I like to work with couples, because there are kinds of learning in couples therapy that can’t take place in individual therapy (and vice versa, of course), and because I like to support couples trying to improve their communication skills and relationships. It’s hard for couples to succeed in the conditions of modern life, which is why the divorce rate is so high. Sometimes, when couples can learn to improve their communication skills, and come to know themselves and one another more deeply, they can not only stay together but have a better quality of life together than they would otherwise have had.
There are “three clients,” so to speak, in couples therapy; each partner, and the couple as a couple. Each partner is a unique individual, and each relationship is unique as well, although there are themes that occur across relationships, of course. The societies that we grow up in are generally not very sophisticated about human nature and relationships, and so we enter into couples relationships without the information and understanding we’ll need later on. Couples therapy can help provide the information, experience, and skills for a couple who wants to stay together but is having a hard time, find a way to succeed.
Of course, there are also some couples in which one member has already left the relationship, whether he or she is aware of it. And sometimes incompatibilities run too deep to be healed in therapy. My preference is to help the couple succeed as a couple, but the basis to do so has to be there, in the couple.
The therapeutic relationship is as important in couples therapy as in individual therapy, but it’s more complicated in some ways. The therapist is working with partner 1, partner 2, and couple12, sometimes one after the other, sometimes simultaneously. As in individual therapy, selection of a therapist who will be a good match for the couple is important, and it can take awhile before it becomes clear how the couple and the therapist will work together.