Talking to Your Partner About Therapy
If you are concerned about your spouse or partner and would like them to attend counselling, but are unsure how to go about getting them to participate, you are in the right place. Having these conversations can be tricky, and even sometimes the best intentions result in arguments, a feeling of not being good enough or blamed. That doesn’t mean that these conversations aren’t worth having with your partner, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind as you approach these conversations to help ensure that the conversation is positive and productive, rather than having the opposite effect.
Here are a few suggestions to help with initiating these discussions in a helpful way:
Start with Yourself – often clients will come to counselling after seeing some of the changes and p
ositive impact that their partner has had in doing their own counselling. Sharing about your own realizations, strategies and positive counselling experiences often will help your partner to realize that it’s not so daunting, and actually can be an enjoyable experience at times. This can help to gradually shift their perceptions about counselling, and create an open mind to the possibilities of what counselling can achieve for them.
Avoid casting blame or giving too many reasons – We all find it difficult to receive negative feedback. You may have heard of the strategy of using “I” statements as opposed to “You” statements – this can be very helpful in allowing you to share what you observe as causing difficulty for your partner, without pointing to them as the cause or problem themselves. Statements like “I’ve noticed that you’re really frustrated lately and having a hard time getting out of it” can help to bring up your concerns in a more observational way rather than blaming. It’s important that you let them know that you don’t think they are the problem, but that some help may help them to better cope with things that are going on in their life. Also, be sure to not give too many reasons, but identify your largest concerns. Hearing too many problems often makes people feel like a failure or feel overwhelmed and blamed, as opposed to feeling as if there is a possibility that things can get better.
Setup the conversations for success. Have the conversation at a time when you know you won’t be interrupted or have to rush away. Avoid having the conversation during arguments or when emotions are high as rarely do conversations that happen at that time have the desired effect. Be gentle and understanding, and don’t press too hard – often having gentle conversations over a number of months as opposed to one conversation in which you lay it on the line is more effective.
Avoid Coercion/ultimatums – Counselling can be effective when people come for the right reasons: because they have chosen to be there and believe it can be helpful for them. Rarely does forcing someone to go to counselling result in a positive life changing experience for them, and often results in more frustration and feeling blamed.
Start small – The thought of seeing a therapist over the long term can be intimidating at first. Encourage your partner to simply try it out by attending just a few sessions to start. Often, after attending a few sessions, many clients say that it’s much more comfortable than they expected and they look forward to sessions. Taking the pressure off of attending over the long-term can help to take the first step.
Help them take the practical steps – Some people, even though open to counselling, struggle to take the practical steps of finding a therapist, making contact and booking an appointment. If this is the case for your partner, ask if you can help with taking on those tasks to help reduce those barriers.
Lastly, don’t push too hard – While you may feel it’s obvious that your partner may benefit from counselling, often it can take time for people to become open to the idea and see value in it. Pushing too hard may turn them off to the idea all together, so it’s best to have these conversations over a period of time to help to gradually see the benefits of how counselling can help.
Having these conversations can be difficult and frustrating when someone is not receptive, but when we initiate these conversations from a place of caring, respect and gentleness, they can be life changing. If you or your partner would like to arrange counselling, please contact us!