How to Support Your Partner in Therapy: A Step-by-Step Guide for Partners

Introduction

Therapy can be a beneficial and healing process for individuals working through mental health challenges, traumatic experiences, or simply trying to understand themselves better. However, the benefits of therapy extend beyond the individual in treatment. Partners of people in therapy have an opportunity to learn, grow, and strengthen their relationship by providing support throughout the therapeutic process.

Supporting a partner in therapy requires empathy, communication, boundary-setting, and self-care. With some education on the therapy process and commitment to the relationship, you can be an invaluable aid to your partner without sacrificing your wellbeing. Here is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to support your partner in therapy.

Understanding Your Partner’s Therapy Experience

The first step is gaining a basic understanding of the therapeutic process and how it may impact your partner. Here’s what you need to know:

Common Types of Therapy

There are many different therapeutic techniques and specialities. Some of the most common therapy types include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focuses on identifying harmful thought and behaviour patterns and developing more positive, adaptive ones.
  •  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Uses CBT techniques, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance skills. They are often used in treating borderline personality disorder.
  •  Psychodynamic Therapy: Explores how past experiences, especially in childhood, manifest in current thoughts and behaviours.
  •  Humanistic/Person-Centered Therapy: Based on developing a strong, trusting relationship between therapist and client. The therapist provides empathy and reflects the client’s emotions.
  •  Couples Counseling: Involves both partners attending therapy together to improve their relationship.
  •  Group Therapy: Bring together a group of individuals facing similar issues for support and guidance.
  •  Medication Management: Involves prescription of psychiatric medications by a psychiatrist or other provider to help manage mental health symptoms. She was often used alongside therapy.

Signs Your Partner May Benefit from Therapy

Signs Your Partner May Benefit from Therapy

Some common reasons people start therapy include:

  • Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions
  • Trauma from abuse, grief, accidents, war, or other distressing events
  • Major life changes like divorce, job loss, new baby, etc.
  • Feelings of self-doubt, low self-worth, or identity issues
  • Anger issues, chronic stress, emotional dysregulation
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Relationship problems

You may notice your partner is withdrawn, volatile, sad, or unstable for an extended time before they seek help. Trust your instincts if you feel something is amiss.

Phases of the Therapeutic Process

Therapy often unfolds in phases:

Early sessions: Building rapport and trust with the therapist, initial evaluation, goal-setting

Middle sessions: Hard therapeutic work begins – discussing issues, challenging beliefs, developing insights

Final sessions: Integrating therapeutic progress into daily life, preparing for termination of therapy

It’s normal for symptoms to get worse before they get better as difficult emotions rise to the surface. Don’t panic, this means progress is happening.

Possible Side Effects

In processing complex feelings, therapy may temporarily stir up:

  • Heightened anxiety, depression, or mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances like insomnia or nightmares
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of anger or resentment
  • Resurfacing of traumatic memories

These side effects are temporary and part of the healing process. Keep communication open with your partner during this time.

Establishing Open Communication

Establishing Open Communication

Communication is vital throughout a partner’s therapy process. Here are some tips:

  • Check in regularly: Set brief check-ins to ask how your partner is feeling, discuss any therapy impacts, and show support.
  • Give space if needed: Don’t force your partner to discuss therapy details if they aren’t ready. Let them share at their own pace.
  • Practice active listening: Listen without judgment. Reflect your partner’s feelings back to show understanding.
  • Ask how you can help: Offer practical support like helping around the house, providing encouragement, or giving hugs. Follow through on requests.
  • Share your experience: Communicate any concerns about how therapy is impacting you or the relationship. This models openness.
  • Communicate needs and boundaries: Advocate for your needs clearly and firmly. You deserve support too.

With open communication as a foundation, you’ll both gain insight into what you each require to feel safe and understood throughout this process.

Providing Emotional Support

In addition to practical help, providing emotional support is critical. Here are some strategies:

  • Validate their feelings: Statements like “Your feelings make sense given what you’re going through” can validate your partner’s emotions.
  • Be empathetic: Comments like “That must be so hard” demonstrate you relate to their struggle.
  • Applaud progress: Note when you observe positive changes, e.g. “I’ve noticed you seem less anxious lately!”
  • Reassure them of your love: Frequent reminders of your unwavering commitment can be very comforting.
  • Help separate irrational from rational thoughts: If your partner verbalizes irrational worries, gently help them reality test these thoughts. However, avoid judgment.
  • Encourage continued therapy attendance: If your partner feels like quitting, emphasize how much they’ve gained to motivate continued work.

With validation and compassion, you become an invaluable pillar of support.

Working Together in Couples Counseling

Working Together in Couples Counseling

If you and your partner decide to enter couples counseling, here are some tips for getting the most from it:

  • Commit fully: Don’t hold anything back in session. Be honest about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Learn each other’s histories: Discussing childhoods, past trauma, and relationship patterns provides insight.
  • Develop empathy: Work on truly understanding your partner’s experiences from their perspective.
  • Don’t assign blame: Focus on understanding both partners’ roles in current issues rather than attacking.
  • Find shared goals: Identify specific relationship goals like improved communication or increased intimacy.
  • Practice outside of session: Apply lessons and continue open discussion at home between sessions.

Approach counseling with a spirit of growth. With mutual effort, you’ll strengthen intimacy and partnership.

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

While supporting your partner, maintaining boundaries for your own wellbeing is essential:

  • Protect your emotional energy: If your partner is venting constantly about therapy, limit conversations to set times to give yourself a break.
  • Ask that basic needs are met: If your partner is withdrawing from contributing to the household or relationship, reassert mutual expectations.
  • Voice impacts: Explain if certain behaviors like increased anger are harming you so your partner can address them.
  • Stick to ultimatums: If you say you will leave unless certain changes are made, follow through.
  • Limit exposure to harmful behaviors: If drug use, violence, or infidelity arise, remove yourself from the situation. Provide firm boundaries.

You can be infinitely compassionate yet steadfast about your own wellbeing simultaneously. This models healthy relating for your partner.

Prioritizing Self-Care

Make self-care a regular habit with activities like:

  • Therapy or support groups for partners: Helps you process your experiences in a healthy space.
  • Exercise, meditation, and hobbies: Stay active in things you enjoy that refresh you.
  • Time with other loved ones: Nurture close friendships and family bonds for a sense of perspective.
  • Setting aside “me time”: Spend time alone engaging in activities that replenish your energy.
  • Engaging in physical self-care: Like getting enough sleep, eating well, staying hydrated.

When you nourish yourself, you become better equipped to provide nurturing support.

Seeking Crisis Support if Needed

In rare cases of emergencies like:

  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Violence or high-risk behaviors
  • Safety concerns for your partner or others

Immediately seek help through calling emergency services, a suicide hotline, your partner’s therapist, or other crisis resources. Once the crisis stabilizes, call your partner’s mental health providers again for follow-up care.

When to Seek Couples Counseling

When to Seek Couples Counseling

If challenges persist in your relationship due to your partner’s mental health issues, seek professional help through couples counseling. Some signs it may help:

  • Constant arguing and lack of healthy communication
  • Feeling resentful, lonely, unimportant or unloved
  • Disagreements around parenting, finances, sex, or other issues
  • One partner repeatedly crosses boundaries or breaks promises
  • Emotional or physical intimacy is lacking

You have the right to a healthy relationship. Counseling can guide you in expressing your needs, working as a team, and overcoming challenges.

Conclusion

Supporting a partner in therapy can be a transformative and rewarding experience for both individuals involved. By understanding the therapeutic process, communicating openly, providing emotional support, and establishing healthy boundaries, partners can play a crucial role in their loved one’s healing journey.

Couples counseling can further strengthen the relationship by fostering understanding, empathy, and shared goals. It is important for partners to prioritize self-care and seek crisis support if necessary. Ultimately, seeking professional help when persistent challenges arise can contribute to the development of a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Through commitment, empathy, and a willingness to grow together, partners can navigate the complexities of therapy and emerge stronger as individuals and as a couple.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to provide general information and guidance. It does not establish a professional/client relationship between the reader and author. For any mental health concerns, please consult a qualified mental health professional.

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