How Long Does Couple’s Therapy Take?
One question I often get when I am doing a phone consultation with a potential couple is, how long will therapy take? Although this is a great question. The answer isn’t simple. My general response to this question is, it all depends.
A number of factors contribute to how long therapy will take; or how many sessions a couple may need before experiencing improvement. My best response to this question is determined primarily by the following 5 points.
The first thing I want to know is why the couple is coming into therapy. A big difference exists in how many sessions a couple may require or how long therapy will last merely on the scope of the presenting problems. For instance, a couple who is seeking therapy due to an emotional or physical affair versus a couple who needs to learn new strategies for healthy communication can vary tremendously. So, the question, what are you coming to therapy for can reveal a lot regarding how long therapy may take.
The next important consideration in answering this question is the motivation of the couple. Two individuals in a couple can have different perspectives on their reasons for therapy. This can affect the degree of motivation. It is not uncommon for one person of the couple to be more motivated than the other. Sometimes one person may not even want to be in therapy. This can make a difference in outcome. It may also affect how quickly a couple experiences healing or improvement. If both people are motivated, generally I see greater improvement quicker than the couple who struggles with motivation.
Therapy takes work and effort. It isn’t always easy. A couple is most likely coming into therapy because they want improvement in their relationship. The tricky part is that often a couple needs to have tough conversations. They may experience unpleasant and negative feelings. This can temporarily magnify problems. Some couples when there is a temporary escalation of negative feelings can feel worse. They may even think therapy is not working. Therapy isn’t all about making a couple feel good. Although this is certainly a good end result. If a couple is willing to be present, engage, process and practice healthy strategies, I generally see improvement quicker than those who who are not.
Doing the Work
In my practice, I give couples a safe place to talk. I help them navigate difficult conversations or tackle big problems. Often, I assist couples by discussing topics or conversations they are unable to talk about on their own. In some cases, they may never have been able to talk about these issues. Processing hard issues by becoming aware, identifying triggers and root causes of issues is a part of therapy. Learning new and healthy strategies for communication, managing conflict and emotional connections is part of doing the work. I give couples opportunities for practicing in session. As well, I give weekly assignments. Couples who are doing the work both in and outside of session, generally see greater improvements in less time.
Openness to Personal Growth
Whenever I begin couples therapy with a new client, I tell them 2 things. First, couples therapy is about interpersonal growth: awareness, healing, and growth in the couple dynamic. Secondly, couple’s therapy is about intrapersonal growth. This involves an openness for each individual to experience healing and growth.
The couple who is serious about improving their relationship for the better may want to take all these points into consideration. Therapy can be a meaningful and life-changing process. The master couples are the ones who truly understand it takes 2 to tango. Last, the couple who is practicing humility, respect and openness to becoming the best couple they can be will most likely have the most successful therapeutic experience.