Usually, the first question new couples therapy clients ask me is, “How is this going to work?” I have realized over the years that what clients expect relationship therapy to be like has been colored by TV and book gurus who are one part clinician and 3 parts side show act. This is unfortunate, because it gives folks the idea that a therapist may be all bluster and little substance. Or, worse still, may spend long sessions scolding, finger pointing, and offering grim criticisms that humiliate more than uplift.
In the spirit of informing folks that couples therapy can be a fun, enlightening process, here are a few basics about what you can expect in my counseling room. Every therapist is different, but anyone to whom you entrust your relationship should be able to articulate a clear philosophy of couples counseling that is different from their individual work. Ask therapists what their training in couples work has been like, and why they are expanding their practice to include relationship and family work.
1) I think I can, I think I can: One of the first things I tell couples who are contracting with me for couples work is that they can expect a pretty predictable pattern of with engagement during the process. First, there is some immediate relief simply by the act of triangulating another calm, positive person into the anxious escalations the couple has been experiencing. Then, after several sessions, there may be a brief backslide when couples panic about their ability to maintain new and different behaviors. Finally, couples relax into the process, make needed changes, and gradually phase out a need for a therapist to intervene in high-conflict situations.
2) Write it out: I will take notes during my meetings with you so that I can document specific information you have given me, themes we notice, and ideas we have for future sessions. I prefer for couples to bring their own journal to therapy as well, to take notes in their own words about what has been meaningful to them and to record homework assignments. Couples that do this have better success because they create a reminder of the conclusions they have reached in a calm, safe, environment.
3) Be Consistent: Remember that advice your doctor gave you about taking your whole course of antibiotics, even after you feel better? Therapy is much the same. We will work together to triage the most important problems first, and get you and your partner to a place where you can communicate better with one another. This alone will make you both feel better. But, to really take advantage of the counseling, it is important to work on the underlying issues that inform the symptoms that form the initial complaints.
If you have any questions about the process of relationship counseling, please let me know. I would be delighted to answer them.
Your Partner in Healing,
If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to see if I might be a fit for your counseling needs, please contact me at 407.913.4988 or firstname.lastname@example.org.