How to Support a Partner Who's Undergoing Therapy

person comforting their partner

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If your partner is going to therapy, whether at your urging or of their own volition, you may wonder how you can support them. Should you bring it up and ask how therapy is going? Should you offer to accompany them? Or, should you wait until they say something first?

Because you love them, it can be hard to watch your partner go through something difficult. It can also be hard to accept that they are not all right and need help from sources outside your relationship.

Even though you may wish to give them a big hug and make them feel better instantly, it sometimes takes professional help and a series of therapy sessions for the person to start feeling better. It's important to be patient during this process and encourage your partner's efforts to work on their mental health.

Verywell Mind asked David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH, a psychologist at Yale Medicine, to share some ways to support a partner who’s undergoing therapy.

How to Support a Partner Who's Undergoing Therapy

Below, Dr. Klemanski shares some strategies that can help you support your partner if they’re undergoing therapy.

Respect Their Privacy

It’s perfectly natural to be curious about what happens in therapy or even want to know if and in what context you might come up in therapy discussions. However, it’s important not to pry.

Respecting your partner’s privacy and their right not to discuss the details of their therapy sessions may be an essential ground rule to put into place at the outset of therapy.

Validate Their Efforts

Avoid saying anything invalidating (or anything that may be potentially construed as invalidating) or contemptuous when talking to a partner in therapy.

David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH

Genuine validation of your partner’s interest in self-improvement and their efforts to prioritize their mental health can boost your relationship and give them the confidence they need to take on the work required in therapy.

— David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH

Offer Your Assistance

Supporting your partner while in therapy can take many forms. It may be as simple as asking them how they feel about their work in therapy, agreeing to help with therapy activities/homework if they require your assistance, or even occasionally attending a therapy meeting when asked.

The key here is to provide balanced support so that your partner knows they can rely on your assistance whenever and however it’s needed, without prying into their therapy process or making it about you.

For instance, you can ask how therapy is proceeding rather than asking about explicit details. If you want to know more, it might be helpful to establish boundaries around these discussions at the outset when they begin therapy.

Avoid Judgment 

Therapy can involve a lot of deep emotional work that can cause the person to experience various emotions, ranging from anger and frustration to grief and distress. Your partner may still be experiencing many of these emotions when they come home from therapy.

It’s important to be patient with them and allow them to process or express these emotions without judgment. Understand that it takes a lot of courage and effort to explore one’s internal conflicts and unresolved issues. Offer your partner as much love and support as you can.

Manage Your Expectations

Progress or growth in therapy can be a protracted process, sometimes longer than you might expect. Expecting your partner to go for one or two sessions and be better is unreasonable.

Tangible changes often take time, so it’s important to manage your expectations—and your partner’s—about timelines and personal growth.

Trust the Process

Sometimes, the therapeutic process takes time to reveal clarity or insight, and what is discussed in therapy is rarely fully-formed after a meeting. Your partner can probably use some space, time, openness, and trust while working it out.

David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH

Conveying genuine trust in your partner and the therapeutic process can be a helpful approach to supporting your partner.

— David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH

Also, consider if you were the one in therapy—how might you want your partner to support you? You would probably want their trust as well as space to focus and prioritize your needs.

Remember That Progress Is Not Linear

Progress requires hard work and determination, but obstacles and setbacks can occur despite the best intentions. Supporting your partner might entail keeping this mindset at the forefront or even sharing ideas to encourage them when they are frustrated with themselves or their work in therapy.

Don’t Use Therapy Against Them

It might be easy to use your partner’s mental health as a weapon or to place blame during an argument. However, this is unfair, and the fact that they have a mental health condition or are undergoing therapy should never be used against them.

Don’t Compete With Their Therapist

You may sometimes resent your partner’s relationship with their therapist and feel jealous about the fact that they’re able to confide their innermost thoughts and feelings to them.

However, it’s important to understand that even though it deals with a lot of personal issues, therapy is nevertheless a professional relationship. Trying to compete with your partner’s therapist is a futile exercise.

David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH

Statements that implicate jealousy or betrayal about your partner's relationship with their therapist are unhelpful, no matter the context.

— David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH

A Word From Verywell

If your partner has a mental health condition or is going through something difficult, it can be stressful and painful for you too. The American Psychological Association notes that when someone has a serious mental health condition, their whole family may be affected by it.

It's important to seek support if you need it. Support can take many different forms. For instance, it may help to confide your thoughts and feelings to close friends and family members. Seeing loved ones regularly and spending time with them can also be helpful in giving you the strength to cope and preventing conditions like depression and anxiety from setting in.

On the other hand, if you find that you’re struggling to cope, you may benefit from more formalized forms of support. You can choose to start going to therapy yourself, in order to replace unhealthy thought patterns with more positive ones and learn coping skills.

You can also choose to join a support group, for partners or family members affected by their loved one’s condition. Support groups offer a safe space to share your feelings, learn from others’ experiences, and share support and advice.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Muntigl P. Managing distress over time in psychotherapy: guiding the client in and through intense emotional work. Front Psychol. 2020;10:3052. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03052

  2. American Psychological Association. How to cope when a loved one has a serious mental illness.

  3. Roohafza HR, Afshar H, Keshteli AH, et al. What's the role of perceived social support and coping styles in depression and anxiety? J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(10):944-949.

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.