You’ve made the decision with your partner to start couples therapy, but how to you find the right therapist? Interviewing therapists to work with is like dating; it can take a few interviews to get a sense of who feels like the right fit. It can feel like there is a lot to consider in terms of what kind of couple’s therapist you want to work with and researching can feel like information overload.
In this article, suggestions will be provided regarding what questions you might want to ask your partner and questions that can be helpful when interviewing for a new therapist.
Questions to Discuss with Your Partner
Before even interviewing any therapists, you may want to sit down with your partner and go over some great couple therapy questions together to get a sense of what your respective expectations are for therapy and what you’re both looking to achieve.
What are your goals for couples therapy?
It helps to go into couples therapy with a goal or two you are looking to work on, and it can be advantageous to speak with your partner about your respective goals to get a sense if you are on the same page or have different perspectives. Goals for couples therapy might include learning how to improve communication, bolstering your sex life, working through conflict or disagreements, and more. During this conversation, it’s possible that you might realize that you and your partner have different ideas for goals. If this is the case, don’t fret – that can be something to discuss with the therapists you interview.
What specific issues or challenges would you like to address?
Can you and your partner get specific with your goals? For example, if your overarching goal is to ‘improve your relationship’ or ‘strengthen your relationship’ – what does that look like for each of you? Does that mean you want to feel more connected with each other? Does it mean you want to communicate more productively during disagreements? Getting specific about what you want to focus in on during couples therapy sessions can help tailor the approach your therapist takes in helping you reach your goals.
What are your expectations for couple’s therapy?
What do you hope and expect to get out of your couples therapy experience? Do you have any expectations around what your sessions will consist of or how long you plan to attend couples therapy? Some of these questions can be difficult to anticipate before getting started, but you can at least discuss with your partner what you both expect and speak with the therapist about what those expectation look like in reality.
Are you both committed to showing up for each other?
Before starting couples therapy, perhaps you can discuss openly and honestly about your commitment to show up for each other in and outside of therapy. Couples therapy seldom works when one person is doing most or all of the heavy lifting. Do you feel able to make the commitment of couples therapy together and what will you do if it feels like one or both of you are losing steam? What obstacles, if any, can you anticipate that may hinder progress or motivation? How will you both hold each other accountable outside of therapy to continue the work you’re doing? Remember that therapy is a process and not a quick, overnight fix and you’re part of this journey together.
Questions for Couples to Discuss Before Starting Couples Therapy
Now that you and your partner have discussed your expectations, goals, needs, and any concerns, it’s time to search for a couple’s therapist. You may not immediately click with the first person you speak with so it can help to interview a few options. You might want to explore different styles of couples counseling to compare what feels most aligned with your goals. Below are some questions that can help you find the right therapist when you begin interviewing.
What is your approach to couple’s therapy?
Couples therapy is not a one-size-fits-all process and there are various different styles and modalities that a licensed marriage and family therapist might use. For example, one modality might be more processed-based, or talking through thoughts and emotions, whereas another might be more intervention-heavy including worksheets and materials to work on outside of therapy. It can help to know how the therapists you interview approach working with couples and assess if their style feels congruent with your needs and expectations.
How will your approach help with our specific goals?
Don’t be afraid to get curious about the utility of the therapist’s approach when it comes to your specific goals and needs. You might ask the therapist how their approach to therapy helps with communication breakdowns or how their approach works when you reach a stuck point. A couple’s therapist may need a few sessions to fully flesh out a treatment plan, but they should have a general idea how to approach working with you from their chosen framework.
Do you have experience working with couples who have similar goals/needs?
Part of the interview process when searching for a therapist is assessing if the therapist is competent at helping you and if they have experience with what you’re seeking support around. An example of this might be a provider who has experience working with couples in which one or both have a history of sexual trauma. Without proper education, training, and experience, a therapist can, unintentionally, cause harm if they don’t have enough understanding regarding trauma-informed care. If you speak with a therapist and they say they have little or no experience with what’s bringing you to couples therapy, they may not be the right fit and someone with more experience could likely be a better match.
What is your style of therapy with couples and what can we expect out of counseling sessions?
Knowing the therapist’s style of conducting sessions and what to expect can help both partners feel more at ease. Your therapist can clarify how they specifically work with couples and if they have any specific preferences such as doing individual sessions in addition to sessions together as a couple.
How do you handle conflicts or disagreements between couples during therapy?
Different therapists will have specific ways of managing disagreements that come up during sessions. It could be helpful to speak with a potential therapist about how they approach disagreements when they arise in the moment during sessions. How can they ensure that when you leave a tough session, you have the resources needed to feel grounded in the interim before the next sessions?
What is your availability and what is your scheduling procedure?
This question can be especially beneficial for couples who have complicated schedules. You’ll want to ensure that the therapist you work with can accommodate your schedules so you and your partner can adequately commit to therapy. The last thing you need is the additional stress of scheduling!
Additionally, be sure to ask therapists about their cancellation policy. Most therapists have a 24-hour or 48-hour cancellation policy so it could help to know how much notice they require to avoid a late cancellation fee.
Finding the Best Fit For You
Finding the right couple’s therapist for your needs can be tricky and it can feel overwhelming to sort through different specialties, modalities, credentials, and more. It’s possible that you may need to interview a few different options so you can get a sense for various therapist’s styles and discuss what sounds like it would be the best fit for your goals as a couple.
Asking the necessary questions amongst each other and of the therapist is a great start in seeking support for your relationship. Keep in mind that therapy tends to be a collaborative process between couple and therapist that has the potential to take a long time so finding someone who will allow you to provide feedback and be present in the process together.