• Many couples eventually face a rough patch in their relationship – getting support is nothing to be ashamed of

  • Therapist Tara Watson explores five myths about couples counselling 

  • We have couples therapists available to support you – find yours here

I want to share my previous assumptions that were proven wrong when I embarked on my journey working with couples. Working with couples is similar to individual work but a lot more complex. Picture this: two people sitting opposite you relaying two different versions of the same event; this is a summary of the entanglement you need to wade through. 

At times it feels complex, but it is so rewarding when a couple develops new ways of communicating with one another. The opportunity therapy provides couples who are struggling is profound, so I would like to inform you under no illusion, what couples therapy is really like and the misconceptions people have.

1. We are not here to fix your relationship

A key misconception is that we ‘fix' marriages or relationships. Unfortunately, we do not have that power, as it belongs to the couple, 50/50. Our role is to act as a facilitator who helps to manage both parties’ thoughts and feelings. 

Knowing that the therapist’s job is not to save your relationship may help you take more ownership of the relationship as a whole. A therapist helps you through the process of repair in a somewhat turbulent time, rather than telling you both that everything will be OK and that you will always be together.

2. The therapist will take sides

One may expect a therapist to take sides when there is three of you, or if someone has behaved in an ‘unkind’ way such as having an affair. As a therapist, no matter where my moral orientation may be, being close with both partners is important for progress to take shape. A therapist does not blame or criticise you as this is unethical, so you must move onto another therapist if this were to ever happen.

Further to this, many people may worry when their partner chooses a therapist of the same gender as they think they might be left out. For example, in a heterosexual couple one may think that if their female partner choses a female therapist it could create a dynamic where the females ‘gang-up’ on the male but this is not the case. A therapist will endeavour to make sure both partners feel heard and understood.

3. Arguments can be healthy

Funnily enough, even though many people prevent arguments from happening, especially in the company of someone else, it is actually important for a therapist to witness an argument as they provide a lot of information about the way you communicate with one other. We then have a clearer idea what the arguments at home may look like and how we can manage them.  

Obviously, this must be within reason and the therapist will step in if it becomes too heated. Therefore, this would be a useful area to explore, so don’t be afraid of allowing your therapist into these parts of your relationship.

4. Individual sessions are also valuable for couples

When people think of couples' therapy, they don’t think of individual sessions as well. When a therapist offers individual sessions it can be hugely productive to take them. It is also a good opportunity to discuss things with your therapist without your partner which can later be incorporated into your couple’s work. 

5. Are we normal?

The most common question people ask is, ‘are we normal?’. Whether it relates to the amount of times they have sex or whether their issues are as bad as others, this is a frequently asked question that simply cannot be answered. The answer is; well, what is normal? Your sense of normality should be created only between you and your partner. You can then decide as a couple how much sex suits you or how bad your problem may be. 

Please bear in mind that each couple’s idea of ‘normal’ is vastly different. It may suit one couple to have sex monthly and some daily. There is no right or wrong answer. Keep your ideas of normality between you both.

Tara Watson is a verified welldoing.org therapist in South West London and online

Further reading

What happens in couples counselling?

Why couples therapy benefits even healthy relationships

Relationship therapy saved our marriage

Is staying in love an unrealistic relationship goal?

Why do I feel ambivalent about my relationship?