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  • Three Things About Couples Therapy That Everyone Gets Wrong

    Dr. Margaret Rutherford, Ph.D, has been a privately practicing psychologist for over 20 years. Southern-raised and a two-time divorcee, she knows a thing or two about relationships. Dr. Rutherford is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding couples therapy and responding to common misconceptions.

     

    Dr. Rutherford believes that the “very wise couple doesn’t wait until a crisis hits,” and loves when she finds herself counseling couples who come in “before there was a real problem.” The fact of the matter is, according to Rutherford, that by the time most couples seek counseling, they’ve often been struggling for a long time—usually multiple years. By then, damage is deep-seeded and resolution more time- and energy-dependent.

     

    However, the couples that see her before conflicts metastasize see significantly better outcomes than do couples who wait for that proverbial last straw. The research shows that “prevention is 3x more effective than intervention.”

     

    Relationships, just like every other facet of our lives, require routine maintenance to stay healthy and strong. So, what is it that stops so many couples from taking advantage of this scientifically proven approach to relationships? Dr. Rutherford suggests that it has to do with three major couples therapy misconceptions.

     

    Misconception #1: Someone who doesn’t know me is going to tell me what to do.

     

    This is a reservation most people considering therapy have battled against. The preconceived notion being that a therapist is some type of authoritarian who will assign blame and dictate rules. However, Dr. Rutherford likens a good couples’ therapist to that of good consultant. Someone who “[sees] the problems you’re describing in the context of the hundreds of stories they’ve heard” and who can “connect present-day issues with your past, or notice behavior or communication patterns that are harder for you to notice.”

     

    A therapist is like a coach or a mentor—they guide and offer perspective that you may be too close to see. But, at the end of the day, it’s your decision whether you take their advice or not.

     

    Misconception #2: Therapy is expensive, time-consuming, and good therapists are hard to find.

     

    According to Rutherford, “many therapists will work with you on the financial aspect of receiving support” and while a therapist’s time does require some cost, “so does divorce.”

     

    However, nowadays, it’s arguably easier than ever to find a therapist that can work with you to meet your needs. From counselors like John Gallagher, LMHC, who work with couples and individuals to those who specialize in specific areas within the couple’s therapy umbrella.

     

    Misconception #3: I don’t want to air my dirty laundry to a stranger

     

    Dr. Rutherford agrees that “there is no getting around this one.” Because it’s often within that “dirty laundry” where root causes are discovered and able to be addressed. Whether that’s a history of childhood abuse, addiction, or marital infidelity—this is information your therapist needs to know to better guide and help you.

     

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