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How Do You Know When Your Relationship Needs Counseling?

I get many calls from people wanting to talk about whether couples therapy is appropriate for them. They almost always start with all the wonderful things about the relationship as if to have me say, they are OK. Then when I ask about what prompted their inquiry, comes the story about fighting, conflict, doubts, “communication problems” that are not getting better and inability to gain any traction with these issues.

My sense in general, is that if someone is questioning if they need couples counseling, the answer usually is that they do. People don’t call me unless they tried to fix things on their own and have failed.

Now there are definitely couples who need relatively few sessions to get past an issue or be able to drop into a more honest and vulnerable mode of communication which restores connection and stops negative cycles of being stuck. But there are more couples who need longer treatment. They are couples who have been chronically unhappy, disconnected for a long time, with a long list of resentments or may have had or are having an affair, which takes a while to heal and make sense of. By the time these couples enter therapy, they are either desperate to “fix” stuff or they are hopeless and resigned and come as a last resort.

So basically, if you are unhappy for a while and things are not getting better, you owe it to yourself, your partner and family, to explore what is going on and to seek professional help. Sometimes, when the couple is in a bad state for a while, they lose perspective or get so stuck in Blame/Defend pattern that they can’t get anywhere.

A consultation with a trained couples therapist or marriage counselor is always a good idea. You can try and see how the process works and then decide if you want to commit to the process or look for another therapist for a better fit or do nothing.