Have you ever wondered what happens in couples therapy?
My college buddy, Glenna Anderson, LCSW, was kind enough to be interviewed for this post about the benefits of marital/couples therapy. Plus, I will be sharing information about her current endeavors as a blogger!
Glenna, let us know about your professional background and current endeavors.
All of my educational background is in social work with a focus on mental health. Currently, I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, which means I am approved by the state of CA to operate in a clinical setting without supervision. I can also supervise post-graduate social workers and MFT (Marriage & Family Therapist) Interns in completing their hours towards licensure.
I have worked with high school students, school aged children with major mental illness, adults (ages 24-65) with major mental illness, the homeless population, families, couples, and even people who did not have a diagnosis but needed some additional support.
Currently I am taking new clients in Los Angeles for my private practice where I will be offering treatment for mental illness as well as personal development coaching. You can also find me on my blog and website, The Odd Bird Blog.
What are some common myths about couples therapy? How have you handled this in sessions?
One major myth about couples therapy is that the couple can just show up and their therapist will wave a magic wand and fix everything. When I word it like that, it seems obvious that this isn’t possible, but so often people come in and look to the clinician to fix all of their problems.
That’s not how it works.
Couples therapy is most effective when both parties come into treatment with an open mind and a desire to stay together.
Another misconception is that the offending partner will get bashed the entire time they are in treatment. For example, if there is infidelity, the non-offending spouse tends to think that the therapist will side with them and spend the entire session scolding the partner that cheated.
Not true at all. Therapists are there to be impartial, non-judgmental third parties that can help you better understand what the issue is and provide you with tools to address the problem.
I’ve found the best way to handle this preconceived notion is to address this in the introduction of treatment. Going forward, if either side starts looking for me to be “on their side” and fuss at their spouse, I reiterate what my role is.
If any readers are considering marital or couples therapy, what benefits could they expect?
The benefits of marital/couples therapy are plenty!
The two main ones are having an impartial person to help you see what you are doing well and what areas you need some work on. Having someone turn a mirror on you as an individual can be difficult, but necessary. It helps us grow and become better people as well as better partners.
Another benefit is an overall healthier relationship by becoming healthier people. When you see how detrimental your negative comments can be, you develop skills to address this, which helps not only in your romantic relationship, but also in your interpersonal and work relationships. All these enhancements will create a healthier environment for your children. They see healthier interactions, better communication skills, and more productive ways of handling anger.
What qualities should someone look for in a therapist?
When looking for a therapist, they should be either licensed or licensed waivered. In CA, that’s means they are an LCSW, LMFT, Licensed PsyD, etc. If you live in CA and want to see if a therapist’s license is in good standing, go to http://bbs.ca.gov and search their name. For licensed waivered, this means they have graduated with a Masters in an approved area from an accredited university and are being supervised by someone that is licensed. They are working on completing their hours so they can take their licensing exam.
After you have established that they are state approved, you have to make sure they are YOU approved. You should feel comfortable opening up to them- no reservations and most importantly, no judgment.
A therapist is not there to wave their finger in your face and tell you how terrible you are. They are supposed to create a safe environment where you can discuss your concerns.
They should also offer feedback. Long gone are the days where you lie on a therapist’s couch for 60 minutes, they take notes quietly, and then you get up and leave. You want someone that will gently challenge you with the intentions of helping you grow as a person.
You also want a therapist that will give you tools and techniques to help you make changes. They can role play with you, provide worksheets, explain the technique to you and model how to use it, etc.
Finally, it’s important to have a therapist that is ethical and professional. There is never sex in therapy. Period. If your therapist even hints at having a romantic or sexual relationship with you, end the session and report it to the BBS. You want someone that keeps accurate records according to the State Board’s and HIPAA standards. You want someone that respects your privacy, which means they shouldn’t be casually talking about you to friends, colleagues or other clients. A telling sign of this is if they make jokes about other clients: I can guarantee they are talking bad about you!
Thank you Glenna for busting these myths and hopefully encouraging people to see the benefits of therapy. Follow her blog at http://theoddbirdblog.com.