I encourage my friends, family and clients seeking help in their marriages to find a therapist who is “marriage or couple friendly”. One who is trained to work with couples. I wish I could just tell them to google marriage friendly therapist and find a list of therapists, coaches, and counselors who have special training and experience working with couples, rather than trust that a title like Marriage Family Therapist would suffice. In reality, most MFTs work with individuals to help them with their families and their relationships, and are not specifically trained and experienced to treat the special needs of couples. I know many therapists who are excellent at treating individuals, and work with couples effectively. However, I also know therapists who are excellent individual therapists, have the best intentions…, and lack training to help couples navigate the often rough and overwhelming waters of how be part of a couple. The latter explains why I encounter couples on the brink of divorce, who are ready to give up and have “tried therapy”. Their stories include being told: they were incompatible, they were not trying hard enough, their partner was a narcissist, and questioned, “why do you stay?”
So as googling “MFT: marriage friendly therapist”, is probably not an option, here are a few tips I have gathered to help you in your search:
- Ask your therapist if he or she specializes in couples therapy. Ask what training they have had in addition to their university education.
- Listen to see if the therapist is future focused, and solution focused (rather than exploring the past, or spending too much time talking about the problem)
- Notice if you feel validated by the therapist, is he or she valuing you and your partner’s perspectives, is he or she respecting your timing, and your decisions (rather than taking sides, pressuring, or telling you what you should or should not do).
- Notice if he or she is open to your cultural, spiritual, individual ways of feeling loved and connected (rather than telling their personal opinion)
- Notice if he or she is comfortable and confident about the future and potential of the relationship
- Do you get a sense that your therapist believes that change is possible, is he or she communicating hope to you?
- Look for improvement and direction (goals) with in the first three sessions.