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What to Look for When Starting Couples Therapy

Kathy Kinghorn

August 26, 2022

Healthy relationships can be incredibly rewarding, but they also require a lot of work. Sometimes, that work can feel overwhelming—but you and your partner don’t have to handle it all by yourselves. Couples therapy can help you identify and resolve the challenges that exist in your relationship, whether you’re dealing with specific events or simply looking for a way to improve your dynamic.

Therapy Utah has been providing high-quality couples therapy services for years, and we’re always happy to share our firsthand knowledge with people who are considering couples therapy for the first time. Below, we’ll cover several common approaches to couples therapy, show you some green flags that indicate strong therapeutic matches, and provide some tips you can use to get ready before starting.

What Kinds of Couples Therapy Are There?

Numerous approaches to couples therapy exist—some are aimed at helping the participants build problem-solving skills together, while others focus on finding solutions to specific problems or examining each other’s attachments. The following are some of the most popular approaches:

Gottman Method

The Gottman Method aims to improve intimacy, respect, and affection between partners. It focuses on removing barriers that lead to stagnancy with the relationship so that each participant can develop a deeper and more compassionate understanding of their partner and learn how to solve challenges with them more effectively.

One of the core concepts within Gottman Method couples therapy is the Sound Relationship House—a way of visualizing the relationship as being built on pillars of trust and commitment. Building this “house” from the ground up involves numerous tasks, such as creating love maps and developing positive perspectives so that conflicts can be managed and each partner can support the other’s goals.

Therapy Utah offers Gottman Method therapy to couples who are seeking to improve their friendships and find better ways of communicating within their relationships.

Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)

EFT helps participants identify potentially destructive patterns in their relationships that can impact their ability to bond meaningfully with their partners. An attachment-based methodology, this form of couples therapy seeks to give participants tools for finding and removing the negative habits that can otherwise make their connection to each other less secure.

Much of the work in EFT involves partners developing their emotional accessibility, responsiveness to each other, and mutual engagement. This occurs over three stages: de-escalation, restructuring interactions, and consolidation.

Therapy Utah offers Emotion Focused Therapy to couples who are trying to make their connection healthier, more sustainable, and more rewarding.

Reflective Listening

Reflective Listening is a communication style aimed at letting others know they have been heard and understood. It involves learning how to interpret and display body postures, gestures, and tone of voice in addition to spoken words for more empathetic and effective communication.

Many people enter couples therapy to understand their partner better or to feel better understood by them. Learning reflective listening skills can help with both. By consistently practicing reflective listening skills, couples find it easier to communicate collaboratively and stop trying to “win” conversations.

Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT)

IRT aims to help couples recontextualize challenges by viewing them as the result of specific circumstances rather than fundamental incompatibilities. By depersonalizing the conflict and treating it as a problem to be solved together, IRT helps partners treat each other as teammates working towards a common goal rather than adversaries.

“Imago” is the Latin word for image—used in this context to refer to a person’s subconscious and idealized concept of love, formed via positive and negative associations usually developed during childhood. The work of IRT involves each partner learning how to reimagine the other as a wounded child and eventually restructuring the relationship around this new understanding.

Couple with sad expressions during difficult conversation

Finding the Right Fit for Couples Therapy

If you and your partner are interested in pursuing couples therapy of any kind, you’ll want to ensure you find a therapist who can help you reach your goals. Here are some green flags to look for when seeking a therapeutic match:

  • Specialized training: look for couples therapists who have specific training in methodologies that interest you and your partner. At Therapy Utah, our therapists are highly trained in Gottman Method, EFT, and numerous other methodologies.
  • Objectivity: it’s vital to find a couples therapist who will work on behalf of you and your partner to improve the relationship as a whole. If you and your partner both feel good about the person you’re considering, that’s a great sign.
  • Custom treatment plans: every couple is different, and no two relationships involve the exact same challenges. Your couples therapist should have extensive training in specific methodologies, but they should also be flexible and versatile enough to give your unique situation the consideration it deserves. Our couples therapists create achievable plans for every couple we work with, providing a structure tailor-made for each client’s needs.

How to Prepare for Couples Therapy

We recommend taking the following steps to give yourself and your partner the best possible experience in couples therapy:

  • Have goals in mind. Your couples therapist can show you how to work towards your goals, but you and your partner will need to set them for yourselves. Maybe you want to improve your relationship generally, get past a specific challenge, or assess your relationship’s health and status. It’s also okay for your goals to differ—your therapist can function as a mediator, helping each of you understand where the other is coming from. But it’s still a good idea to think about what you want from therapy before starting.
  • Stay open to change. Couples therapy requires honesty and a certain level of courage from the participants, so be prepared. Communicating complex feelings can feel challenging at first, as can hearing about them from your partner. At Therapy Utah, your therapist will work hard to ensure that every session is a safe space where this important work can be done safely.
  • Make time in your schedule. Couples therapy can be an intense process at first, so it’s best not to shoehorn it in around other commitments until you and your partner get used to going. This will help both of you prioritize the work you’re doing and give your relationship the best possible chance to improve.
  • Take time to find the right therapeutic match. At Therapy Utah, we don’t believe in matching every client with the first available therapist we have—we take time to understand your challenges and put you together with someone whose methods and communication style are unique to your situation. So don’t be afraid to invest the time and energy it takes to find a therapist who’s worth it—you’ll be glad you did.
Couple happy after successful couples therapy
Via Everyday Health.

Couples therapy can benefit relationships of every kind, whether you and your partner are in crisis or simply looking for a way to strengthen your bond. To learn more about our unique approach, contact us today and speak with a member of our team.

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