Can Couples’ Therapy Make Things Worse?

For every therapist who swears by the effectiveness of couples’ therapy, there may be another who is equally convinced it doesn’t work. There are even some professionals who claim that couples’ therapy can make things worse. Can it? And if not, where does such thinking come from?

Couples’ therapy is a form of counseling offered by organizations like Relationships & More. As a counseling center in Rye, New York, Relationships & More works with couples and individuals throughout Westchester County. They say that while couples’ counseling is effective for most of their clients, not everyone is helped.

Already Too Late

A quick perusal of relationship experts who do not think much of couples’ counseling reveals a common thread in their pessimism. That thread is the belief that couples, by the time they decide to seek therapy, have already crossed that line where it is too late. In other words, couples are too far gone before they even attempt counseling.

If we assume that this is true for one minute, then any failure in the counseling environment is not really a problem with counseling itself. The problem is that the couple in question waited too long. That being the case, it’s unfair to use such examples as evidence of couple’s counseling making things worse.

Counseling is just a tool. Any tool, if used improperly, can create problems. Try to hammer in a nail with the butt end of a screwdriver and you risk splitting the handle in half. Try to deep fry chicken in a shallow frying pan and you could wind up with a grease fire on your stove. In both examples, you have tools being used improperly. But tools cannot act on their own.

Receiving Bad Advice

Some critics of couples’ therapy don’t raise the issue of waiting too long. Rather, their main criticism is that couples can receive bad advice. Unfortunately, it is hard to argue that point. Counseling is ultimately a human endeavor. Whenever humans are involved, mistakes are possible.

The truth is that bad advice is possible across the entire counseling spectrum. It’s not just limited to couples’ therapy. When bad advice is given, it rarely results in any sort of tangible improvement. In some cases, bad advice can make a situation worse.

There again however, the problem is not with the concept of couples’ therapy. The problem is the therapist. An unskilled therapist may use the counseling tool improperly. A skilled therapist may use the tool properly, but still suffer from a bit of carelessness. In either case, counseling is still just a tool.

Uncooperative Couples

Yet another reason couples’ counseling seems to fail or make things worse is the uncooperative nature of the participants. Though it sounds strange, there are those couples who ask for help but then fail to cooperate with their therapists. They do not participate in conversations. They do not practice the strategies recommended to them by their counselors. Rather than trying to work things out, they continually look to point the finger of blame.

No form of counseling can achieve the desired goal if those being counseled do not offer their full and complete cooperation. Ultimately, fixing relationship problems is up to those people involved in the troubled relationships. Therapists can only point them to solutions. They have to implement those solutions themselves.

It is fair to say that couples’ therapy doesn’t always work. It’s another thing to say that it makes things worse. Couples’ therapy is only a tool. If a relationship gets worse following therapy, it’s only because the tool was used improperly or ineffectively by the parties involved. It is as simple as that.

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