Therapy doesn’t really go the greatest without some motivation in the patient. Without getting specific, sometimes a couple will come in where one of them doesn’t want therapy or they think that seeking couples therapy is a sign that the relationship is doomed. Sometimes that therapy is abbreviated. But I don’t view relationship counseling as having the singular goal of “saving” relationships. I view it as a process of studying the dynamics of the relationship and determining goals based on those dynamics. I don’t think that there is one kind of “good” relationship, so my patients usually stick around until they figure out what they want their relationship to be like, at a minimum.
The only exception, both in couples and in individuals, is when there is narcissistic personality disorder present. People with that disorder do not typically seek therapy, but are forced into it by a partner or family member. It doesn’t usually work out because they view everything as everyone else’s problem - because they are fucking great! It’s a bummer because they are often deeply angry and unhappy but cannot tolerate those feelings.
Teens and kids often get put in therapy as the “identified patient” in a family system, which is ineffective because a) the family dynamics are the real problem, b) the child is unable to make big changes due to lack of power, c) parents aren’t willing to spend the time or make the changes to help the child or the family, they just want a fix. I’ve had some success in giving these kids hope for their adulthood, but as soon as I suggest family treatment, they get pulled. It’s a bummer, but it would be unethical for me to not make that recommendation.
I’ve seen progress with reluctant patients, but it’s slow. It takes a long time to build trust and encourage their efforts and commitment. Sometimes that’s the therapy - just getting someone to a place where they can trust me enough to be vulnerable. Sometimes that’s really all they wanted, to be able to soften and be authentic with another human being. Those people usually leave therapy when we get into deeper issues, but come back later when they feel “stuck.” They become savvy therapy consumers!
Does that answer your questions? I hope so!