Please remember that I am not a divorce, family, or matrimonial mediator. Although I speak openly about surviving abuse, crime, family conflicts, and other experiences that caused my upper limit challenges, I specifically chose not to practice in these areas professionally because they can sometimes still be painful. Nevertheless, I still get asked for resources because I have tried a variety of them.
Q: What are the best alternatives to couples’ therapy?
Below are some of my recommendations for alternatives to couples’ therapy:
- Do The Landmark Forum. In this foundation course at Landmark Worldwide, I was able to let go of many past hurts and see how they were influencing my relationships. That left me free to pursue a mutually loving and supportive partnership with the man I have been with since 2012. I also completed the Curriculum for Living at Landmark, took the communications and wisdom courses, and twice coached the Self-Expression and Leadership Program. Each left me a bit freer and trained me to take action when I wanted something different in my relationship, rather than simply complaining and hoping things would change on their own.
- Read The Five Love Languages, together or separately. My best friend recommended this to me when I was deepening my commitment to my partner and wanting to run away (which was seemingly every other week for a while). I discovered how I was overlooking my partner’s expressions of love because I expected them to come in forms I had been told they should. I thought he was supposed to romance me like I saw in movies and television shows. But he grew up with limited exposure to movies and television, so he didn’t realize I was expecting this, and I learned it wasn’t truly what I wanted or needed. I just didn’t know what else to expect. After reading this book, we started communicating more openly about what we wanted and needed in moments, and we have continued to discuss them as they change, understanding that change is inevitable and can be fun.
- Work with a coach, together or separately. I’ve done a lot of work on myself to become the kind of partner I want, and I’ve developed skills in creating partnership with others. My partner and I have not tried couples coaching, but I am confident this could be more effective for some couples. I might, of course, be biased because I am a conflict resolution coach and mediator. I have seen the benefits of facilitated dialogue during conflicts.
From what I understand, couples therapy focuses more on discussing feelings and past events, where couples coaching focuses on taking actions to cause breakthroughs in the relationship.
Both have benefits, depending on the needs of the couple at a given time. For example, a couple dealing with the loss of a child, illness, disabling injury, etc. might benefit more from counseling soon after presented with this conflict. As they learn to adapt to their lives with this conflict, they could start working with a coach to take specific actions that empower them individually and in the relationship. This also tends to empower them in other areas, such as with family members, co-workers, bosses, doctors, and more, which allows them to experience—not just talk about—a more fulfilling life, under any circumstances.
In short, there are many options for couples to improve their relationships. Much of the work comes from within, and it doesn’t matter as much how they start that work. Any action will cause some sort of reaction. Then, all there is to do is take another action, and another. It’s what I call Staying on PARR: Planning, Acting, Revising, and Repeating, until they get the results they want—or something better.
Want a do-it-yourself process?
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep managers and small business owners out of court and build their conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).