Carolina Marín: "Sharing nourishes the couples relationship".
Psychologist Carolina Marín talks about how couple therapy works as a process.
The concept of psychological therapy usually evokes the image of a person alone in front of his therapist, but beyond individual psychotherapy, couple therapy is a form of intervention widely used in psychology offices and centers.
However, there are few people who, without having gone, understand how it works, and for that reason there are marriages and courtships that even needing the help of professionals, do not consider the possibility of resorting to these services.
Interview with Carolina Marín: this is what couples therapy is like
Carolina Marín is a psychologist based in Seville and specialized in psychotherapy for adults, as well as in couple therapy. In this interview, she talks about the keys to understanding the therapy process that couples go through when they are going through bad times, are in crisis or are looking to improve specific aspects of their relationship.
As a professional, what are the main problems for which, according to what you have observed, couples come to your office?
They are usually problems related to the conflicts that arise daily in coexistence. Every day we have less tolerance for stress, and couples who do not have a foundation based on understanding, respect and effective communication, begin to fall apart when faced with conflicts.
They also come for problems of infidelity, lies, relationship problems with the children and even conflicts related to the family of one of the members.
Is it common to need individualized sessions, in addition to those for couples?
It depends on how the professional faces it. In my case, after almost 20 years of practice, I believe it is an indispensable condition. One because the psychologist-patient bond is a determining factor for change, and two because having individual sessions accelerates the process in couple relationships.
There is always a member of the couple who wants to have an individual session, although they do not dare to ask for it out of fear. It is when the professional, and according to his experience, must be attentive to assess the need, and give the opportunity if he thinks it is convenient.
In which situations is it clear from the beginning that it does not make sense to do couple therapy, and in which ones are there more signs that the relationship will be strengthened again with the help of the therapeutic process?
There is no manual as such to know if a couple will make it or not. I have encountered everything, experience is a degree, and the interviews that are held can make it easier to get an idea of the health of the couple.
In any case it depends a lot on the attitude of each one, the experience of the professional and the work capacity they have.
I have been able to help solve very complex infidelities and nevertheless, in situations of misunderstandings, I have found that one of them did not want to continue with the relationship, so the casuistry is very diverse, and it depends a lot on how the couple presents themselves and if they really want to go ahead with their project.
There are no determining factors that indicate that they will go ahead, this is not mathematics, it is very complex to define the evolution.
Taking into account the role of the couple therapists, is it complicated to maintain neutrality and not to show signs of being on the side of one of the members of the couple?
We are supposed to be professionals and we are trained to do so. Neutrality is essential in our profession, and we should never take sides. After all, we are the ones who provide them with the tools to make decisions and thus improve the relationship.
But we never give advice, beyond a psychoeducational intervention. We professionals cannot make value judgments, because then we will not be professionals and we have to make it clear from the beginning, that is why the first framing session is very important, we cannot fall into certain traps or place ourselves in certain parts, because it would not be psychology, it would be something else.
We always comment among colleagues that we find a lot of intrusion in our profession. And unfortunately there is still a lax legislation in these cases and ignorance on the part of patients when choosing a professional.
No one would think of treating a broken tibia with a professional who is not a doctor in traumatology, because that is exactly what happens in our profession. If you need to go to couples psychotherapy, choose well the professional, who has experience, contrasted and a training according to the practice of the profession.
What is usually the process by which the initial problem is solved through the therapy sessions? What are the first signs of improvement?
There may be several indicators. For example, the improvement of communication, the rapprochement of the couple, the degree of empathy and understanding with which they treat each other.
When the couple evolves, they begin to meet again, and understand that working as a team, with respect, empathy and communication makes life much easier. When couples learn this through different techniques, there is usually a palpable improvement.
Finally... do you think that society in general should lose its fear of the idea of going to couple's therapy, or is this already outdated?
There is no couple that has come to my office that always ends up commenting, we should have come before, or even, it should be mandatory when a couple decides to unite. In psychotherapy we do not only deal with problems or conflicts, but it is a continuous learning process, where each one is introjecting a new way of facing life, looking for the balance between the needs of oneself and the needs of the couple.
In this way, sharing is a conscious decision where the couple's relationship is nurtured, within respect. We join a person in a life project to nurture and grow as people, if that does not happen, something is wrong.
Couples must understand that the path together must be facilitative, as a team, if there is no feeling of teamwork, unity, support, it is difficult for the couple to move forward or at least to be pleasant. Living in conflict is not healthy, it does not contribute and destroys.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)