Does Lesbian Couples Therapy Really Work?
That’s a pretty good question… Does lesbian couples therapy really work?
And the short answer is (drum roll)…
But I’d bet my comfy Birkenstocks that the question that keeps circling through your worried brain is more like…
Can lesbian couples therapy save my relationship?
And the answer to that (more relevant) question is…wait for it…
Yes! If certain important factors are in place.
Don’t worry. Having the key factors in place doesn’t mean that all the stars in the universe have to align just right.
Or that you and your babe have to have all your shit together before you start lesbian marriage counseling.
Or that there’s an endless list of boxes to check before you can get help.
HOW, THEN, DOES LESBIAN COUPLES THERAPY REALLY WORK FOR MY RELATIONSHIP?
Actually, there are only two (count them…one, two) key elements that need to be in place for lesbian couples counseling to both save and vastly improve your relationship.
First, both you and your partner will have to come to the table with an openness to therapy and change.
Second, you’ll need to work with a well qualified couples therapist that specializes in lesbian relationship therapy.
If those two things are in place, I promise you can go from an oh-my-god-my-relationship-is-about-to-fall-apart nightmare to your dream relationship.
Go ahead and let that relief sink in.
And if you want to reach through your screen and give me a virtual Thank You hug, I’ll take it.
Okay. Let’s flesh-out the two factors that lead to an affirmative answer to that question…
HOW DOES LESBIAN COUPLES THERAPY REALLY WORK?
1. SHOW UP TO THERAPY AS A COUPLE THAT’S MOTIVATED FOR CHANGE
I can tell you, after working as a couples counselor with hundreds of couples over the past 2 decades, it’s become crystal clear that the couples who get better, that fall in love again, are the ones that really embrace therapy and change.
One of the biggest mistakes I see couples making when they come to therapy is that they’re each hoping the therapist will get their partner to change. And when you hang onto that fantasy, couples counseling won’t work.
For lesbian couples therapy to work for you, it’s essential that you wrap your head around the fact that you, too, have some changing to do. Not just your partner.
Don’t freak out! I’m not talking about changing who you are as a person. Or even making huge changes that you can’t possibly sustain.
The changes I’m referring to are usually small. And they are always doable.
They require a heaping tablespoon of your very own motivation.
No kidding. If you aren’t willing to fully show up to therapy, dig deep, and tap into your motivation to change a few things…
Well, I hate to even say it, save yourself the money you’d spend on therapy. You’ll probably need it for a divorce lawyer.
That may sound harsh. But I’m just shooting straight. (Or should I say, I’m shooting gayly forward? ;-))
Back to motivation for change.
I’ve got two questions that will help awaken your motivation.
What if nothing changes in my relationship?
Take a minute to answer that question honestly.
I wonder, is the pain of nothing changing (which may likely lead to a break-up) greater than the pain of change?
If so, you’ve just tapped into a well of motivation. Haven’t you?
A second question to help amplify your feeling of motivation is this…
How will you benefit from making the changes that are required of you to improve your partnership? And consider how those changes will benefit the other people you love.
So, one of the two big keys to successful couples therapy is to find the motivation within yourself to show up motivated to become more self-aware, to own your own part in the problems, to see yourself and your partner as a team, and to face your growth edge.
2. PICK A TRAINED COUPLES THERAPIST THAT SPECIALIZES IN LESBIAN COUPLES COUNSELING
Here’s the thing…
Not all therapists are equal.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that some therapists are more awesome and valuable human beings than others. That would be a mean thing to say.
I’m not talking about equality in terms of intrinsic human value.
When I say that not all therapists are equal, I’m pointing out that some therapists are much more skilled than others at providing great lesbian couples therapy.
If you’re shopping for a couples counselor to help you and your same-sex partner, there are two important qualifications you’ll want to make sure the therapist has.
First, be sure to find a therapist that is a licensed marriage and family therapist, or that at the very least has had loads of training in couples counseling.
See, most psychotherapists, counselors, and psychologist market themselves as doing all types of therapy including individual and couples therapy.
What most folks don’t realize is that a huge percentage of those people haven’t actually gotten much training in couples counseling.
Most graduate school counseling programs only include one or two marriage therapy courses. The exception is graduate programs in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT).
MFT programs are chalk full of courses, clinical training, and supervision specifically related to couples therapy.
And let me tell you, individual counseling is a different animal than couples counseling. It’s kind of like the difference between driving a golf-cart and an 18-wheeler.
So when you’re shopping for a therapist to help save your relationship, be sure they’ve had lots of training, supervision, and experience in couples counseling.
That’ll insure the best odds that your couples counselor will have the skills necessary to lead you and your partner from the edge of demise to a place of security and happiness.
The second qualification you’ll want to know your therapist has is a specialization in working with women in same-sex relationships.
This way you’ll be sure the therapist has a deep awareness and sensitivity to sexual minority (lesbian) issues and norms. Please don’t underestimate the importance of that.
It’s not enough for a therapist to say something like “I don’t judge gays. And I have a niece that’s a lesbian.”
In order for you to say yes to the question, does lesbian couples therapy work, your therapist must:
- provide a gay affirming environment
- understand the pitfalls of their own hetero bias
- have a working knowledge of the unique clinical issues that lesbian couples face
And that’s a tall order for a straight therapist. Not impossible. But not something that simply appears magically.
Just last week I got a call from a lesbian in her 40’s about scheduling couples counseling. She told me that they had gone to another therapist, but felt completely uncomfortable. Especially after the therapist said, “Well, I know this works for heterosexual couples. And I think it’ll probably work for you, too.”
No. No. No.
Save yourself the heartache and the money. Find a therapist that specializes in working with lesbian couples.
A shortcut to finding such a therapist is to locate a couples counselor that identifies as lesbian or queer.
So if you’re in the Denver area and you’re looking for a lesbian therapist to help you and your partner turn your relationship around, you’ve landed in the right place.