Searching for good relationship therapy is, in one way, a little like looking for a good, honest auto mechanic. When your car starts making some weird new sound, you want expert help. You want a good, honest mechanic, someone who knows how to fix your car and will not rip you off. He might be a little rough around the edges, but if he’s a good, honest mechanic, that’s what’s most important.
If you need major heart surgery, you probably won’t care if the surgeon is undeniably arrogant, as long as she is at the top of her game. You want to live.
But in another way, good relationship therapy is very different. When you and your mate are having a rough time, you are vulnerable. You don’t want to talk to just anyone. You want the therapist who knows his or her stuff, has the training, skill, experience, the proper background. You also want to work with someone you feel good about, someone you feel safe around, someone who gets you.
Quite frankly, some relationship therapies do NOT work very well, and some therapists who hang out their shingles aren’t very good at it. Therapy for couples is not like other kinds of therapy. Those trained to work with individuals are not necessarily equipped to work with couples. The skill set is quite different.
But there is solid research-backed evidence that a number of therapies do work well, and that therapists who receive adequate training can be very successful in helping couples find solutions.
You might want to read the article “5 Principles of Effective Couples Therapy.” It summarizes a major study by UCLA psychologists who reviewed 40 years of research on couples therapy.
In brief, the 40-year-review “boiled down this massive amount of research to show that across major theoretical orientations within the field, couples can benefit when they receive treatment that follows five underlying principles.”
Those five principles of effective couples therapy are:
FYI, the work I do at Relational Therapy Indy is based on training I’ve taken with Terry Real (Relational Life Therapy), Ramone Corrales and Larry Ro-Trock (Family Institute of Kansas City), Richard Schwartz (Internal Family Systems), and others. It is grounded on those five principles of effective couples therapy. To quote Terry Real, this therapy will “describe exactly where the couple is stuck, what each of their next steps should be, how to get from A to B with practical skills and why it’s in their interest to do so.”
There is one other absolutely necessary ingredient to good relationship therapy. It’s the catalyst, perhaps the keystone. Without this ingredient, the cake will fall, the building will crumble.
That factor is rapport, the quality of relationship between client and therapist.
Rapport is crucial. It’s not easy to talk about our deep, dark secrets with friends, much less with a stranger. Good rapport is a must. You need to be treated with dignity, be respected and accepted, have a sense of safety, of protection, a sense of comfort that you are in good hands. So the first order of business is to meet, to size one another up, and get a sense of how to proceed.