NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

How to Be Emotionally Supportive When Your Partner is Attending Trauma Therapy

People who are attending trauma therapy can benefit greatly from emotional validation and support from their partner (see my articles: What is Emotional Validation and Why Is It Such a Powerful Relationship Skill?How to Develop Emotional Validation Skills and How to Become a Better Partner in Your Relationship).

How to Be Emotionally Supportive of Your Partner Who is in Trauma Therapy

How to Be Emotionally Supportive of Your Partner Who is in Trauma Therapy
Most people want to be emotionally supportive of a partner who is in trauma therapy. They have good intentions, but they might not know how to be supportive.  As a result, they end up unintentionally saying and doing things that can be harmful.

Tips on How to Be Emotionally Supportive When Your Partner is Attending Trauma Therapy:
  • Keep an Open Mind: Recognize that you might not understand why your partner's experiences were traumatic. What is considered traumatic to one person might not be traumatic to another person.  Each person's experience is unique. So although you might not think your partner's experiences were traumatic, you also might not understand the psychological impact of these experiences.  Try to keep an open mind and see things from your partner's perspective.
  • Show Empathy: Trauma therapy can be challenging. By showing your emotional support and empathy, you encourage your partner to continue to do the work in therapy to completion.  
How to Be Emotionally Supportive of Your Partner Who is in Therapy
  • Be Patient and Don't Be Judgmental: Trauma therapy can bring up difficult emotions. If your partner is having a hard time, try to be patient and nonjudgmental.  In addition, trauma therapy is in-depth therapy that might take longer than you expect.  So, manage your expectations. 
  • Remember: Progress Not Perfection: Progress in therapy isn't linear. Progress can mean two steps forward and one step backward.  Instead of a linear process, progress in therapy can be more like a spiral.  This is to be expected, especially in trauma therapy (see my article: Progress in Psychotherapy Isn't Linear).
  • Validate Your Partner's Efforts in Therapy: While your partner is in trauma therapy, they could benefit from your emotional validation. So, rather than minimizing or dismissing your partner's efforts, validate and support them.
How to Be Emotionally Supportive of Your Partner Who is in Therapy

  • Avoid Invalidating Your Partner With Toxic Positivity: Attending trauma therapy to takes courage. Your partner can be retraumatized if you invalidate their experiences because your invalidation might be a repetition of what they experienced in the original trauma. Toxic positivity includes invalidating statements that are minimizing and dismissive of another person's experience. Examples of invalidating statements include saying "Just get over it," or "It's in the past so why are you focusing on it now?" or "Be strong." Although traumatic experiences might have occurred in the past, their psychological impact usually lives on in the present.  In addition, recognize that when a partner engages in emotional invalidation, it often means they haven't dealt with their own trauma. If you're invalidating your partner with toxic positivity, it might be useful for you to step back and think about whether your partner's decision to attend trauma therapy has triggered something in you about your own unresolved experiences (see my article: How to Develop and Use Emotional Validation Skills in Your Relationship and Why Toxic Positivity is Harmful).

How to Be Emotionally Supportive of Your Partner Who is in Therapy

  • Maintain Healthy Boundaries and Respect Your Partner's Privacy in Therapy: It can be tempting to ask your partner questions about the content of their therapy sessions, especially if you think your partner is talking about you. But it's important to respect your partner's privacy and maintain appropriate boundaries. If your partner gets into the habit of sharing the content of their therapy sessions with you, it can interfere with the therapy. This type of sharing on a regular basis, in effect, puts you in the therapy session in your partner's mind. As a result, they might unconsciously censor what they tell their therapist because it's as if you're in the therapy room with them.
  • Don't Try to Compete With Your Partner's Therapist: It's not unusual to feel jealous of a partner's therapeutic relationship with their therapist. Your partner might be revealing personal information about their history that they haven't shared with you yet.  This might make you feel uncomfortable and competitive with your partner's therapist. Without even realizing it, you might say or do things that undermine your partner's therapy.  So be aware of this, and if you're tempted to do it, don't give in to that urge.
  • Avoid Being Critical of Your Partner Attending Therapy When You and Your Partner Are Arguing: People often say things they don't mean during an argument. During a heated argument, don't throw your partner's therapy in their face. Using your partner's therapy as a weapon to shame them and make them feel guilty will backfire because it would be hurtful to your partner and to your relationship. 
  • Find Ways to Be Helpful While Your Partner is in Therapy: Although trauma therapy offers an opportunity to get free from a traumatic past, it can also be intense at times. Try to find ways to be helpful to your partner by asking if there is anything you can do to make their life easier. 
You have an important role in your partner's life and overall well-being. 

Being emotionally supportive of your partner, who is attending trauma therapy, can make all the difference for your partner and your relationship. It can also bring you closer together.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing, Sex Therapist and Trauma Therapist (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome unresolved trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.