Did you know that therapy is a great way to grow your relationships with other people? We often think of therapy as one relationship, the one between a client and the therapist. But seeing a therapist, even individually, is helpful in healing your relationships, including those with family members, friends, work colleagues, and romantic partners.
Therapy provides a trusted environment to express your feelings. This could include frustration, dissatisfaction, grief, or anger. It could also include feelings of love, adoration, gratitude, and happiness. It’s also a way to begin to notice your patterns in relationships, and “practice” relationship skills in real time with your therapist as a neutral party.
Therapists teach clients healthy ways to communicate, relate with others, and grow relationships. Here are 5 ways that therapists can help heal your relationships.
1. They’ll teach you communication skills
The foundation of all relationships is communication. Ironically, communication is a component of relationships that easily becomes complicated, harmful, and murky. Learning how to talk to others in a comprehensible, healthy way benefits you when things are good — but especially when things are bad. When you’re feeling under the weather in a relationship of any kind, being able to express yourself in a non-accusatory, non-judgmental way, is essential for healing. A therapist will teach you communication skills and help you practice them before you need them.
Having healthy communication skills is especially important in the following situations:
- In long-distance relationships When you and your partner live in different places, finding ways to logistically and emotionally connect is vital for a feeling of closeness.
- Before you move in together Living together gives you the chance to see your partner in a much different rhythm, so having the skills to talk about the day-to-day function of your space keeps everyone on the same page.
- When you’re falling in love Therapists will teach you how to talk about your feelings of affection, including how to express gratitude or communicate love nonverbally (think the five love languages!).
- When you’re in conflict Getting through a fight with an even temper, with patience, with assumptions of goodwill are significant indicators of the health of a relationship.
- When you’re ready to apologize After a conflict or after a difficult period, saying that you’re sorry takes authenticity, genuine sentiment, and appropriate communication.
- After you have a baby Having children together is a huge step for romantic relationships. A kiddo will change the way that you connect with your partner, so relearning how best to communicate is helpful to maintain feelings of closeness despite the adorable addition to the family.
- In the workplace Because we spend so much time at work, feeling safe and comfortable (not to mention happy) at work is paramount for our daily lives. Whether you’re trying to tell your manager about the stress that you feel, teaming up with a troublesome coworker, or want to overcome communication issues, a therapist will give you the tools you need to advocate for yourself in the workplace.
- When you’re opening up the relationship If you and your romantic partner decide to open up the relationship or become polyamorous, communication ensures that all parties are on the same page and that boundaries remain in place.
Healthy communication is important always, not just during a conflict. Whether you’re expressing your feelings to someone, healing after a conflict, or chatting about your days, therapy will give you pointers on listening, contributing, and conveying information effectively.
2. They’ll help you think through your experience by offering perspective
A major reason why therapy is effective at helping you sort out your feelings is that your therapist intentionally reflects back to you your thoughts. It’s like they’re holding up a mirror, giving you a chance to see your feelings displayed outside of your mind. This, and bringing up different perspectives, is a therapist’s way of helping you think through your experience and its meaning for your life.
Are you unsure if something in your relationship is healthy? A therapist will help you identify the ways that the behavior is helpful or harmful. They may ask you questions that give you insight into the situation. They may ask you to clarify your values or prioritize the components in your life as a way to help you figure out how you feel. During therapy, your therapist will guide you through different perspectives before you land on a judgment — then collaborate with you on the next steps.
Therapists will never give you the answer to your relationship problems. But they will give you different ways to think about your situation. They’ll also tease apart the ways that your relationship impacts your emotional health -— so that you can make your own decision about staying or leaving.
3. They’ll give you the tools you need to set boundaries
In relationships — whether that’s with family, friends, or lovers — setting boundaries is key to maintaining a healthy and enjoyable connection. This is especially true for relationships that involve codependence, toxic passive-aggression, or enmeshment.
A therapist will help you identify the ways that the relationship harms your wellbeing. They’ll also work with you to establish boundaries and be there to listen to you when you need to process through the experience.
A few examples of boundaries to set within relationships include:
- They cannot text you after a certain time of day, such as 10pm.
- You will not be available to meet with them on the weekends.
- You will not return their calls during the workday.
- You will only spend a certain amount of time with them at a time.
- They cannot yell or shout at you.
- If they become accusatory, you will end the conversation.
If the relationship becomes overwhelmingly harmful to you, you can practice what you’ll say when you break up with that family member, friend, or romantic partner. They’ll also be there for you when you need to express feelings of grief — even if it was a toxic relationship, you may still feel sad at its ending.
4. They’ll give you ideas about how to bond
If you’re looking for ways to become closer in a relationship, therapy is a great place to brainstorm ways to promote bonding. Your therapist will ask you to define what closeness means to you and how you express love to those around you. Based on your answer, you’ll then collaborate on ways to bond or grow your intimacy.
Some examples of ways to bond with a loved one include:
- Playing board games
- Answering a list of deep questions
- Going to an escape room together
- Sending each other postcards
- Writing stories together
- Finding a TV show that you both love
- Meeting each other’s friends or family members
- Traveling together
There are many ways to grow a relationship, however, it’s vital to first define what your goals are. A therapist will guide you through this definition and put it into action. As you go about these bonding activities, your therapist will be there for you to help you reflect on how they went, progress towards your goals, and see the benefits of becoming closer.
5. They’ll remind you that you are unique, strong, and worthy of love
Even if healing your relationships are at the top of your treatment goals, your therapist will never stop being in your corner. Therapists are dedicated to the well-being of their clients. This doesn’t mean that they’ll always believe that you’re right — but they’ll always respect you.
Many therapists practice strengths-based approaches in their sessions. This approach purports that each individual is unique in their strengths (that is, what they’re good at). If you’re already good at something, why not use it to reach your mental health goals? Harnessing your individual strengths is a way to enhance your mental health journey. Your therapist thinks that you’re special and they want you to feel the same way about yourself.
Much like giving you different perspectives to try on, your therapist will help you identify the moments where you prioritize others over yourself. They’ll encourage you to take care of yourself by setting boundaries, giving space for your mental health, and developing healthy behaviors in your relationships.
When you feel down about a relationship in your life, your therapist will remind you that you are worthy of love. With their unconditional positive regard, therapists think you’re awesome. It’s one strong relationship for you to count on!
If you find yourself feeling excited about any of these ways that a therapist can help heal your relationships, check out Zencare’s vetted therapists who offer support in relationships. Some therapists even offer couples’ counseling, if you hope to bring your partner into the session with you for further growth.