fulfillment, they feel unhappy, they feel depressed. That can lead to affairs and that can lead to breaking up,” he said.
This is where Rubinstein recommends the tactic of “authentic peace keeping,” or being completely honest about one’s needs, wants, desires and feelings.
2 strategies good therapists use
1. They set ground rules
While a couple’s individual problems may vary from that of another couple, Rubinstein said each couple’s problems revolve around similar needs and the four dynamics above happen in most relationships, which is what leads people to seek out a therapist who can help them solve these problems.
“What a good couples therapist does is to help the couple work it out,” he said. “The therapist’s main job in couples therapy, in my experience, is to help the couple stay calm and compassionate toward each other and to talk about their problems.”
Rubinstein does this by first setting some ground rules, such as
- Speak for your parts, not from your parts
If you’re feeling angry, don’t let that feeling control your whole being and everything you say. Instead, try concentrating on the part of you that’s angry and vocalize that aspect.
- Speak about your own parts, not your partners
Rather than blaming your partner by saying statements that begin with “you,” use I statements to explain how you feel and how you’re affected.
If couples have a hard time following these ground rules, that’s where a good therapist steps in to provide a safe environment where each partner feels comfortable going to that vulnerable place.
2. They set the intention
Just like it’s the therapist’s job to provide a safe environment for couples to express their feelings, Rubinstein said it’s also the therapist’s job to set the intention of the sessions.
“You want to set the intention and say something like, “I understand that both of you are really struggling, but the one thing that we need to remember is that there was a time that you two were deeply in love, and our intention here is to get you back to that place again where you’re having compassion and empathy and love for each other. So can we agree to set our intention around that?”
The best way to do this, Rubinstein suggests, is for the couple to listen and stay curious about how their partner is feeling and how they are feeling.
“If we listen with curiosity, without being influenced by judgement and other things that can get in our way, we just naturally feel compassion when we hear someone suffering,” he said. “That’s how the therapist is really shaping and helping it to be safe and to be a very supportive and compassionate place to talk.”
While that may work for most couples, Rubinstein also recommends individual therapy for those who need to address any deeper issues.
“In individual therapy, we learn to care for those needs ourselves,” he said. “Oftentimes in couples therapy, people can begin to see how they were seeking redemption in their partner, and I think a good therapist will help people to learn to give themselves what they need.”
5 ways to find the right therapist for you
1. Use a directory
Without a doubt, GoodTherapy has the best directory of therapists out there. Not only can users search for a therapist who specializes in their particular needs, but GoodTherapy also has some of the highest standards around.
“In addition to requiring all of our therapists to have a graduate level degree … they have to be licensed or under the supervision of someone who’s licensed or sometimes, especially in international locations, they have to be in a jurisdiction where there isn’t a requirement to be licensed.”
In addition, any therapist who wants to join the directory has to verify the work they do follows Rubinstein’s “elements of healthy therapy,” which include:
- A collaborative environment
- Empowering clients to be their own therapist
- Using nonpathologically-based approaches
“These are the values that I stand for and that GoodTherapy.org stands for, and we’re very selective about the people who join our directory,” he said.
2. Do a background check
Before picking a therapist, check their credentials, review their website for legitimacy and always ask for a free consultation to get a feel for the work they do.
Rubinstein also said look for:
- Someone who makes you feel safe
- Someone who has empathy
- Someone who is authentic
- Someone who doesn’t use psycho babble or labels
- Someone who refers to you as a person and not a patient
- Someone who doesn’t make guarantees
- Someone who doesn’t have a lot of patient complaints, which can be seen by checking with your state’s licensing board.
3. Ask questions
So what should you ask yourself when looking for the right therapist for your needs? Start here:
- What are their credentials?
- What is the scope of their practice?
- What are their ethical principles?
- Do they seek regular peer consultation?
- Have they taken part in their own therapy?
- Can they clearly define how they can help you?
- Do they accept feedback?
- Do they make too many guarantees?
- Do they encourage you to find your own independence and wisdom?
- Do they want to “resuscitate” the negative parts of yourself, or do they just want to “amputate”?
4. Do your homework
In order to get the most out of your therapy sessions, Rubinstein said be prepared by:
- Determining what you want your end result to be
- Reviewing your goals and progress
- Taking notes before, during and after
- Addressing your fears with your therapist
- Giving your therapist feedback
- Taking part in practices your therapist recommends in between sessions
5. Don’t believe the myths
For you skeptics out there, these are the myths you should stop believing right now:
- Therapy is what Dr. Phil does: interrogate, blame and shame
- Therapy is endless and will cost a fortune
- Therapy is no better than advice you get from your friends
- Therapy will make you worse
- Therapy is only for mental illnesses
“Ultimately what they want is an emotional connection. If you don’t have emotional connections, it’s going to be hard to feel safe and open up,” Rubinstein said. “Most importantly I think you need a therapist who provides hope and is confident.”
So if you’re seeking an experienced and trustworthy therapist, visit GoodTherapy.org today. Your love life will thank you!
Photo sources: hellogiggles.com, twimg.com, goodtherapy.org, usatoday.net