Why Couples Therapy Often Fails
Picture of Denise  Fitzpatrick

Denise Fitzpatrick

Why Couples Therapy Often Fails

I get asked a lot, what’s the difference between therapy and coaching.

People have lots of different explanations around this. ​ Some say therapy is more focused on the past and coaching is focused on the future.

Some say therapy is problem focused, coaching is solution focused.

Any and all of those could be true but what’s more important is, does the therapist or coach have a process or plan to help clients get the results they want.

Most therapy does NOT have a process or a plan when it comes to helping couples.

Which is why couples therapy often fails clients.

If you’ve been to therapy before and it didn’t work, don’t lose hope. ​ It may be that you just didn’t find the right help.

​⭐  WHAT WORKS FOR INDIVIDUAL CLIENTS DOES NOT WORK FOR COUPLES

I worked as a therapist for years and I realized early on that the same skills I was using to work with individuals, did NOT work for couples.

It was clear that asking a couple “how does that make you feel”, was an invitation to unleash every complaint and criticism of their partner. ​ The conversation would escalate and I was left wondering, what now?

So in 2010 I began taking some courses in couples therapy. ​ ​ It became abundantly clear that there was an entirely different skill set that I needed to learn to work with couples effectively.

And since that day I have completed countless courses and trainings, with the top leaders in the field, in couples therapy.

And I continue to participate in trainings through the programs I have previously trained with, so I can always be growing and bringing the best for my clients.

👉 UNFORTUNATELY, LOTS OF WELL MEANING THERAPISTS, who are trained to do individual therapy don’t realize that the skills you use in individual therapy are not the same skills you use with couples.

And using those same skills with couples actually makes things much worse.

The consumer, the couple, doesn’t know what to look for either.

And so if they see a therapist works with adolescents, adults, couples, etc. they will choose that person. This therapist, most likely, is not equipped to help a couple in distress.

This would be like going to see your general practitioner when you have a heart condition. ​

Many of the clients that come to work with me have been to multiple therapists before and the therapy failed them.

Not because the therapists aren’t good therapists, they may be an outstanding therapist. ​ But for individuals, NOT couples.

​​💥 HOW DOES THIS AFFECT COUPLES

Unfortunately, many couples give up after seeing one or two or maybe even 3 therapists with little to no results or perhaps making things worse.

The couples figures, divorce must be the only option, EVEN THE THERAPIST CAN’T HELP US. ​ We must be really damaged.

You see, when couples reach out to get help, they are in a very delicate and vulnerable state, as many wait years before they seek support. ​ So, often, they are at the end of their rope and have even contemplated divorce.

The majority of these couples don’t want to get divorced. ​ What they really want is for someone to say to them, “I can help you”. ​ “I know what the problem is, why you’re here and what you can do to turn your marriage around”. ​

Many of these couples are truly just looking for hope that things can be better than they are.

⭐ WHAT IS THE RIGHT HELP?

AFTER DOING THIS WORK FOR OVER A DECADE I know what works and what doesn’t and what you, the consumer, should look for when seeking help for your marriage.

Couples are typically in distress by the time they reach out for help.

They’ve been repeating painful patterns for years that have left them frustrated, exhausted and hopeless.

What they need is to know that what they are experiencing is common and it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them.

The problem is they simply haven’t found a way to work through their difficulties.

Normalizing their difficulties and letting them know there is hope. ​ They can then breath a sigh of relief knowing that I am going to show them a way out of the pain and into a more promising future.

❌ THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THERAPISTS MAKE when working with couples.

❌ NO CLEAR PLAN ABOUT HOW THEY ARE GOING TO HELP YOU

Diving right into problem solving without any clear goals, without conceptualizing the problem for the couple and without mapping out a plan what they will need to be working on so they can achieve their goals.

There really is no clear plan or path forward.

They may end up just focusing on the whatever issue they are having that week.

There is no real learning taking place around how you break these patterns, how you move your relationship forward in a positive direction, how you stop triggering each other, what you each need to do to improve your interactions.

When I work with a couple the first thing I do is help them understand the problem. ​ How they got here, what it will take to improve.

I will identify the destructive cycle for them so each partner begins to understand what they are working on changing.

Clients have to know what they are working on outside the session, otherwise nothing will change.

​❌ LACK OF LEADERSHIP

Most therapists lack the leadership that is required in couples sessions.

Have you been to therapy before and you just fought in the session without the therapist being able to take charge and control of the session?

Strong leadership is crucial.

Therapists, in couples sessions, cannot just sit back and listen, reflect, and support.

What’s required is a strong, confident leader that can interrupt the couple’s ineffective, unhealthy patterns in real time.

Therapists MUST BE highly active in the process to contain what happens in the session and help clients have a corrective experience.

When leadership is lacking, couples will leave feeling hopeless that change is possible. ​ Because they are simply repeating in the therapist’s office, what they do at home.

Thinking, if even the therapist can’t help us, we must be beyond help.

❌ SPORADIC SESSIONS OR ONLY WHEN THERE IS A CRISIS

Going to therapy once a month or whenever you have a big fight is not effective in helping couples create lasting change.

This is a reactive method and doesn’t really change the dynamics, it simply pacifies the current issue.

As I said before, when couples seek help they are typically in distress.

A once a month or every few weeks is not enough to move them out of the pain they are in and put them on a positive path forward.

When I work with a couple in distress I have a minimum commitment of 3 months. ​ And many of my clients continue beyond that.

Why? ​ Because creating significant change in your relationship takes a lot more than a few sessions.

Think about how long it has taken you to get to this point. ​ You’ve had years of practicing the patterns and habits that are deeply entrenched in your relationship. ​ Undoing those patterns and habits takes time, daily commitment, support and accountability.

All of these mistakes speak to a LACK OF PROCESS, PLAN & LEADERSHIP.

Which is what is necessary when working with couples and why therapy often fails couples.

That’s why I’ve spent years creating my own process and plan for how to get couples the best results possible.

💞 My 12 week MARRIAGE MASTERY program is different than anything you’ve tried before. ​

With my approach you know what your goals are and what you are working towards. ​ You have a clear process and plan to help you achieve those goals.

I’m NOT A GENERAL therapist or coach.

I specialize in working with married women & couples only.

I am an expert at what I do.

✅ I’ve spent years developing my framework and stripping back the things that were not needed so that you can make progress quickly and permanently giving you both the tools and techniques to be able to use and succeed in the future too.

✅ If you’re struggling or feeling hopeless right now, if you’ve been to therapy before and it didn’t help or made things worse, if you feel like no matter what you do things just never seem to get better……

✅ You’re committed to making your marriage work, you want to turn things around now AND you’re ready to invest in working with a mentor who has proven results, ​ send me a message and we can see if working together is a fit.

➡️ In your message, tell me a little bit about your current situation, how long you have been married for, what you’ve tried already to make your marriage better and what is the main outcome that you are looking to achieve, then I will take it from there.

➡️ Please don’t be afraid of messaging me or booking a call with me. ​ I have worked with so many different clients now I can confidently assure you that I will have already dealt with similar problems, stresses and issues to the ones that you are currently facing and I look forward to hearing from you.

Share this post