It can be challenging to convince a partner to go for couples counselling. Sometimes partners do not realize there is a problem, or if they do, they see that the problem is in the other person. Asking a reluctant partner to attend counselling may result in responses such as:
"I don’t want us to be embarrassed in front of a counsellor."
"I will go to counselling after you have fixed yourself"
"We must solve our own issues."
"Counselling costs too much."
"It’s not going to help."
"I am going to end up blamed for everything so why bother"
"I don’t want to argue in the counsellor’s office."
Helping your partner to recognize the value of therapy is often the first task.
It can start by talking to your partner about how much you value them, and the relationship. You may want to point out that you are work on negative interaction patterns with a goal of recovering the happiness you both felt early on.
While it is true that marriage counselling or couples therapy costs money, relationship breakdown, separation, and divorce come with their own emotional and financial costs. Couples counselling is often covered by insurance plans or health spending accounts, while divorce lawyers are not.
Repairing a marriage or relationship may result in communication and understanding that is better than what existed when things were good. In some cases, relationship counselling may also help each person resolve past difficulties that have triggered psychological distress outside of the marriage.
Relationship difficulties may have a negative impact on parenting, work, friends and extended family. Often individuals who will not attend therapy for themselves, are willing to come if it will help their children, reduce problems at their worksite, or will pre-empt difficulties with parents, siblings or others.
How to Find a Good Couples Counsellor
Focus on Change How to Find a Good Couples Counsellor
By focusing the discussion on the relationship your partner may feel less threatened. Many people are reluctant to change out of fear, comfort with who they are, or because they do not see themselves as "the problem". By suggesting that the difficulty may be in the interaction patterns, not the person, it reduces the sense of "blaming". Most people feel that it is easier to change interactions than who they are.
The next step is demonstrating a willingness to change within yourself. If you are willing to acknowledge a few things that "aren’t really working" in how you handle problems, and develop some solutions, your partner may become more interested in the change process. Tension in the home may drop as your partner sees you trying. As tension drops it may become easier to talk about difficult things in a calm manner. Your partner may also be more willing to identify a few things they need to work on, and to make a plan on how they might make those changes as well.
It is important to remember that people tend to be naturally resistant to change unless the change was our idea. While negative interaction patterns may be difficult to deal with, at least they are predictable. A change means that things are less predictable, which for some people can be quite scary. This very natural fear response why the first few steps to change need to be small. With small steps, everyone in the relationship is more likely to feel they have some control over what is happening. As they have success with small things, people are more likely to be willing to try larger changes, like seeing a relationship counsellor.
How to Find a Good Couples Counsellor
Good couples counsellors have training specifically in couples therapy. They are not just psychologists or therapists who are trying to apply their individual counselling skills to more than one person at a time. Rather, good couples therapists have training in the therapies that research shows are the "gold standard" for relationship work. Emotion Focused Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Family Systems Therapy are all well researched, recommended therapy approaches for marital, relationship, and couples counselling.