Technology in Couples Therapy -Part One
by Ian Hammonds, LMFT-Associate, LPC-Intern
As a practicing couples therapist, over the last couple of years I have heard many of my couples tell me that they wish there would be more enrichment to the therapeutic process. While most of the couples I work with come in for 8-12 weeks and leave with their relationship refreshed and rejuvenated, a huge factor I have noticed is a need to hold accountability for each partner on what happens in between the sessions, as well as what happens after the therapeutic process ends.
In my follow-up couples sessions (sessions I will schedule at least a month after weekly couples therapy ends and when the desired goals have been met), I have had several couples say that they wish they had something along the lines as a FitBit© or MyFitnessPal© to keep up the motivation, consolidate the wonderful changes they have made within the therapeutic process, and ritualize their safer, healthier connection that they have established once couples therapy is done.
Technology can be such a wonderful answer to this growing need in relationships and marriages! In a world that is so reliant on our phones and computers, we have such wonderful alternatives to counseling such as tele-therapy and other forms of virtual counseling, but having an easily downloadable app on your phone that can literally enhance connection with your spouse or partner can go so far when couples therapy is either over or you decide it is not the right time for such a commitment.
Eating an Elephant:
Couples typically come to me not knowing fully what kind of emotionally charged and sometimes uncomfortable journey they are about to embark on with their therapist. There is a lot of emotional unpacking that goes into addressing old wounds and traumas, slowing down a negative cycle the couple may be caught in, and getting the couple to face each other in a raw and exposed way. The harsh reality to a therapist is: sometimes couples are not ready for this kind of work. I definitely like to cue my couples in at their initial session and let them know that the work they are about to do is some of the hardest but most gratifying so as not to keep them in the dark. Technology would be a healthy adjunct to the kind of couples therapy I do for the couples who are beginning their therapy journey.
It goes back to meeting the needs of each clients who walks through my door.
Per my previous blog (here), there has been an increase in couples who come to see me who are only doing preventative work for their marriage in the long-term. These couples tend to only come to me for a few sessions as that is all that they need. Technology would also be a great fit for the preventative couples as they are usually searching for tools and resources they can easily grasp in order to help them in the long-term (extra “armor” for when marital times get hard as some of them have called it).
Conversely, couples who are deeply ingrained and committed to the therapeutic process, as unpredictable as it can be, have given me feedback in sessions that sometimes a week between counseling and relationship “maintenance” is simply not enough. This is where digital help could come in for couples who are searching for some kind of sustenance that only one hour a week of couples counseling can do. Sometimes I will end a very heavy couples session that becomes heated, escalated, or raw and will feel uneasy sending the couple on their way simply because the hour is up. Having some kind of digital outlet to provide couples who are highly escalated or emotionally flooded upon leaving session can help each partner calm down and bring them back into their calmer state.
Tools to Use: Emotional Regulation
There are a variety of amazing new technology tools for individuals to use to do some self-care, and create space for emotional awareness and regulation.
1) Calm app
2) Mightier app
3) Headspace app
4) Stop, Breathe, Think app
5) Mitra app (by the Dalai Lama!)
Using these tools on a daily basis, will help individuals get to a place where they can begin to manage their emotions a little bit better and begin to recognize when they are getting a little too escalated. Meditation, Emotional Regulation, and Intrapersonal awareness are the name of the game for these apps. They are a great place to start getting supplemental individual support for your therapy journey.
In the next part of this blog, we will explore apps for couples to use as supplemental support, not just as individuals, but as a couple...stay tuned!
If you would like some personalized help and support in your life and relationships, visit our Team Page and book a free phone consult with one of our therapists.