Your spouse or loved one is in therapy, now what? Here are some ways you can support your partner in therapy.
Honor your partner’s privacy.
There are many wonderful aspects of therapy, one of them is confidentiality. Confidentiality is required, highly guarded, and essential on the therapist’s end. For the person in therapy, having the security to process thoughts and emotions in a safe place can be an amazingly healing experience.
Therefore, it is important to honor your partner’s privacy. Your partner has decided to get help, which is a highly personal endeavor. This work can be distressing, exhausting, difficult, and challenging to explain or discuss outside of sessions.
However, your partner may want to talk with you about their sessions. If so, it may be helpful to discuss your partner’s comfort level with what they would like to share, and how. Establish ground rules surrounding these preferences. Be respectful of your partner’s confidentiality by refraining from sharing sensitive information with others.
Give your partner the space they need, and remember that this is their work and experience. You hold a supporting role.
Be interested and available to offer support.
Therapy can be difficult, emotional work. Your partner may continue to process topics, emotions, or experiences that have come up in sessions. They may want to talk through information they have uncovered or new realizations they have had. Your partner may want to discuss patterns of behavior or lessons they have learned. Or they may be exhausted and want a break from the heavy emotional lifting done in therapy, and crave space or a different activity.
Another area your partner may want support in is homework exercises that require your involvement. If that is the case, making yourself available and willing to participate in the homework exercises is important.
If you are unsure about what your partner needs, ask them. Be mindful that their needs for support may be different after each session. Check in with your partner about what they need and how you can best support them.
Keep in mind that it is not your responsibility to take on a therapist role. You can simply offer them the opportunity to share.
Have realistic expectations.
Therapy does not produce immediate results or magical fixes. Be patient. Honor your partner’s experience and don’t expect instant success. Simply because your partner is in therapy does not mean changes will happen overnight. Understand that the therapeutic journey is not a straight line, but rather a road with curves, bumps, dips, and ditches that requires grace, truth, and time.
Also remember that just because your partner is in therapy, not all of your relationship woes will be addressed. In reality, it may be helpful to consider how you and your relationship might benefit from your own therapy.
Relationships require that each person acknowledge, own, and address their individual weaknesses. And it may feel like a heavy burden to support your partner in their therapeutic experience. You are not expected to carry the extra pressure alone.
If your emotional support system is lacking or it would be useful to have a neutral third party, having a therapist of your own could help you carry any emotional load as you support your partner.
Therapy can be tough, wearying work and your partner may feel overwhelmed with a variety of emotions. Offering your partner encouragement throughout their therapeutic experience could provide them with reassurance, inspiration, and motivation.
Acknowledge your partner for their bravery in seeking help and for embracing vulnerability in their therapy sessions. Your partner may even begin practicing new skills, ways of being, or relating to you in your relationship. This can feel risky and raw.
Offer your partner grace and encouragement as they practice something new. Encouraging your partner may help them stay motivated and build confidence as they continue to accomplish the goals they set out to achieve in therapy.
Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! Celebrate the big steps your partner makes toward growth and healing. Celebrate the small, seemingly insignificant changes as well as your partner’s commitment to therapy.
It can be easy to overlook accomplishments, but this is the time to acknowledge change and growth! Celebrate your partner’s efforts and investment to heal, their hard work, and all of the fruits of their therapeutic journey.
Are you supporting a loved one through therapy, and would like additional support, tips, or encouragement for yourself, we are here for you! Reach out to our team to set up a consult with a therapist, or schedule an appointment by clicking the link below.
Author: Shannon McClanahan
Shannon McClanahan is a Christian Counselor on our team who loves to work with individuals and couples. She has a wide range of specialties that include life transitions, anxiety/depression, women’s issues, and Brainspotting. If you’re interested in working with Shannon or another member of our team click the buttons below.