5 Myths About Couples Counseling

by Christina Neumeyer

1) The therapist is a referee, with the task of weighing in on who is right and who is wrong; the clinicians are there to take sides. Weigh in, rip me a new one and point out my numerous shortcomings. False. In reality, therapists rarely “offer advice” and there is rarely a right side and a wrong side, unlike Judge Judy. Most of life’s difficult is in the gray area. Between adolescent and parent, each side usually has valid points, between two partners, each has a position and unique experiences that are worth acknowledging. With Dr. Phil and other popular tv shows that introduce the idea of “counseling,” it’s understandable how lay culture has Jerry Springered the view of the counseling office; what is intended to be a safe and sacred space for sincere pain and recovery to occur. 
2) Counseling cannot possibly help. In fact, counseling may make things worse. It is often the case that bringing issues into the light may feel worse in the short term, with long-term pay off. If anxiety and panic attacks have shrunk my world, and now I am exposing myself to those triggers (crowds, stores, driving), necessary steps to recovery will be provocative. Taking stock of our lives, reviewing past events, is often walking into the lion’s den, and avoidance has kept the angst to a manageable level but the cost has been great. With guidance and a collaborative treatment plan, the short-term distress will diminish with great rewards over time. Therapy absolutely helps. People who are motivated to learn about who and what they are make the most satisfied –and enjoyable! – clients. 

3) Female therapists side with women. False. Males don’t stand a chance in the therapeutic environment. False. Tongue lashings and confrontations ahead. False. Effective treatment does not include male bashing. I can make a strong argument that a good therapist is hyper-curious: why else would we ask a million questions? In other words, inquiry about your experience in this challenging world is the trailhead of being helpful to you. Counseling should not be aggressive, harsh, or disrespectful.  Counselors should be quick to admit where they are wrong, may be off in their perception, or are not adequately grasping the problem at hand. After all, any business model that disrespects a paying customer is a short-lived endeavor. Therapist behaviors that make everyone present feel heard and respected are communicated via expressions, body posture, vocal tone, and verbal reflections that indicate comprehension (“Am I hearing you correctly?”) as well as therapist’s own self-awareness. 
4) Therapists are anti-religious and will not honor our values. A good clinician will work in alignment with your values, towards your goals, in this highly collaborative treatment process. Period. It is irrelevant what customs and values the clinician holds; in fact, anything else is poor patient care. Busy clinicians work with a wide range of clients, ages, stages, cultures, and communities: that is what makes our job so fabulous. Standard business practices assumes cultural and religious humility with a position of counselor equality; not superiority.
5) We can’t afford counseling. Divorce costs more. Moving out and establishing a new home costs more. Breaking up families and sharing custody of the children costs more. There is low-cost counseling available. Additionally, there are weekend boot camps, couple’s day retreats, and several other options (i.e. Gottman Apps, Marriage 365) that can educate a couple on how to better get along, communicate, and re-connect. Most couples want a new marriage with the same person and statistics indicate that 50% of divorced couples regretted their decision to leave the marriage. Never underestimate how difficult divorce will be. 


Setting Limits With Your Counselor

Made a new video about how clients can best steer therapy towards topics that feel helpful. 

Video Here


Holiday Volunteer Opportunity

Interfaith Services  


If you are looking to combine the exciting experience of travel with that wonderful feeling of purpose, this group may be perfect for you.

My lovely neighbor recently lost her adult son, and, as part of her grieving process, she chose to fill her cup through volunteerism. Throwing a garage sale to supplement the cost of airfare, she spent 10 days on Matangi Island, Fiji on a helping mission.
No medical experience needed; just willing hands and an open-mind.