You’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work

We Need Somebody – You’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work. You feel like you’ve hit a brick wall. You and your spouse are fighting more than you would like. Maybe you’re even finding it impossible to enjoy each other’s company anymore. It would be best to get help from the outside. If you and your spouse are at an impasse, the perspective from an objective outsider can often be invaluable. This chapter will help you decide when seeing a therapist would be useful. We will talk about myths that people have about therapy. We will help you find a therapist who would best suit your needs. We will also suggest alternatives to seeing a therapist, which you might find useful. By the end of this chapter, you will finally know, once and for all, whether you should see a therapist, and if so, how to find the best one for you!

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➤ Admitting you need outside help
➤ What happens in a therapist’s office? ➤ Developing empathy for each other ➤ Finding therapy resources
➤ Organizing your goals

When Is Therapy Useful?

There are many situations in which seeing a therapist would be helpful. If you and your spouse keep getting in the same argument over and over again, or find yourself in a situation you can’t get beyond, therapy can be extremely useful.

A therapist can help you uncover issues you have that might be interfering with your relationship.

All of the issues we discuss in this book—money, sex, housework, extended family, parenting, work, relocation, aging parents, second marriages, illness, addiction, and infidelity—can lead to conflicts that a therapist can help you resolve. Throughout the book we’ve described situations where therapy has been useful. The biggest challenge in therapy is getting over the hurdle of admitting you need help.

Ten Common Myths People Have About Therapy

Many people don’t seek help from a therapist because they have concerns about therapists and therapy. They have preconceived notions about who sees a therapist or what a therapist can or can’t do. The following are some common myths that people have about therapy and therapists.

Myth #1: Only Crazy People See Therapists

Reality: A wide range of people see therapists. Many people who are in therapy are healthy, balanced, highly successful, have responsible jobs, and make a good living. They are seeing a therapist to work through a specific problem or to figure out why they are not happier with their success. Other common reasons for people to see a therapist are to get help with depression or anxiety.

Myth #2: Someone Who Doesn’t Know Me Can’t Help Me

Reality: The fact that a therapist doesn’t know you is exactly why he or she can help you! The therapy process depends on the therapist being unbiased. Therapy is a spe- cial situation where an impartial, neutral person helps you sort through your issues so you can go on to be more productive and happy in your daily life.

Myth #3: Therapists Can Read People’s Minds

Reality: Therapists can’t read people’s minds. Therapists are professionally trained to listen carefully and pay special attention to people’s emotions.

Myth #4: A Therapist Can Solve All of Your Problems

Reality: A therapist won’t solve your problems. Rather, a therapist will help you solve your problems. If you want to grow from therapy, it will take a lot of work on your part.

Marriage Q & A’s

Q: If my spouse and I see a couples therapist, does that mean we are heading toward a divorce?

A: Absolutely not. It means that the two of you are ready and willing to work on improving your relationship. You will likely understand yourselves and each other better, which will lead to a better partnership. If you had difficult problems and didn’t see a therapist, that in fact could lead to divorce.

Myth #5: A Couples Therapist Will Take Sides

Reality: This is not true. A good couples therapist will remain neutral and help the two of you resolve your differences. At the end of each session, each of you should feel your point of view was heard and understood.

Myth #6: Therapists Never Say Anything

Reality: Most therapists, especially those who work with couples, are very interactive. They will listen carefully, ask you questions, and talk with you during all of your ses- sions.

Myth #7: Therapy Takes Forever

Reality: Short-term therapy, which can be extremely useful for couples, generally lasts between eight and twenty sessions, one session each week. It tends to be goal-directed and focuses on specific issues and problems. On the other hand, long-term therapy can last for one year or more. It tends to be psychodynamically oriented, which means it helps you understand your personal character development.

Myth #8: Everyone Will Know I’m Seeing a Therapist

Reality: A therapist will maintain your confidentiality and will not tell others what was discussed in your therapy sessions. The only people who will know you are see- ing a therapist are the ones you tell. Often people who find therapy beneficial want to share this with others.

Myth #9: Therapy Is Unaffordable

Reality: There is no question that therapy with a pri- vate therapist is expensive. However, many people overlook the fact that their medical insurance will cover a limited number of therapy sessions for “crisis intervention.” Short-term couples therapy can be incredibly productive. There are also therapists-in- training and family service agencies who see patients on a sliding scale.

Myth #10: Only Weak People See Therapists

Reality: Actually, the opposite is true! It takes a strong person to go to a therapist. When you see a therapist, he or she will give you tools to become even stronger and more able to work through your issues.

Finding a Therapist

The best way to find a good therapist is through a personal recommendation. If someone tells you that a particular therapist helped save his or her marriage, then that therapist is likely to be very good. Also consider asking your religious leader. He or she has probably referred couples to therapy in the past and would be happy to help you find a good therapist.

Another good resource is your primary care doctor. Many physicians refer patients to therapy and can recommend a good therapist to you. If you are using your medical insurance to pay for the ther- apy visits, you might be limited to a specific list of therapists. Bring along the list of therapists’ names and show it to your doctor. He or she might know one or more therapists on the list.

The following are some initials you will need to know when finding a therapist who is right for your situation:

➤ M.D.—Medical Doctor (psychiatrist)

➤ Ph.D.—Doctorate (in psychology or social work)

➤ L.C.S.W.—Licensed Clinical Social Worker

➤ M.F.C.C.—Marriage and Family Counselor Be Goal-Directed

If you are considering seeing a therapist with your spouse, it’s useful to have specific goals for your therapy. This will make the best use of your time in therapy. Having specific goals is especially useful in short-term therapy because you want to make the most out of every session.

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You might have different types of goals for therapy. Perhaps you want help resolving a specific issue, such as dividing your child care responsibilities fairly. Therapy can be useful when you need to make a big decision, like whether to move. You might want to understand why you always argue about a particular issue. A goal in therapy can also be more general, such as improving communication with your spouse.

There are many issues a therapist can help you with, including:

➤ Communicating with your spouse ➤ Resolving an issue
➤ Time scheduling
➤ Making a big decision

➤ Understanding emotional issues about money ➤ Sex
➤ Dealing with your extended family
➤ Parenting

➤ Work-related problems ➤ Illness
➤ Addiction
➤ Infidelity

Other Resources

If therapy is not possible for you and your spouse, there are other resources that can offer you help. Here are just a few:

➤ Religious leaders. Many religious leaders are excellent resources if you are having conflict with your spouse. Some have special training in counseling, and all have dealt with people in crisis situations. If they can’t help you directly, they can often find a therapist for you. Don’t forget this resource!

➤ Support groups. There are many types of groups that can be useful to you and your spouse. Some groups focus on specific problems, such as parenting or illness. Others are designed for couples to work on their marriage. Groups tend to be less expensive than therapists and are a good way to get help without spend- ing a lot of money. It can also be useful to hear how other people deal with is- sues similar to yours.

➤ Anonymous groups. In Chapter 23, “Just One More,” we discussed some of the dif- ferent anonymous groups. If one of you is addicted to something, anonymous groups can be an invaluable resource. Alcohol, gambling, and overeating are some of the addictions they deal with. Al-Anon groups can help you deal with your enabling behaviors and with issues that are common when your spouse has an addiction problem.

➤ Encounter groups. These groups often have weekend retreats to work on your rela- tionship, with follow-up meetings. They can be secular or affiliated with a reli- gious organization.

➤ Classes. Relationship courses and workshops are offered through colleges, exten- sion courses, and health care centers.

Taking Control of Your Life

The single biggest factor in the success of your therapy is you! You need to work hard in therapy, be honest, and really use the information you learn about yourself and your relationships. Remember that going to therapy is not a passive but an active process. You will get the most from the time and money you spend on therapy by putting your best efforts into it both inside and outside the therapist’s office.

The Least You Need to Know

  • ➤  Therapy can be very useful if you and your spouse can’t resolve an issue by yourselves or if you are having trouble making a big decision.
  • ➤  Therapists are unbiased, will listen carefully, and will help you work through your issues.
  • ➤  Couples therapy can help you and your spouse work on your marriage. It can also help you and your spouse better understand each other.
  • ➤  The best way to find a therapist is through a personal recommendation from a friend, physician, or religious leader.
  • ➤  There are many alternatives to therapy, including support groups, religious leaders, and anonymous groups.
  • ➤  Remember that the most important factor in the success of your therapy is you!

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