What to Expect from Couples Counseling
Couples counseling has sometimes been described as “flying a helicopter through a tornado.” You may feel like your relationship is “tornado-like” and wonder what to expect from going to counseling.
Most couples are not sure of what to expect from couples counseling, what to expect of the therapist, or whether they believe counseling will help them. They commonly come in thinking the therapist will know how to help them develop a significantly better relationship after hearing what each person describes as the problem(s). They expect to improve and/or learn some skills while especially hoping their partner will change. Wouldn’t that be nice?
As a couples counselor my focus is on the relationship – i.e., the couple rather than any one individual. I see my primary role as helping couples improve their interactions and responses to each other. By helping them become more positive towards and accessible to each other they are better able to develop a mutually satisfying connection. A good connection is an important resource in solving and managing the specific problems a couple is facing. So you can expect to be working on this.
This will involve increasing your knowledge about yourself, your partner and your interactional patterns. The effectiveness of counseling depends on your willingness to apply this knowledge in breaking your old patterns and developing better ones.
In couples counseling you can expect to clarify several things, including:
The kind of life and relationship you want to build together
The things that are blocking you from achieving this
The skills and knowledge necessary for you to develop what you want
What you need to do to be the kind of partner you want in achieving this
If you are thinking about going to couples counseling with your partner, here are several other expectations you should have.
Time: It takes some time to build the relationship you both want - time to be together, time to play, nurture, relax, and plan. If you truly want good results it will encroach on some of your personal and professional time.
Stretching your comfort zone: You will likely need to try new ways of thinking or doing things, like listening and being curious instead of interrupting, speaking up instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing. Couples counseling involves getting out of your comfort zone and taking some emotional risks. For example, you will likely be confronted with the inconsistencies and consequences of your feelings, thoughts and actions. None of us are really comfortable being confronted with that.
Effort: It simply takes effort to make and sustain improvement over time: staying conscious of making a difference over time, remembering to be more respectful of your partner, giving more, being more appreciative etc. It takes effort to remember and act. Expect this. The hope is that both of you will do your part to make lasting improvement in your relationship.
You can expect couples counseling to get you one the road to significant relationship healing, growth and enrichment when you know what you want and are ready to face and be realistic about your expectations. What you can gain is worth the journey.