This article was originally published on Healing Moments Counseling.
Maintaining a healthy and happy relationship is not always easy, especially since many of us do not have great role models, and our education did not teach us how to have mature and secure romantic relationships. As a result, our intimate partnerships tend to struggle with communication, emotional connection, eroticism, and even specific challenges such as parenting, finances, careers/dreams, cell phones, and so on.
Luckily, research highlights that couples therapy can be an effective way for lovers to decrease distress and improve relational and individual mental health. However, finding the right relationship therapist can be a daunting task. In this article, we’ll explore some tips on how to find an effective and competent couples therapist.
1. Start With Referrals & Recommendations for Couples Counselors
One of the best ways to find a good relationship therapist is to start with referrals and recommendations from people you trust. Ask your friends, family, or colleagues if they know of any good couples therapists in your area. You can also ask your primary care physician or clergy who may be able to recommend someone. If the person is open, ask about what the couples therapist was skilled at doing and areas of concern.
2. Look at Credentials of the Relationship Counselor
For example at Healing Moments Counseling, we have LMFTs and LMHCs. Both of these credentials can effectively treat couples with specialized training in relational therapy (see number 3).
In Washington State, for example, there are several types of mental health professionals, each with their own specific credentials and qualifications. Here are some of the most common mental health credentials:
Requires a Doctoral Degree
- Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists in Washington State are medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of mental illness. They can diagnose mental disorders, prescribe medication, and provide therapy.
- Psychologists (Ph.D. or PsyD.): Psychologists in Washington State have a doctoral degree in psychology, which involves several years of graduate study and supervised clinical experience. They can diagnose mental disorders and provide therapy.
Requires a Masters Degree:
- Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs): MFTs in Washington State have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and they are licensed to provide therapy to individuals, couples, and families. They can diagnose mental disorders and provide therapy.
- Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs): LMHCs in Washington State have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, and they are licensed to provide mental health counseling. They can diagnose mental disorders and provide therapy.
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs): LCSWs in Washington State have a master’s degree in social work and are licensed to provide mental health counseling. They can diagnose mental disorders and provide therapy, as well as help clients access community resources.
Recommendation: You can verify a therapist qualifications and credentials
Before scheduling an appointment with a therapist, be sure to verify their qualifications and credentials. Check if they are licensed in the state of Washington and if they have any disciplinary actions or complaints against them. You can search the Washington State Department of Health’s Provider Credential Search for this information.
This process is similar in other states and countries. Search types of therapy credentials in your area and see if you can search for a potential therapist credentials.
3. Search Online Directories for Therapist with Specialized Training in Couples Therapy
If the engine of a plane is having issues, you don’t just take it to any mechanic. A lawn mower mechanic may work with engines, but does not have the specific training of a plane engine technician. The same is true for therapy. Not all therapists are trained to work with couples, so it’s important to look for someone who has specialized training in couples therapy and is culturally competent.
The best way to search for these therapists online is via specific websites and organizations. Online directories such as AAMFT, Psychology Today, GoodTherapy, and TherapyDen are great resources for finding therapists in your area. You can filter by location, specialty, and insurance accepted. Be sure to read the therapist’s profile and reviews from past clients to get a sense of their approach and expertise.
Additionally, there are specific organizations that train therapists how to specifically work with the challenges couples face and they each have a database for you to search for trained therapists.
There are a lot of couples therapy approaches. The more popular ones are listed below:
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy:
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is an evidence-based approach to couples therapy that focuses on the bond between partners and aims to help them better regulate their emotions to improve the emotional connection, conflict, and sexual intimacy in their relationship.
The International Center of Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) has a database of trained EFT therapists. The online directory is located here and allows you to search by training level.
The Gottman Method Couples Therapy:
Gottman Method Couples Therapy is an evidence-based approach to couples therapy that emphasizes the importance of building a strong friendship, enhancing communication skills, and managing conflict effectively to improve the quality of the couple’s relationship.
To find a therapist who specializes in Gottman Method, use the Gottman Referral Network. The GRN allows you to search for Certification and specialized training in Marathon Therapy or Infidelity.
You will also want to make sure the therapist has training in the challenges you are facing, especially if they are affairs, addiction recovery, out of control sexual behavior or sex therapy.
Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT): Developed by Dr. Stan Tatkin, PACT is a fusion of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and arousal regulation. Here is the online directory: https://thepactinstitute.wildapricot.org
The Developmental Model: Developmental Model of couples therapy is a relational approach that views the couple relationship as evolving through predictable developmental stages, with each stage presenting unique challenges and opportunities for growth. [This theory does not have a database]
The Relational Life Couples Therapy: Relational life couples therapy, created by Terry Real, is an approach that focuses on helping couples understand and change the emotional dynamics that drive their interactions, in order to build a more secure and fulfilling relationship. Here is the online directory: https://terryreal.com/therapist-map/
- Prepare-Enrich: Prepare-Enrich is a customized relationship assessment and skill-building program that helps couples identify and address potential areas of conflict, and develop stronger communication, problem-solving, and intimacy skills. Here is the online directory: https://www.prepare-enrich.com/couples/find-a-facilitator/
- SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) is a premarital therapy program that helps couples prepare for a strong and lasting marriage by identifying potential areas of conflict, building communication and problem-solving skills, and addressing individual and shared values, expectations, and goals. Here is the online directory: https://www.symbis.com/couples/
You can also look at a therapist about page where they share their training and experience. For example, on my about page, I share that I have completed a variety of training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Gottman Method Couples Therapy, and have a certificate in Sex Therapy.
4. Schedule an initial consultation
Most therapists offer an initial consultation, which is a great opportunity to get to know them and their approach to couples therapy. During the consultation, ask about their experience working with couples similar to you, their therapy approach, and what you can expect from the therapy process.
5. Trust your gut
Ultimately, finding the right couples therapist is about finding someone you feel comfortable with and trust. If you don’t feel a connection with a therapist or feel like their approach isn’t a good fit for you and your partner, it’s okay to keep looking until you find someone who is.
In conclusion, finding an effective and competent couples therapist takes time and research, but it’s worth the effort to find someone who can help you and your partner build a stronger and healthier relationship. By following these tips, you can find a therapist who has the experience, expertise, and approach that’s right for you.