Couples Therapy: Myths and Reality

Many misconceptions about couples therapy get in the way of couples seeking help. Ruth Jampol PhD, an EFT therapist, lists some common myths and truth about them.

1. The therapist will take sides.

An Emotionally Focused Couples (EFT) therapist is trained to recognize how both partners contribute to their dance of anger or disconnection. Successful therapy invariably requires each partner to understand his or her role in the couple’s distress.

2. The therapist will tell us we should break up.

The role of an EFT therapist is to help couples understand how their relationship has gone wrong and to guide them- for as long as they are willing to try- in how to repair it. The decision of whether to stay in a relationship always belongs to the couple.

3. We are too far gone; the situation is hopeless.

Many couples worry that their problems have gone on so long, there is no hope of improving their relationship. But even long-standing problems can be resolved with EFT therapy. The intensity of anger also does not necessarily indicate that a relationship can’t be improved. The only clear sign that EFT therapy won’t help is if one or both partners have become so disengaged they are no longer willing to try.

4. Talking about our problems will make things worse.

Many couples have experienced that their own attempts to talk about their problems have made things worse, so this concern is understandable. They may even have had previous experiences in therapy where talking did make things worse. However, an EFT therapist is trained to create a safe space where problems can be discussed productively. In many cases, the therapist will be able to help partners see each other’s struggles in new ways that open the door to healing and reconciliation.

5. Couples therapy is a waste of time and does not work.

EFT has years of research demonstrating its effectiveness in helping couples improve their relationships, and follow-up studies show these improvements are long lasting. EFT is is one of a handful of couples therapies designated as empirically supported by the American Psychological Association.  A therapist trained in EFT is guided by a roadmap that has one of the strongest track records in helping distressed couples.

6. We (or he or she) need individual therapy first.

A growing body of evidence suggests that successful couples therapy can actually reduce an individual’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and other psychological disorders. At the very least, a stronger, more supportive relationship will reduce the suffering both partners experience when one partner is struggling with a psychological disorder. Couples therapy may not be the only treatment needed when a partner has significant psychological symptoms, but when the relationship has suffered, it is often the best place to start.