Research suggests that couples wait about six to seven years before seeking the help of a professional -- marriage counselor, couple's therapist, couple's counselor. By that time, many problems have become chronic and partners have developed some really ineffective communication patterns, leaving them feeling discouraged and sad. They often begin to question whether that feeling of being "in love" can be recaptured. Attempts to find their way back to each other often fail, because of constant emotional injury to the relationship and to each individual partner. That's why, when the decision is made to seek professional help, it's so important to find the right therapist.
Choosing a therapist that is trained in the specialization of couples therapy is extremely important and can determine the success or failure of therapy. In a recent New York Times article, one therapist described counseling couples like attempting to pilot a helicopter in a hurricane. There can be a high level of volatility and unpredictability; and how the therapist responds can make a significant difference in the outcome of therapy. Finding ways to de-escalate arguments and begin to help each partner feel safe and connected to the other takes expertise. That's why special training is so important.
Two of the most researched models of couples therapy are The Gottman Method, developed by John and Julie Gottman, and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, based on John Bowlby's attachment theory, developed by Sue Johnson.
The Gottman Method strives to help couples achieve a greater sense of understanding and awareness of each other. Knowing your partner's "love maps" elicits empathic responses rather than defensiveness that creates a deeper sense of connectedness. Through their research, the Gottmans were able to identify the specific factors that can predict divorce. These factors include criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Once identified, the therapist, through various means of interventions, is able to help the couple identify these predictors and change them.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy seeks to deepen and strengthen the bonds of sexual and emotional intimacy. EFT is a structured approach to couples therapy based on adult attachment. The goal is for couples to understand the patterns or interactional cycles that diminish their ability to feel safe and secure in turning toward each another. It is a collaborate approach that explores the underlying feelings that create these interactional cyles. Once identified, couples are able to help each other experience what the other is feeling. This, then, creates more empathy and compassion between partners and allows them to be more responsive to each others needs. Research suggests that 70-75% of couples engaged in Emotionally Focused Therapy are able to move from distress to secure attachment.