We get a lot of questions about couple therapy at RIVIA, so we asked LCSW and couple therapy specialist, Tyler Parrott, to answer some of the most frequent.
Thanks for answering some of our most asked questions about couple therapy! Tell us, who needs/benefits from couple therapy?
A big misconception around couple therapy is that things need to get bad before you ask for professional help. In my experience, most couples wait too long to address issues in the relationship and allow a lot of resentment to build up making it more difficult to work through problems. Relationships have different seasons and require different kinds of maintenance to maintain intimacy and connection. Couple therapy is for anyone trying to get the most out of their relationship.
What techniques are used in couples therapy? Are different techniques used for same-sex couples?
Couple therapy differs from individual therapy from the standpoint that the therapist is an active participant. Thus, it becomes necessary for the therapist to maintain safety and security in the space. Unless a person can really talk about how deeply hurt and vulnerable they are, progress will be stalled. Techniques in couple therapy are designed to reduce confusion and fear around the expression of emotional needs to unlock new pathways for healing and growth. This includes asking couples to enact in the therapy the very types of conflicts and arguments that come up in the daily life of the couple. The therapist, unlike at home, can call a timeout, introduce new skills and strategies, and debrief with all parties after. Couples will leave sessions with new skills to practice at home and track progress. Mostly, couples learn how to argue constructively and resolve their problems.
I get asked a lot about whether couples therapy can be demonstrated to be effective with all different kinds of couples. For me, the most important task of a couple therapist is to help each partner identify and clarify the negative cycle in the relationship by highlighting and expanding the communication of unmet attachment needs that are the basis of all interpersonal problems. This is so important because couples bring into their relationship their own histories that inevitably play themselves out in their next relationship. Research and real world experience indicates that all humans have the same palate of emotions. Therefore, so long as we focus on the affective interchanges and personal narratives of the people involved, the therapy can be effective with all couples.
My training has been in psychodynamic, EFT, and Gottman method approaches to couple therapy. Psychodynamic approaches look at how past conflicts shape peoples’ current experiences. EFT uses the science of how human beings connect to deepen attachment emotion in each partner and heal the wounds that each brings into the relationships. Gottman method is based on scientific research that helps predict how and why relationships fail and provides skills for couples to practice and improve in important areas.
How long does couple therapy generally take?
Couple therapy varies in length and is very dependent on the goals of the couple and the amount of negativity in the relationship. Some couples come with a problem that they hope to resolve quickly by getting help with problem-solving. Other couples come with entrenched issues that undermine the integrity of the relationship. Still some come to learn how to heal from past traumas like infidelity so that they can enjoy being together again. Couple therapy can restore hopefulness and that can begin as early as the first session.
Any advice for partners old and new?
New or old partners must learn how to grow together. Relationships should feel secure but not necessarily too comfortable. You can live with someone for 20 years and still not know everything you need to know about them. Look for new ways to grow and expand the relationship and dedicate a little time each week to check in with your partner to see how well each person is contributing to a healthy and happy relationship. And, if you have reached the end of your rope, contact a couple therapist!
If you’d like to book a couple therapy session with Tyler, please click here.