COUPLES COUNSELING 101 – What to expect and how to get the most benefit out of couples counseling.
I’m the type of Couples Counselor that likes to answer her own phone and book my own appointments. I often find that the initial dialogue with the person who is calling is not so much information gathering, as it is to clear up misinformation about the couples counseling process.
Here are few thoughts on what couples should expect from Couples Counseling.
- A joint initial meeting to discuss the background of the relationship and what brought the couple in for counseling. Couples will also be encouraged to openly and honestly share what they feel are issues in the relationship.
- The therapist will gather information that helps them to understand the relationship dynamic and clarify exactly what the issues of the relationship are.
- Honesty and transparency is integral to a successful counseling outcome, withholding information is counterproductive. In those cases where trust has been violated there is no way to successfully move forward without honesty and transparency.
- Fear of hurting your partner’s feelings. I am respectful to this concern by my clients but it should not be used in a manner to avoid talking or sharing during session. I tell my clients that if it is spoken from the heart with kindness and compassion then how can it be hurtful.
- There is no colluding in couples counseling. I’ve seen it go both ways. A couple will make a pact not to share certain information with the therapist during counseling for fear of embarrassing, legal, or ethical issues. In turn, clients share personal information pertaining to the relationship with the therapist and then in turn ask the therapist not to say anything to the other individual, i.e., the affair never ended and they are still secretly meeting. This is counterproductive and perpetuates the belief that is okay to lie and withhold information as needed.
- Issues, goals, and objectives will be discussed and mutually decided on how to proceed. The initial session is the beginning to lasting change in your relationship, couple input is invaluable since it is how the couple wants to see themselves in 1, 5, or even 10 years from now is what they are striving for. This is a joint process that involves feedback from both individuals in the relationship.
By the end of the session, most couples find that their expectations of counseling were all wrong. The general assumption is they will come into a session and be told that everything they are doing is wrong, or that their spouse is just using this as an opportunity to complain about them. On the contrary, couples counseling should be the vehicle that allows the couple to get a better understanding of themselves and what they would like to get out of the relationship, and how they can work together to achieve those goals. Building on honesty, trust, communication, and mutual support is integral so that the foundation of your relationship is secure as you build your future together.