Last week I received an email from a new client. It read:
"I saw your posts on Facebook a year ago, and I'm finally ready to come and see you..."
It wasn't unusual. Talking to a perfect stranger about your most intimate problems isn't usually an exciting prospect. I know many couples who've considered relationship therapy for years before they finally make a decision.
But with celebrities like Kristen Bell advocating Relationship Therapy on a regular basis, it's an idea becoming more accepted.
If you've been thinking about seeing a Relationship Therapist, or if perhaps your partner has suggested it, here are 3 things you need to know first:
1. Seeing a Relationship Therapist doesn't make you a failure
When we're experiencing challenges in our relationship, we can feel like we're the only ones in the world having problems - and we can feel embarrassed asking for help. It can feel like an admission of failure, that others seem to be able to have healthy and happy relationships, but you can't.
The truth is that everyone experiences challenges in their relationship at some point.
It's normal, and it provides an opportunity to take our relationship to another - a deeper, more loving and intimate - level.
Deciding to see a therapist doesn't mean you've failed.
Seeing a therapist means you are intelligent and resourceful. Seeking help takes an incredible amount of insight, courage and determination.
Relationship Therapy is like seeing a personal trainer or a financial planner.
You get advice from a professional to help keep things on track and make your relationship the best it can be.
2. It's not about pointing out everything that your partner is doing wrong
If you're coming to therapy in the hope of convincing the therapist of everything your partner is doing wrong and making sure your partner changes, you're going to be disappointed. I'm often placed in this situation as a therapist.
Therapy isn't about blaming your partner or changing them, although therapy usually brings about changes in both of you.
There are two of you in the relationship and you have a shared responsibility for what's happening within it.
A good therapist doesn't take sides. Our primary focus is the relationship; we're there to serve the best interests of the relationship.
Partners who blame each other, actually make much slower progress than couples who work on their relationship as a team.
Therapy is really about finding solutions together so that you are both happier in the relationship and in your life.
3. Therapy might not save your relationship but it could make a big difference
I'm going to be honest: therapy is a risk. Unfortunately it won't save every relationship.
Sometimes despite the best efforts of everyone involved, it becomes clear that the relationship has run its course and both parties feel they can no longer continue.
It's a heart-breaking option that no one wants to see happen, including the therapist.
This is usually one of the greatest fears of people coming to therapy, that they'll try to work on things and nothing will change, or that the time and money invested in therapy is wasted. Fear of breaking up actually stops them trying to make things better.
However, even if after time in therapy, you decide to end your relationship, it doesn't mean therapy has been a wasted effort.
What I see in couples who do decide to break up during the course of therapy is that they feel clearer about their decision, they are better able to negotiate the separation phase and they're better prepared for a happy and healthy relationship in future.
It's also important to know that therapy can and does save relationships.
I have worked with couples who I truly thought were over when they first started seeing me. With patience, persistence and love, their relationships once again began to flourish.
Couples I see in therapy notice changes like recovering from arguments faster, more loving communication, letting go of tension and resentments, and improved intimacy and connection.
The sooner you seek help, the easier it is to make change.
In my experience, therapy is a risk, but a risk well worth taking. A happier relationship and life are worth taking action for.