Remember that no one can make another person change. It is normal to come to therapy hoping that you can get your partner to change, and hoping that if you can tell your side of things in a persuasive enough way, your therapist will see who is at fault, and agree that the best way to solve the problem is to get your partner to change. Unfortunately, if both of you are coming to therapy with this mindset, there is only one winner—the one the therapist sides with. As you can imagine, this means there is also a loser, the person the therapist doesn’t side with.
If couples therapy is focused on getting one person to change, that person will likely either disengage from therapy, or make a superficial change that doesn’t last. When that happens, you both lose. That’s why it’s not in your best interest for your therapist to take sides.
How Does Change Happen? Change happens when a person decides a change is necessary in order to reach a goal they want to achieve, uphold a personal value, or make their life better in some way. In short, change happens when a person wants to make a change for their own personal reasons. Making changes in your relationship will require you to identify what you want to change about yourself in order to improve your relationship. If both of you do this concurrently, and it’s based on values or goals that you share as a couple as to what you both want in your relationship, then you will likely have the most successful outcome. Sometimes, only one person wants to participate in therapy. If one of you changes, this can also sometimes change the system enough that the relationship improves. But if change in one person doesn’t trigger enough change in the relationship, it is also possible that the person who is doing the work to change will decide that the relationship doesn’t support their goals and values. So, the takeaway here is to approach couples therapy thinking about how you want to change yourself, not how you want to change your partner.
Are you feeling stuck in a situation in your life where you haven’t been able to make the changes you want? Do you need some help finding a new perspective? Therapy can help you understand yourself and your current situation more clearly. It can help as you make changes to support the life you want to live. Finding a therapist can be a daunting experience. Research suggests that the relationship you have with your therapist is just as significant as the actual techniques used in therapy. Finding someone you feel comfortable with is important. You can ask friends or family members that you trust for names of therapists that they recommend as a way to start building your list. If you have insurance, you can also ask for a list of names of therapists who are on your plan’s provider list. You can also search online. Once you have some names, start making phone calls to the people on your list. You might need to leave a message, so give some times that are good for calling you back. When you talk to potential therapists on the phone, you can ask about their experience working with your type of problem, their approach, and see how you feel during the conversation. Also ask questions about fees and insurance, and see if their schedule works with yours. When you find someone that feels like a good fit, schedule an appointment. If you meet with someone a few times and feel like you aren’t making progress, bring it up during your appointment. Having a conversation about it can help clarify your goals and help your therapist better understand how to help you. Sometimes, you might need to try someone else until you find the person that you really click with. When I was in graduate school, I worked with a therapist for a period of time. She was wonderful. She was also the third person I saw, after meeting with two other therapists for a few sessions each. So, don’t give up. Finding the right person might take some effort, but it can make a big difference in how you feel about therapy.