Obviously, I want you to work with me because I love doing what I do, so your first question should be, “Is your name, Todd Harvey?”.
But assuming you are not working with me, you should ask your potential therapist the following questions:
1) What is that modality that informs how you work with couples?
If they say EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy), then know you’re working with somebody who works from a perspective that has a 75% success rate rather than a 15-30% success rate.
2) What percentage of your clients are couples?
Most therapists say they work with couples because they enjoy the novelty of doing something new. They may have 1 or 2 couples that they work with. Often times, these therapists are very well-meaning, but they simply are not adequately trained to work with couples. I have experience working with couples and I am trained to work with individuals.
And I have to say that working with couples is fundamentally different work than working with individuals. In working with individuals, therapists that are passive and good listeners are often able to create an environment that creates emotional safety that can ultimately be nourishing for an individual to grow and heal emotionally. However, it takes a very different set of skills to be able to empathize with two people at the same time (who are in conflict), to tactfully interrupt, be directive, and intervene intentionally with strategic purpose of strengthening the couples bond.
With individual work, I try to develop a trusting relationship that the individual client can (eventually and over-time) internalize and become healthier.
With couples work, while I do develop a therapeutic alliance with both of you, my focus is not on your relationship with me at all, but rather on coaching, guiding, and creating the emotional safety so that your bonds can be restored. In interviewing potential couples therapists, you want to make sure that they have a sense of direction and are not only teaching communication skills or listening to you well. Make sure they are trained to help you guys have an emotional experience that will enable you to strengthen and restore the bond that you guys have for each other.
3) Ask, “In what ways do you help win over a partner who is reluctant to participate in couples therapy?”
If who you talk to doesn’t have a sense of confidence with you while talking on the phone concerning being able to win over reluctant partners, politely hang up and make a few more phone calls.
I am a man, born in a culture, where I internalized worldviews that include being very independent, not airing dirty laundry, and equating asking for help meaning that there is something inherently flawed with me. I know what it is like first hand to not want to be in couples therapy and to only participate in it due to the threat of my partner leaving. Having been in that situation, I am able to really understand and honor why your man (or woman) may feel reluctant to participate in therapy. I also, insure that his (her) fears don’t come true in the room (I'll interrupt the pattern that he's afraid of). My experience is that by the end of a couple of sessions, the reluctant partner experiences couples therapy as being extremely useful. Their personal experience of it being useful will enable them to advocate for it. It will be easy for them to set aside their previous fears and be open to benefit from couples counseling.
If I am full or if you would rather find somebody else, do not hesitate to give me a call or email me because I can refer you to some great couples therapists that are confident and competent.
or call 510-686-3390
or email firstname.lastname@example.org