How long will couples therapy take?

I wish I could answer that question, but the length of treatment depends on many factors. Some couples feel they’ve gotten what they need after four or five sessions, while others have experienced many years of distress and need more time in therapy. What I do know is that I will check in with you regarding our progress frequently and you will be in charge of how long we work together. While I will make recommendations based on my experience, the ultimate decision is yours.

I’d like to try couples therapy or bring my child to therapy but my partner is unsure or resistant. What should I do?

This is a common situation; it is not unusual for one family member to feel ready for treatment before the other. I recommend asking your partner to attend the intake session without making any commitment beyond that. I find that people often experience the first session as more rewarding and less uncomfortable than they had imagined, and committing to one hour is much different than committing to a course of treatment. At the end of the first session we will make a decision together about how to proceed. When you speak with your partner, try to speak from your own perspective using “I” statements rather than “you” statements (e.g., “I’m having a really hard time in our marriage and I really want to try couples therapy because I care about you and our relationship” vs. “We need therapy. Johnny is out of control and you are just making it worse by yelling at him so much”).

Should I take my child out of school for therapy?

This is a common and important question. The answer is, it depends on the difficulties your child is facing. If your child is struggling academically, it is typically best to minimize school absences. However, if your child or family is struggling emotionally and academics are less of an issue, I think therapy is important enough to warrant a brief absence if it’s the best or only way to get them the treatment they need.

What should I tell my children before our first family therapy appointment?

This will depend in part on the age of your children, but generally honesty is the best policy (this is especially true with adolescents). I advise parents to tell children about the appointment in advance using  simple and age-appropriate terms to explain why you are seeking family therapy. It’s especially important to avoid language that might lead to children feeling blamed; the goal is for them to see the visit as an opportunity to get help rather than as a punishment. This is easily done by speaking from your own experience. For example, “Tomorrow we are going to see a family therapist. Your dad and I feel like we’ve been arguing with you a lot lately and we want to get some help so we can feel happier as a family.” If your child is nervous or resistant, it’s best to avoid getting into an argument about whether or not they will attend. Instead, state clearly and firmly that this is important and they will be joining you and provide reassurance that they are not in trouble and will not be forced to talk about anything they aren’t comfortable sharing.

Do we have to be at home to do online therapy?

The short answer is, no. For some couples it may be more difficult to open up and connect in a less private space such as an office; however, if meeting at one of your work places during lunch is the way you can get the help you need, then that’s what we’ll do.