Couples Therapy
April 20, 2017 9:25 AM   Subscribe

What are the differences in couples therapy? Is there one method that's better for dealing with grief than another? Confused by "emotionally focused" vs. behavioral or gottman, etc. etc.
posted by Smedleyman to Human Relations (6 answers total)
Is the grief causing a problem in the relationship, or is it that the two partners want to attend grief counseling together?
posted by lazuli at 10:43 AM on April 20, 2017

I should have clarified: I'm not asking to be nosy, but because if the general issue is that both partners are dealing with grief, and there's not really a major relationship problem, then grief counseling would likely be the best option.

If grief is causing problems in the relationship and those problems would need to be the focus of treatment, then you'd still probably want a therapist trained in grief counseling (to understand the context) but also in some other form of relationship counseling. The different orientations (cognitive, Gottman, emotionally focused, etc.) will generally tell you where the therapist is likely to put their attention. Gottman focuses a lot on communication. Emotionally Focused Therapy focuses, as you might guess, on emotions. Behavioral on behaviors (e.g., adding pleasurable activities). Cognitive-behavioral on behaviors and on how you're thinking about things. The therapy sessions might not look all that different from the outside, but where the therapist directs their energy -- and asks the couple to direct their energy -- would be different depending on their orientation.
posted by lazuli at 11:12 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is the grief causing a problem in the relationship, or is it that the two partners want to attend grief counseling together?

Kind of both lazuli. Probably more the former.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:16 AM on April 20, 2017

If it were me, I would do a Psychology Today or Good Therapy search for therapists in my area, and filter by therapists who specialize in grief and in relationship issues. From that list, I would then look at the therapists' orientations, and maybe Google the names of any therapy orientations I didn't know, so that I could get a general sense of the focus of that type of therapy. I would only eliminate therapists based on modality if I had a really bad gut reaction to the therapy description and would feel like my therapist was a sham for buying into it. I would then call or email the remaining therapists on the list to see if they were taking new clients and to get a sense of how they thought they could help.

Finding a good "fit" is often more important in finding effective therapy than the therapists' own therapy orientation, and I think potential clients can spin themselves in circles focusing too much on orientation. You don't really need to find the perfect orientation, you just need to find an effective therapist, which is often much more about the therapist's personality and engagement with clients than about their orientation.
posted by lazuli at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

(I should mention: I live in a pretty small town. If you're in a bigger place and so end up with dozens and dozens of therapists on your list, it's perfectly fine -- at least for this round -- to arbitrarily narrow it down to a handful based on nothing other than gut instinct (e.g., "I don't like their photo" or "Their website is cheesy"). I am a therapist and I have used this method for eliminating therapists from my own list for personal therapy, and I have talked to other therapists who do the same. Part of finding the right "fit" is just going with your own instincts. If you end up not finding any workable therapists on your narrowed-down list, you can expand it back out again.)
posted by lazuli at 2:01 PM on April 20, 2017

I know a little about Emotionally Focused Therapy - it focus on attachment (strengthening the relationship between the partners) which it views as more about emotions than logic or communication skills. There is research showing that EFT is effective for couples who with trauma in the backgrounds so a good fit if grief is impacting how you and your partner relate to each other.
posted by metahawk at 8:59 PM on April 20, 2017

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