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.

Getting Past the Thought - My Teenager is Lazy

When my phone rings with a parent of a teenager, I often hear "my teen is so lazy.” Many parents think of therapy as the "teen fix-it shop." While therapy is very helpful when your teen's behavior has spiraled beyond your ability to handle, here are two tips that can make a huge difference with your teens behavior:

Teenager lies across bed during day texting.

1) Keep an open and respectful relationship with your teen

Don’t play against your teen, find a way to be on their team.  You can create more influence by working with your teen. Avoid the typical parental ploy of threats, manipulation, punishment - these get you nowhere, but even more importantly these can be detrimental and push your teen away. Keep feelings of fear, anxiety, and worry in check. While these are normal emotions to experience in the teen years, reacting to your teen out of these feeling will be ineffective.  

Remember, your teen is not a lazy good-for-nothing and they are not behaving this way on purpose to make your life miserable. If you start to get worked up and emotionally reactive, try to say to yourself “My teen is just not there yet, they need help figuring it out.” Our job as parents is to help them learn how to be responsible. When you resort to negativity or trying to make a “moral issue” out of your teens behavior,  the result may be a defiant teen.  Be your teen's cheerleader and see then participate on your team.

2) Incorporate "if then rule" – Grandma’s Principle (you get cookies when…)

As a young girl my grandma taught me this principle with my annual summer visits.  My grandma made the best ever oatmeal raisin peanut butter cookies (trust me, they are awesome). Grandma’s rule was – when you pull one patch of weeds in the back yard you can have some cookies.  This was an important life lesson of delayed gratification and work equals reward – something that is quickly fading with today’s teenagers and the instant access via social media. As adults we have learned – when we work hard we get a paycheck and maybe a raise at our annual review. We can teach this simple principle with everyday opportunities.  For example if your teen plays a sport encourage them, when you practice your game will improve. For example: practice shooting hoops every day, you increase your baskets. Other ways to incorporate this lesson is by saying things like “you can have 2 hours of computer use, when you finish your homework.” OR “When you are done studying you can go to the mall”.  OR “When your show me your book report is done, we can discuss what movie to see at the theater this weekend.” Enforce the “if this, then that” rule – be sure to stick to it!  Sticking to this rule teaches your teen perseverance and you are helping them learn how to do what their own brain is not yet equipped to do, which is to create the structure for success.

If you are faced with teen behavior issues and need professional help, seek a therapist with a specialization in working with adolescent behavior issues.

Photo by Tobias Quartey on Unsplash

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