7 Shocking Pieces Of Relationship Advice Even Therapists Can’t Agree On
When your relationship is in trouble, or you're seeking to get ahead of potential troubles, a natural solution is to seek therapy. It turns out, however, that lots of common relationship advice is controversial — even among those who've studied for years in the field. And some therapists even disagree on the basic idea of giving advice to couples at all.
One of the first reasons that therapists tend to disagree about relationship advice is that therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many different types of therapy, and different approaches within all of these smaller fields as well. "It might sound counterintuitive, but therapists often disagree on relationship advice because they each have their preferred school of thought, which serves as the foundation and structure for how they base their professional practice and advice," psychotherapist and international relationship coach Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, tells Bustle. So, when researching a therapist, couples should find one who has a similar view of relationships to them.
"Many factors can affect where a therapist falls on a continuum, which is why client-therapist fit is all important," international psychologist and trauma specialist Dr. Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, tells Bustle. "Cultural, generational, and religious variables could factor into how a therapist approaches the issue at hand." Just as it likely took you a bit of time to find the right partner, it may take a bit of time to find the right therapist. Still, it's worth it to find someone who you trust when it comes to guiding you in your relationship, even if their beliefs don't line up with everyone else's in the profession.
Here are seven shocking pieces of relationship advice even therapists can't agree on.
1. Whether To Go To Sleep Angry
Whether or not couples should go to sleep angry is a major debate. Going to sleep angry may seem like you've lost a battle, but some therapists believe it's often the right choice.
"When partners are engaged in discord, fighting the body's need for sleep becomes counter-productive," licensed clinical social worker and therapist Caroline Artley, LCSW-C, tells Bustle. "Partners become more irritable, illogical, and irrational. Perhaps one way to achieve a positive outcome would be to agree that both partners should get some rest and revisit the issue with a fresh perspective." While couples may make the personal choice not to go to bed angry, it is by no means required.
2. Whether To Learn How To Compromise
One of the major divisions between marriage counselors is whether to focus primarily on solutions for conflict, or to dig deeper to analyze the cause of the relationship problems. From wherever they stand on this debate, therapists can have very different perspectives on relationship advice.
"One piece of relationship advice that I disagree with is 'learn how to compromise,'" Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, licensed clinical professional counselor, tells Bustle. "Compromise denotes giving in, but not necessarily willingly [...] I believe in helping couples understand each other, develop compassion for their partner, and organically feel compelled to change." You and your partner can decide whether you want to wait to make changes, or compromise early on.
3. Whether "Going After" Someone In Court Is A Bad Idea
Many therapists may have a blanket belief that it will only hurt their client more if they "go after" their partner in court, report them for abuse, or make other strong steps towards independence.
"There are as many scenarios as there are people, [so] this blanket advice can be detrimental and disempowering at times," Dr. Bais says. "Therapists need to be attuned to each specific situational context and go from there, there is not a one size fits all mentality, that's what makes what we do such an artistic privilege and gift." This internal disagreement between therapists may remind you that sometimes you'll know what's best for yourself in a way no one else can.
4. Whether There's A Point To Digging Deep
As noted before, some therapists believe that the key is giving advice, while others believe in a more analytical approach. So some therapist may recommend you and your partner dig deep into your issues, while others will move right past that.
"Only reframing [thoughts and behaviors] deprives someone of true understanding, depth, and insight that emerges out of analysis and confronting the pain and grief relationships can bring," Dr. Bais says. "Some therapists will argue that going 'deep' might engender rumination and repetitive thinking, but I believe it's a balance. We need both the breadth and depth." If you and your partner feel comfortable with a more action-oriented approach, then cognitive behavioral therapy is a better option. For a deeper dive into your problems, more traditional talk therapy may help.
5. Whether It's OK To Go Against Cultural Norms
Some therapists work exclusively with certain cultures and communities, and may prefer to give advice within the framework of that setting. This can lead to some therapists not challenging more difficult cultural norms.
"I work in a multicultural therapy practice," Dr. Bais says. "I see on a regular basis parents that have their own mental health issues but are convinced its their children that need help [...] It is younger therapists with perhaps more exposure that are unafraid of saying and doing what needs to be done for the health and wellbeing of the person (client) in front of them." So while some therapists may have reason to argue that you work within your cultural framework, others may feel more comfortable helping you and your partner navigate a bit more freely.
6. Whether Couples Should Temporarily Separate During Therapy
Therapists may disagree on whether couples should stay together during periods of intense conflict. This kind of advice can be particularly sensitive.
"One of the issues many therapists disagree on is when and if a couple should temporarily separate to facilitate the therapeutic process," Mendoza says. "Some therapists believe that a couple should remain living together during the length of the process while others believe that in some cases physical separation serves both parties." In the end, regardless of what camp your chosen therapist falls into, the decision will be yours and your partner's — to do whatever is most comfortable.
7. Whether To Give Concrete Advice At All
Perhaps the biggest piece of relationship advice that therapists disagree on is whether it is right to give advice at all. Some don't take this approach.
"I disagree when therapists take it upon themselves to directly tell their clients what to do," Mendoza says. "I believe that as a therapist it's my responsibility to support and guide my clients to come up with their own conclusions and decisions." Of course, therapists will intervene if someone is in danger, but certain therapists do see the process as less about advice, and more about guidance.
In the end, relationship advice is only going to get you so far as a couple. And if you decide to pursue therapy as a couple, you will likely encounter different schools of thought — all of which have goals to improve your relationship. Even if therapists disagree, you can likely find the right solution regardless.