Does Marriage Therapy Work?
Marital therapy, and therapy in general, can seem like a pretty mysterious and anxiety-provoking process. People often picture opening up their deepest darkest secrets to a stranger they’ve never met. If this is what you imagine, you are right–in part.
Yes, in order for therapy to work, you will have to be honest and open up about what’s really going on in your relationship. However, it doesn’t have to feel mysterious and nerve-wracking. As a therapist, I try to make you feel as relaxed and natural as possible.
Marriage therapy can be a place where you can connect to your loved one again. It can be a place to finally resolve some of your old issues that keep coming up over and over. As your therapist, I work hard to get you to your goals. Where you were hitting your head against the wall, you may finally see a solution.
So what is marriage or couples counseling and how does it work?
Many people wonder does marriage therapy work? I liken the work that marriage therapists do to a mechanic. When you drive your car, you might hear a squeal or rattling coming from your car. Or it might break down often. If you are not knowledgeable about cars (e.g. myself), you will have no idea what is going on. You just know your car is breaking down and you want someone to fix it!
In comes the mechanic to save the day. They open up the hood. They drive the car, listen for the sounds. They know where to look to find the culprit of what is causing the trouble. And then they go for it.
Where this analogy breaks down is in the case of a broken car, you just drop off the car at the shop and they take care of it. In the case of therapy, you bring yourself to the therapy room and I teach you how to fix your relationship yourself.
Sometimes I model what it looks like and have you practice. Then I’d send you home to practice. It’s like the mechanic giving you the tools to fix your car and teaching you how to fix it! The hope is that in the future, you will be able to fix your relationship on your own, or just come in for “tune ups.”
As a couples therapist, where are the areas I look for to find problems?
- Family of origin issues. Oftentimes the expectations and hurts we bring in from our family of origin can cause tension in our relationships.
- Current stressors. I call them the “Big 5”– chores, finances, in-laws, sex and children. Most of my clients are dealing with at least one of those stressors and some are dealing with multiple stressors all at once.
- Mental Health issues: Dealing with mental health and addiction issues can be very confusing, both for the person experiencing it as well as the partner.
- Past unresolved issues. Lots of couples come in with unresolved issues. Maybe a past infidelity, an incident that hurt someone to the core where there was no closure. A lot of times the couple just moved on but the hurt was still there.
- Communication Patterns & personality differences. One person may be very introverted and feel pressured by an introverted partner to always go out, or vice versa. One person may shut down when in conflict while the other may yell.
These are just some of the factors I look for when I’m assessing a couple.
Once I see what is going on, I take the time to let you know where I feel things broken down. I direct people during session and out of session to do certain things that will build their relationship and make it stronger.
Oftentimes one or both people don’t want to change. Through gentle and respectful exploration, I figure out what is keeping that person from change. (Usually it’s fear, shame, or a childhood wound).
Lastly, I instill hope. I remind them that they are here, and if you are going to take an hour out of your day to sit in front of a stranger and talk about some pretty painful things, and pay for it, then you must be committed. And if we have that, we have a lot.
About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving the Milpitas, Fremont and San Jose areas. She is passionate about helping couples rebuild their bonds and trust each other again. If you are interested in couples therapy or marriage therapy, find out more here.
To answer the question, Does Marriage Therapy Work? YES, If you work it.