Posted by: ellyn on Nov 30, 2011
Many therapists are drawn to doing psychotherapy in order to be helpers and also because we enjoy the closeness with our clients. Individual therapy can be calming and comfortable. It feels good and we often like the experience of providing support and unconditional positive regard to our clients.
I don’t mean to imply that individual therapy is without its difficult confrontations. But in individual therapy, our clients can titrate how slowly or quickly they inform us about their “dark side”. In couples work, the other partner may dump the worst aspects of their spouse on us in the first session. And things escalate quickly because, after all, who is able to be openly, vulnerably accountable for their own behavior under these conditions?
In couples therapy you will likely witness partners being brutal or very self-centered with each other. You may have to face how vicious a client can actually be. You will be called upon to make difficult confrontations. And these can be scary!
Fear about doing couples therapy can take many forms. There is fear for some therapists about even getting started and there are the many fears we experience often in the room with challenging couples. Ask yourself what are some of your own fears?
When we are honest with ourselves, there is a high probability that we have days where we feel overwhelmed and don’t know what is best to do or say, especially with high-volatile interactions. There are many occasions to feel confused, lost, insecure and inadequate. Continuing education courses often discuss theory, technique and interventions as if they can be delivered without risk. And done, objectively and calmly without fear.
Pete and I wrote an article for the Psychotherapy Networker magazine on just this topic. And writing the article came with its own fears, since we decided to be very open and self-revealing.
We initially wrote about 5 fears.
- The fear of inflicting pain
- The fear of making fatal errors
- The fear of confrontation
- The fear of being the bad guy
- The fear of facing ongoing discouragement
And the final article was published with a more in-depth look at three of these. If you haven't seen the article, you can read it at Facing Our Fears.
We’d like to start an open dialogue here on the blog about fear in couples work. Please share your reactions to our article. What do you experience? What have you overcome or what do you still grapple with? What has helped you with your own fears? Thanks for taking the time to involve yourself with this personal appraisal.
Click the “comment” link to join the discussion. If you haven’t commented on the blog before, you’ll be prompted to “register” but it’s free. Just click the comment link and follow the instructions.
Practical training goes a long way to overcoming fear of couples therapy. Our audio program High Impact Couples Therapy shows you how to get both partners aligned and working towards the same collaborative outcome. This five-CD audio program comes with a follow-along workbook. It’s normally $247 but we are cleaning out our inventory before reprinting and possible repricing from our new printer. We are offering the final 7 copies for $187. Supplies won’t last long. Visit High Impact Couples Therapy to order and type “December2011” in the coupon code at checkout to get this special price.