I am often confronted with potential and actual clients who find excuses not to start or complete couples or individual therapy. They may prioritize sports events, parties, work and children, and other supposedly pressing needs and events. In the process, they may neglect doing their homework from therapy, or terminate therapy after making partial progress.
To solve a sexual or relationship problem, clients must be committed to their healing, and they must do some work between sessions. When the going gets tough, couples either find strength from mutual healing, or they abandon therapy, and perhaps each other. Is a spontaneous invite to a social event or a trip to Idaho more pressing than fixing a serious problem? Somes it is. If a client decides to reschedule our sessions over and over because of other priorities, I am concerned that they are not fully committed to therapy.
Although I will never know how many couples and individuals who stop coming eventually solve their problems, I believe that many of them did not find a real solution, even if they made partial progress. There is a tendency for some to think they can solve their own problem after some progress, but some of these clients come back after a few months because their unsolved problem got worse.
Even though I always caution clients to complete their homework and home play, and to stay with therapy, this does not always happen. Sometimes they claim to be too busy, or they want to save money, which makes me question whether their relationship health and emotional wellness are really important.
Some problems do not require many sessions, while others are so complicated that more sessions are necessary. I work as quickly as I can. Sometimes one person wants to complete therapy, while the other does not–perhaps because change is uncomfortable and stressful. I know that some of these relationships eventually end in a divorce or similar break up.
If a couple is really committed to therapy, the results are typically good. But it takes two people who follow through with the work and sessions to achieve a positive result. I do not just do therapy to make a living. I do it to help people.
Sometimes one person wants to see an individual therapist. I encourage this and refer out when appropriate. However, it is a myth to think that people must seek individual work prior to doing couples work. The relationship may go by the way in the meantime. If individual work is needed, my recommendation is to do individual and couples work simultaneously. No amount of individual therapy solves a relationship problem. It takes couples work to resolve a relationship concern. Some clients attempt to craft their own treatment plan by failing to see this.
If I am doing couples therapy and one or both people are also seeing an individual therapist, I prefer to coordinate my work with the individual counselor(s). Otherwise, the head does not know what the tail is doing, and progress is slower. Clients need to go to therapists they trust and feel comfortable with. I am direct and I use humor to provide a balanced perspective. I believe this helps clients feel assured that they can improve their thoughts, emotions, behavior and communication with clarity and compassion.