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When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate?

When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate? Alternative Options to Couples Therapy.

When we think about relationship problems, we also think about couples therapy. Sometimes, couples therapy might not be a good fit for you and that is totally fine! 

So how do you know that couples therapy is not the best thing for you? Keep reading to explore:

  • When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate?
  • Alternative Options to Couples Therapy
  • Tips and more!

When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate?

When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate?

Couples therapy is not the best for you if both partners are not completely committed. You should also consider other options if you experience abuse. This is also true if there are any personal problems that are more harmful to you. 

These situations have been discussed in the Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy

Couples therapy is considered to be inappropriate when:

1. The Level of Commitment is Different

It is normal for people in relationships to think of calling it quits sometimes. 

The problem comes when the someone in the relationship clearly doesn’t want to stay.  If a person shows clear intention of quitting and moving on, couples therapy should be avoided. 

What if my partner wants to leave but we still go to couples therapy?

In this case, both partners do not share the same desire.

If one of you clearly wants to end the relationship, couples therapy might do more harm than good. The one who wants to stay might see therapy as a hopeful step. 

This might make them believe that there is still a chance to get back together. 

Important to Know 
Many studies have investigated how effective couples therapy can get. It found that couples therapy is effective only when both partners want to work on their relationship. 
It is important to talk about your commitment to each other before seeking help. 

2. Outside Affairs are Involved

What does it mean? 

Outside affairs means having a relationship with someone outside of your main relationship. The main relationship partner did not consent to this and might also not know about the other relationship.  

I use the term “outside affairs” to include people who are in a relationship but are not married. This term also includes extra-marital affairs. 

Many experts raise concern over this dilemma and for a good reason. 

If the person involved in an outside relationship continues it, then couples therapy might not be able to do much for the main relationship. This is because that person is indirectly showing his lack of commitment to the main relationship. 

There might still be hope
Q: What if my partner or I want(s) to end the outside relationship? 
In this case, therapy can work some magic!
Couples therapy can help them work on their own thoughts and work on themselves. It can also reflect commitment to the main relationship, encouraging both partners to work on each other. 

3. There is Violence Involved

Studies find that anywhere from 25% – 75% of couples have experienced relationship aggression. The severity changes with each case. 

Violence is a very serious and sensitive matter. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, then couples therapy is not the best option for you. 

Therapy is supposed to be a safe space for you to talk about your feelings. Being in therapy with an abusive partner can be a safety risk for you. 

Also, certain processes in therapy could mislead the victim into feeling responsible for their abuse. This is why many therapists, in this case, might not suggest couples therapy either. 

4. Both People Continue Behaving Destructively with Each Other

Sometimes, people in relationships can continue doing things to hurt each other. 

For instance, both people might be emotionally manipulative. They can make the other person feel bad for the way they feel. Both people might also make each other feel worthless. 

I think it is important to let you know that these kinds of problems do exist in relationships. The problem comes when both people continue to do this and do not stop. They usually end up using their time in therapy as an opportunity to make the other person feel worse about themselves. 

If they do not show any intent of wanting to work on this behavior, then couples therapy will not be very effective. 

5. A Partner has Significant Individual Problems

A lot of people have their own demons to deal with. 

Sometimes, people might have severe concerns of their own. If your problem is more harmful for you, then it is very important for you to reach out for individual therapy. This is important before working on your relationship. 

This can happen in cases of addiction, severe depression, anxiety and many others. 


“Enhance your relationship with couples therapy – get our services to strengthen your bond and resolve conflicts.”

Alternative Options to Couples Therapy

When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate?

Couples therapy is a wonderful option for many people. But sometimes, it might just not be the right fit for your needs and that’s okay! 

Let’s talk about some other options to consider:

1. Individual Therapy 

The process of therapy can be really overwhelming for a lot of people and that is normal. Therapy makes you face feelings and memories that can be uncomfortable. 

But sometimes, it is really important to work on ourselves before we think about working on something else. 

I mentioned previously that some situations call for individual therapy. This can include concerns about addiction, depression and anxiety. 

In many cases, eating difficulties and body image issues are much more harmful to you than your relationship struggles. 

For these issues and many more, individual therapy is highly recommended by experts

2. Getting Help when Needed

If you are in an abusive relationship, then getting help from relevant places is very important. You can also find a list of helpline numbers for different countries here

If you ever feel like you are in danger because of physical or emotional abuse, reach out to your local healthcare provider. This could be a doctor or a nurse. 

In case of an emergency, always call the emergency number of your area for immediate help. 

Key Takeaway

Couples therapy is an amazing option but it might not be the best fit for everyone. Couples therapy won’t be a good fit if you or your partner have different levels of commitment. Also, if they are always destructive with each other, then therapy will not be as effective. 

Sometimes, it is also better to work on yourself before anything else. Consider individual therapy for that.

Lastly, in the case of abuse, get help for your own safety before thinking about anything else. 

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