So you’ve decided to look for a couples therapist. Great! But now, how do you find the one that’s really right for you and your situation? This blog is the first in a series about how to pick a couples therapist who fits you really well.
Part One: Bias
The first thing to look for is someone who can stay unbiased. Someone who can keep both people’s perspectives balanced without leaning towards one person or the other, and without leaning towards one particular relationship outcome. Because either of those biases will erode the trust within the therapy relationship, and possibly within the couple’s relationship as well.
Does the therapist see one person as having caused the problems? Does the therapist side with someone who’s injured when it comes to assigning blame? It’s very easy to side with the person who seems most hurt, but it’s a lot harder to see how both people are hurting in a situation that may have, on the surface, hurt one person more than the other.
You’re probably wondering, “How the heck can a therapist keep from taking someone’s side? What does that even look like??”
One of the unique things about the way I work is that I look at the problem as something that happens to the relationship, not something that is inside the relationship. So you’ll never hear me say, “This is a bad relationship” or “This problem is Bob’s fault” or “This wouldn’t have happened if Susan hadn’t done X.” Instead, I think about relationship problems – both big and small – as coming from both people feeling hurt and reacting in a way that’s not their best. Thinking this way, it’s much easier to keep both people’s perspectives in mind.
The other thing that’s very important is for the therapist to stay neutral about is whether or not the relationship should continue. This isn’t to say that the therapist won’t help you work towards staying married if that’s what you want, or that the therapist won’t help you work towards separation and divorce if that’s what you’ve decided is right for you. The key here is that the therapist is focused on your goals as they change and grow over the course of therapy.
Why is this so important?
Let’s say you come to couples therapy and both of you have decided it’s time to separate and get divorced. However, as couples therapy progresses, you both might realize you would rather try to work towards reconciliation instead of divorce. If the therapist has a personal investment in the outcome of your relationship, they might try to steer you in a direction you no longer want. That’s not good service.
Instead of being invested in my opinions about how your relationship should or shouldn’t go, my investment is in what you both want, and what’s best for your relationship. Don’t get me wrong – I usually like my opinions, and it’s sad for me to see a couple who’s been struggling to connect finally decide it’s time to part ways. But the most important part here is YOU, because this is YOUR life and YOUR relationship.
Have you ever had a therapist who was more interested in their own opinion than yours? I’d love to hear about it either by email or in the comments. And if you like what you’re reading, please sign up for my newsletter so you can get my blog updates by email.