4 Benefits of Couples Therapy

Couples therapy or relationship counseling is a form of psychotherapy that aims to identify and resolve conflicts and challenges that might be the cause of dissatisfaction between two people.

The most defining four benefits of couples therapy are:

Improved Communication

One of the biggest benefits opting for couples therapy is the improved communication between the two partners. Conflict often arises when either or both the parties are unable to effectively communicate to their partner their deepest wants and needs. Therapy aims to teach both the partners to be more open and honest with one another, establish stronger communication and increase conflict resolution - how to fight right. What’s more, it encourages you to actively listen to what your partner has to say in a calm and collected manner. Finally, couples therapy can help your uncover communication patterns that are destructive to the relationship and replace them with healthy forms of communication.

Better Understanding

By teaching couples how to strengthen their communication skills, therapy also aids in allowing better understanding. When there is a lack of adequate communication, there is a lack of understanding that eventually leads to an emotional disconnect. Therapy can help increase understanding of each others point of view in a way that enables them to effectively realize their partners desires/wishes, worries/concerns, and wants/expectations in a more empathetic manner.

Increased Emotional Intimacy

Unresolved, festering conflicts can drive a serious wedge between couples. Therapy and relationship counseling teaches couples to rediscover one another. Moreover, it allows the couple to repair their somewhat battered emotional and physical connection. By removing the distresses that separate them, therapy allows couples the opportunity to increase emotional intimacy for a deeper connection. Increasing deeper emotional intimacy and increase positive physical intimacy as well.

 Moving Past Lingering Negative Feelings

While most couple still have strong emotional ties to one another, unresolved conflicts tend to overwhelm those emotional bonds to the point that it can feel impossible to reconcile. Therapy can help uncover negativity and unresolved conflicts that has festered and lingered to the point that the relationship has broken down and feelings of love and respect have dwindled. Therapy teaches couples how to understand, accept, and forgive in order to let go of the past and instead focus on the present. This can restore and renew feelings of love and passion for your partner.

How to Support a Depressed Partner

Mental disorders are as stressful on the families of the individual suffering from them – depression in particular. A highly complex condition in itself, dealing with depression can leave one completely drained, and the loved ones confused and unsure about how to support them. Here are a few ways to provide the very necessary support a depressed partner or spouse needs:

Patience

One of the best things that you can do to support your spouse when they are depressed is to have patience. Depression is by no means a pretty condition. As such, it is only a spouse’s patience and continued support that help a depressed patient push through even at their absolute worst. So when you feel that things couldn’t possibly deteriorate any further, they probably will, but just keep holding on.

Unconditional Love

All the living beings on the planet require love. And a depressed spouse requires the most of it. To support your partner you have to show them unconditional and unreserved love even when it’s difficult for you because they’re taking their anguish out on you. It’s important to remember that a person going through depression is struggling and fighting a battle within them and that they require all the support they can possibly get from the outside. Love you partner – while they might not be able to appreciate, or reciprocate it at the moment, they desperately need it and they definitely feel it.

True Understanding

A depressed spouse needs true understanding from their partner. You cannot be supportive when you’re having a good day and then be insensitive to their needs when you’re going through a difficult time yourself. Don’t nag, get annoyed, hover, or become upset with them because they aren’t cooperating with what you think they should be doing. Be communicative, ask them what they need and give them that – no conditions and no expectations.

Still struggling to know how to help your depressed partner/spouse? As a Burbank therapist we can help support you and teach you ways of helping your depressed spouse. Couples therapy can also be helpful. find new ways of coping with their depression.

3 Tips to Improve Communication

Many clients who come into my office often report “communication” being an area they would like to work on. Improving communication in relationships is often at the top of the “problems” list for many couples. 

Communication is a complicated system.  It is not simply the words spoken, but the interchange of messages between two people.  Communication is defined as “the imparting or exchanging of information or news”. This does not mean one person does all the talking and the other is silent.  This does not mean that one person is “right” and the other must be “wrong”.  Communication is two people working together exchanging information. 

Here is one client’s story:

Couple with problems communicating stand against wall in silence.

“My husband and I don’t communicate well.  I try to tell him what I’m feeling, and instead he ends up arguing with me about the specifics of the conversations.  No I didn’t say that, well you said this- so I had to respond to that… and so on.  He never hears what I’m trying to say.  Whenever I start talking about why I was irritated with him, he launches into attack mode with all the things I’ve done wrong in the last 24 hours.”

Improving communication is a very common struggle for couples, principles of communication can be applied to parent/child relationships or friend/friend relationships. 

Think of communication similar to a dance.  If one dance partner is out of sync with the other the dance doesn’t flow.  If one dance partner tries to take over and go their own way, the dance fails again.  Communicating with your partner is dancing together. 

In the scenario above, when the wife is expressing her feelings she feels like she’s not being heard.  However, maybe the husband is hearing his wife’s hurt feelings as an attack on his character.  While feeling attacked the husband launches his attack, and the communication dance fails. 

This communication with teens is challenging for parents.  When your teen feels comfortable enough to share their feelings, its very easy for a parent to jump in and try to fix the situation.  Again, one dance partner tries to take over and the communication falls apart.  Your teen may become defensive and withdrawn because you “don’t understand them”. 

What can we do to improve our communication dance?

While there are many techniques and strategies to improve communication, here are 3 simple tips you can use today to help you improve your communication skills. 

  • Use “I feel” statements - Many times in an argument it’s easy to say “You do this…” or “You did that”.  That automatically puts the individual on the defensive and they’ve stopped hearing what you’re saying.  I feel statements speak from your perspective.  It isn’t an attack on the other person, you are merely stating your feelings.

Here are some examples of I feel statements:

“I feel frustrated when you interrupt me mid-sentence”

“I feel embarrassed when you tease me in front of our friends”

“I feel loved the most, when you make me breakfast on the weekends”

  •  Reflective listening - This may seem a little robotic when you first begin to practice it but it is a great way to make sure that the message being said is the one you are hearing. Have you ever played the game Telephone? The game where you start whispering a message from one person to another, and the last person in the circle says it out loud? Very often the original message is mixed up along the way.  This happens very frequently in the communication process.  To practice reflective listening, one partner begins with a sentence.  The second partner listens to the message and repeats it back to the first partner.  Then the first partner confirms if that message is correct.  Keep in mind, we can often hear things incorrectly. 

Example hearing correctly:

Partner 1: “I feel anxious when you make financial decisions without me”

Partner 2: (reflecting back) When I make financial decision without you, it makes you feel anxious”

Partner 1: “Yes you heard me correctly”.

 Example hearing incorrectly:

 Partner 1: “I feel anxious when you make financial decisions without me.”

Partner 2: “You don’t trust me to make decisions on my own."

Partner 1: “No, that’s not what I said.  I trust your decision making process, but I do feel anxious when decisions are made without me."

  • Avoid the Kitchen Sink  - Have you ever heard the expression, everything but the kitchen sink? You want to avoid bringing everything into your conversation when you are practicing your communication skills.  My first client example shows that when the husband feels threaten he brings in all the wrong-doings of the wife. It’s very important to stay on the topic at hand.  Remember, you are wanting to exchange information, but information gets lost when you try to handle too much at one time.  When the wife wants to talk about how she’s feeling, it’s important for the husband to stay with that until the issue has been resolved.  By throwing in all of the wife’s wrong-doings, the husband may be communicating he has some needs that are not being address.  It will be important to address his needs as well, just not in the middle of the other conversation.  In the heat of an argument this can be very difficult to do.  If you find yourself too upset to communicate effectively, take a break and come back to the conversation when you feel calm.  This will allow you to slow the conversation down so you can address one issue at a time.

Working on communication is not a singular event.  It is not item to check off on your to do list as a concept accomplished.  Communication takes work among many people in your life.  You may have developed a great communication dance with your partner, but struggle with your boss or teenage son.  Maybe it is easy for you to use “I feel” statements, but it is more challenging for you to Avoid the Kitchen Sink.  To start making changes in your communication skills start with one idea and try to focus on just that for one week.  After that week, try to incorporate another. 

If you and your partner need help with communication, contact us today!

Our Burbank Therapy office has warm, caring and experienced therapists that provides an opportunity to resolve your old patterns and learn new skills to help you dance more effectively together.

Photo by JD Mason

The Day I Said "Yes"

The day I said “yes” seems like so long ago now. He said, “Will you marry me?” and I said, “Yes”. It was a moment I’ll never forget. A moment that literally took my breath away. I did not know it was coming, and was stunned that the man I loved most in the world asked me to be his wife. It’s been 8 years now, and I wonder if I even still know that woman who said “yes”. A young 23 year old, I had a full time job and a furry cat named Emmy. As a couple we were drunk with love. Our weekends were spent out with friends, or traveling away for a long weekend. We were young. We were naive. We were in love.

Wedding rings on a dictionary with word and definition of marriage.

Tonight I got to witness a couple getting engaged.  Watching the reaction of the bride-to-be scream with excitement and cry with joy-   made a few little butterflies flutter in my stomach, and a single tear fall from my eyes.  If I dust off the cobwebs maybe I can remember what it was like to say “yes”. 

Life has changed so much since that single moment.  Mortgages, dogs, vacations, job changes, and children have all changed my husband and I in ways we never expected.  Of course we still love each other, but love now seems so different than the love of saying “yes”.  Today’s love is waking up early to make my husband lunch so he doesn’t get too busy and forget to eat at work.  Today’s love is staying up late and ironing his shirt for the big important meeting tomorrow.  Today’s love is a midnight run to the grocery store to pick up diapers because we accidentally ran out.  Today’s love is take out and movie at home. 

The girl that said “yes” still exists, she’s just changed.  She’s older, wiser, and knows that real love is the work of each day.  When I said my vows so many years ago I promised to love for better or for worse.  But I had no idea what those words meant.  I had no idea of the “for worse” that would come our way.  I innocently thought our love would be different.  We were in love, and that would be enough to carry us through whatever life would send. 

We do have love.  It has carried us through.  But love takes work.  It’s hard.  It needs time.  Commitment.  It takes two people looking at each other at the end of the saying, “I wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else but you”.  It takes patience.  Forgiveness.  Love now is a verb.  It is action.  Love is doing not just being.  It’s important to go back and remember the girl who said “yes” and the butterflies felt that day.  It is the foundation from which our marriage started.  Saying “yes” was the beginning of an incredible journey.  Not every day is glamorous.  Not every day is it easy to love.  But remembering the girl who said “yes”, helps me remember why it’s all worth it.  All of it.  

Have you forgotten about the day you said "yes"? Have you lost the spark for your romance? Hope Therapy Center can help you find ways to ignite the initial spark and strengthen your relationship.

Photo by Sandy Millar