How to Get the Most out of Couple’s Therapy

by Christopher J.

May 26, 2024

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While we all desire the “honeymoon period” of relationships with our lovers to last forever, that is unfortunately rarely the case. The reality is, life likes to toss in a variety of bumps and hurdles along the path to connected couple bliss. Couples who are sensitive & self-aware enough to determine there is a obstacle they need to overcome have a very powerful tool available to help them: professional couples therapists.

Equipped with advanced degrees in psychology, counseling, social work, or marriage/family therapy as well as experience in couples and relationship counseling, couples therapists can guide their clients through a variety of problems to help resolve any long-standing dysfunction within the relationship. Those challenges may range from communication problems, anger, eroded trust or blended families to substance abuse, infidelity, relationship satisfaction issues or barriers in the bedroom.

The challenge for couples is not to wait too long before searching for a therapist to coach them through whatever is causing that rough patch and back into a loving and satisfying relationship.

“The research is pretty clear that the typical couple enters couples therapy two years after they should have,” says Kyle Zrenchik, Ph.D., couples and sex therapist and cofounder of All In Therapy Clinic located near Minneapolis, MN.”

“A lot of the times,” Dr. Zrenchik continues, “people will notice the prevalence of problems, but for a variety of reasons – the cost, the embarrassment, the belief they should be able to figure it out on their own or an under-appreciation for how some of these problems can exacerbate over time, especially if left unaddressed – couples will come into the office too late, and the damage is already done.”

When Is the Best Time to See a Therapist?

The ideal time for people to speak with a couple’s therapist, Zrenchik informs, is when they’re not entirely certain they may need counseling, but they think it might be helpful.

“That’s the best time because then you only have to do five or six sessions,” he says. “That saves you so many hours of unnecessary fighting or disconnection or lack of sex, so if you can identify those problems early on, it’s easy.

He adds that while they work with a range of people who come in when their problems are still relatively few and manageable, their typical clients are somewhere between the ages of 30 to 45. By the time they are in their 60s, most couples are not going to pursue couples therapy. This may be a generational characteristic, or they may be too set in their ways or they might not need it and can address the issues themselves.

“There are many super-talented couples therapists out there,” Zrenchik assures. “So if people obviously care about the relationship and the stability of their relationship and their family, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with identifying problems you want to address and do so early on.”

According to Zrenchik, the most common times for couples to come in are either 1) the first few years after the birth of their first child or, 2) the years leading up to when their children start to leave the nest. These can be challenging times because, in the former situation, the parents have to adjust to the additional financial and emotional strains of a newborn child on a young relationship. For the latter, the couple may have become a bit disconnected during their child raising years. Their primary focus for so long has been their children, and now they need to reestablish their neglected romantic & sexual relationship after the kids leave.

There’s Always Hope, Even When Sex is the Problem

Of course, throughout a marriage or long-term relationship, some struggles might arise on the sexual front. The presence of sexual problems, Zrenchik says, is significantly more prevalent than people ever realize or want to admit.

“Nearly half of all couples don’t have sex anymore, and the ones that do, not all of them are satisfied with the type or frequency of sex that they have,” he reveals. “Every person that has a penis is going to experience problems with their erection, and every person with a vagina is going to, at some point, experience some form of discomfort or inexplicable dryness.”

The tough truth is that virtually everyone is going to experience some type of sexual dysfunction as they age, regardless of how satisfied they are with their sex life is or their relationship. Unfortunately, he adds, when couples aren’t having the type of sexual relationship they want most often they are laboring under the misbelief that the things that worked when they were 22 should be the same when they are 52 and that there shouldn’t need to be any critical evaluation or discussion when you’ve become disconnected with your eroticism and are just trying to force it to work for a long time.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat physiological obstacles that arise with age and ways to reconnect, often with the guidance of a couples therapist.

Evolving Sexually is Perfectly Normal

“People evolve sexually, so who they are, what their body responds to, what their body needs, what their into, what their lifestyle is, all of that evolves over time,” Zrenchik says. “If couples get into a mindset of journeying together, reintroducing some novelty, some mystery, some exploration, some vulnerability, some eroticism back into their relationship, it provides an avenue for them to try something new, something different, and that bit of mystery, that novelty is often where couples can re-find their flame.”

On the practical side, Zrenchik informs that an experienced professional couples therapist will require about a $2,000 to $3,000 investment, unless the person’s insurance covers most therapy costs. Therapists will charge in the $130 to $200 for each session, again depending on insurance coverage. The most important assignment is to find a therapist who you like and want to work with. He suggests starting with a 15-minute meeting, if possible, to test out “the vibe.” He recommends using Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist website to identify therapists in your area. Ask friends and family for references, too.

“The things that make therapy work are that you like the plan they develop for you, and you like your therapist,” Zrenchik concludes.

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