At last, you made the decision to find a couple therapist focused on helping you with your relationship, but now you are faced with where to turn and who to turn to? Like most of us, you head to the internet, only to be bombarded by counselors, therapists, social-workers, psychologists, you name it, claiming they all have the skills to help you with your relationship. This makes the process even more daunting, and are once again left with the thought who is best suited to help me with the most important relationship of my life?
I seriously pondered the process couples face in their search for a relationship healer, and realized how much partners really do need help with this very challenging and vexing conundrum. Not long ago, two couples in one week told me they had seen 6 different therapists before arriving on my doorstep. The fact that these couples, and many others have hit multiple walls when it comes to finding help for their relationship, broke my heart, because the matter of helping partners connect is not to be taken lightly, and in fact, is sacred. Entering into this process with a therapist of limited experience or training does not have a neutral effect, despite the fact these couples may be limping along together. It had taken a serious toll on their relationship and their ability to trust one another. After six different therapists, my job becomes vastly more complicated, because, in addition to the map I utilize in helping them heal, now they feel hopeless and helpless.
On the positive side, I also realized that after seeing multiple therapists, there was an amazing bond between these partners, that even inadequate couple therapy couldn’t shake. That said, after numerous therapists, most partners are more than reluctant, feel war weary from the process and are financially depleted. This is the primary reason I am writing this blog, because it is my passion to help partners in distress and seeing multiple therapists for your relationship is tragic. Please know, I am not perfect and will post more in a future blog regarding the limits of couple therapy success. Don’t worry, many of the couples I work with make it and thrive.
Keeping all of the preceding in mind, I thought I would do what I could to help partners find the best, most well suited therapist for their relationship. Here are some steps to follow when going to the internet in search of a healer for your wounded partnership, this includes what to do if you have the name of a therapist from a friend or other referral.
The first set of postings you will see when googling ‘Couple Therapy in your area’, will be organizations such as ‘Psychology Today’, ‘Theravive’, and ‘GoodTherapy’. These are sites where multiple therapists are listed, some of which may indicate training in the field of couples, relationships, marriage etc., and some may not have specific training in couple and family therapy. Please look for certifications in the area of couple therapy on the therapists postings. Above all, please know this, the therapists listed on these sites pay to be on these listing, which means they may not actually have the training and experience you are looking for to help your relationship. Let’s face it, we all need to make a name for ourselves on the world wide web, but we also need to know what we are getting when we hire someone to help our disconnection.
AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists) had been the only organization designated to support and regulate Marriage and Family Therapists across the country, but their standards have significantly dropped. If you go to the AAMFT page link here you will see one listing for MFTs posted adjacent to a ‘Psychology Today’ listing all on one page. Here are posting of all levels of therapists, some with training in couple and family and others listed with without training, yet they are members of AAMFT, again because they paid a fee. The point is, AAMFT was initially designed for MFTs, similar to the National Association of Social Workers who represents social workers, but AAMFT has opened its doors to all disciplines, regardless, and as long as new members pay their dues and support AAMFT, they are listed as being able to work with relationships. That’s because the national agency designated to further the profession of Marriage and Family Therapists is more focused on membership than specialization in marriage and family therapy.
When doing your search, the next step is to focus on the couple therapist, or couple counselor’s credentials. Marriage and Family Therapists or MFTs have attended graduate school with the specific focus on relationships and family systems. Additionally, there are two prominent psychotherapy models in the field of couple and family therapy. 1) Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and 2) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I was initially trained in CBT over 20 years ago, and provided this approach to couples for many years. Sadly, CBT didn’t have the success I have experienced with couples providing a pure ‘EFT’ approach, which the research bares out. EFT has a 70-90 percent success rate, which is why it is my modality of choice for helping partners connect at a deep and profound level. I have gone well beyond my grad school focus of Marriage, Family Therapy, to include an advanced certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy which took several years to obtain. This indicates a much more advanced skill set than simply taking some additional course work or and having attended several trainings.
In many ways, EFT has been pushed into the background, because it’s been around since the 80’s, wait, that means it has been a focus for 30 years. While CBT is considered the granddaddy of couple therapy, it only began being utilized in the 60’s. The challenge is, CBT is supported by the old guard of most Universities and Departments at Grad Schools who haven’t moved to open the doors to new, more effective therapuetic modalities. This means, CBT is what most American therapists are taught at most Universities and colleges. Conversely, EFT is flourishing around the globe and is close to replacing the old CBT model. I well am aware of many American graduate students who only know about EFT from Dr. Johnson’s books and journals, because they did a paper on it rather than an entire course focused on it. This is very unfortunate.
This old guard, who maintains the CBT approach in grad school, also affects the way insurance companies view therapy. Most insurance companies are more than happy to provide the names of individual therapists or therapists who provide CBT, which is only effective for the one partner, which in reality, doesn’t really help the relationship. An EFT therapist working with a couple can not only drastically help the primary relationship, but can help create a ripple effect be positively affecting their children and extended family members. When we are deeply connected, we can work through just about anything together, but when we aren’t, life can be so very challenging. We are meant to be connected and not turn to our therapists for help and support through out our marriage, but find safe ways to turn to our partner for love and support after completing the therapeutic EFT process.
The gold standard search for a couple therapist, relationship therapist or marriage counselor is The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT linked here), because you can be assured, the Certified EFT Therapists in your area have under gone rigorous training needed to help you and your partner salvage and deepen your relationship. At this site you will also find the research to support the high effectiveness rate of EFT along with the parts of the world where EFT is thriving.
In addition, you may want to research the therapist you choose by doing an on line search on Google, or the search engine of our choice. If you do have a therapist in mind, type the prospective therapist’s name and credentials followed by ‘reviews’ or if you want to be very thorough, type ‘negative reviews’. If the reviews are negative, you may want to continue your search. Positive reviews can help narrow down the process of finding a good fit for you and your partner. If however, there are no positive or negative reviews, that is a cautionary sign, yet I would recommend you continue your search.
Finding a therapist trained to help you with your relationship is one of the most important decisions of your life. Please make yourself and your relationship a very important priority by doing thorough research to ensure you are comfortable with the person you hire to restore your connection with your parter. Some couples give up after one therapist, a select few hang on to see six or more therapists, you don’t want to do either. Start the process of therapy by doing all you can to ensure the best possible fit for your relationship.