Everyone Should Try Couples Therapy—Here’s Why
For many couples, the idea of attending therapy together can seem daunting, or even unnecessary if you’re in a healthy relationship. But according to board-certified psychiatrists and relationship experts Dion Metzger, MD, and Ayo Gathing, MD, couples counseling isn’t just about healing wounds—it’s also about nurturing your relationship as it grows.
“A lot of people are scared of therapy because they believe it means their marriage is in trouble. That's not necessarily true,” Metzger tells The Knot. According to both Metzger and Gathing, there are major benefits to trying couples therapy as a preventative practice rather than only for addressing major issues.
“It’s never too early in a relationship to work on the development of healthy communication and improvement of conflict resolution techniques,” Gathing says. “Strengthening these tools will help build a stronger foundation and make your relationship more resilient in the future.” That’s why therapy is an awesome opportunity to get to know your partner in a new light and a great way to practice how you handle what comes your way, whether you’re newly engaged or been married for 20 years.
Here’s what exercises and techniques you might experience during a typical session:
Start With the Basics
While the first initial sessions with your therapist are dedicated to getting to know you as a couple—everything from your individual backgrounds to the story of how you met—a typical session is mostly conversational. According to Metzger and Gathing, it’s important to keep an open mind, be respectful and—especially if you’re a couple that tends to be highly emotional—listen to one another.
Review Last Week's Tasks
Couples are often given tasks or assignments to work on at home between sessions. “For example, a first assignment I use is communicating using ‘I’ words, instead of accusatory ‘you’ words,” Metzger says.
Discuss Open-Ended Questions
Metzger uses this time to let the couple discuss anything that’s on their mind that week. Open-ended questions about the upcoming week ahead or topics discussed in the past are great jumping-off points to thoughtful conversation. You can even use the time to praise or congratulate your partner on something they've achieved. “It just helps to know more about the other person,” Metzger says. “Couples sometimes are more likely to share things with each other when there's a therapist in the room.”
Set a Task for the Next Week
“As therapy progresses, the therapist will impart tools for healthy communication and improve problem-solving that will need to be mastered in real-world scenarios,” Gathing says.