HOW COUPLES COUNSELING WORKS
The purpose of couples counselling is to help partners learn more about each other and acquire healthy problem-solving skills. The couple should set therapeutic goals and with my guidance develop a plan for therapy so each person knows what to expect. In couples therapy, positive results often depend on the couple’s motivation and dedication to the process.
As treatment progresses, each partner may become a better listener and communicator. Partners also often learn to support each other in new ways. But it is not uncommon for conflict to arise in therapy sessions. My responsibility is to remain neutral and not take sides. My primary focus is on the relationship between you, not you as individuals although this is an important secondary consideration.
Relationship counselling is generally held once a week. The schedule can vary depending on the couple’s goals and whether each partner is also attending individual or group therapy sessions.
Marriage counselling is often short-term, though healing a relationship may take more time.
Getting to know you
It is useful to collect some basic information at the start of the first session, such as the number of years the couple has been together, the current living situation, special health issues, prior counselling experiences, employment, and special interests. How you relate and communicate with each other. This session also offers the couple a chance to become comfortable with the therapist.
Setting Goals and Why I’m not a Referee
Couples often arrive at the session believing that each partner will be laying out his or her “position” and the therapist will act as a referee to decide who is right. But it is NOT a matter of one person being right or wrong, since both partners make sense from their perspective. Rather, you will be learning new methods of communication so you can better understand each other in these sessions and incorporate this process into your daily relationship at home. It is important to remember that this process will only work if you are willing to try on some new ideas. By pointing out the importance of the “we” and not the “me” in their relationship, you will begin to understand that both of you should participate by making changes. This means that counselling is a joint venture to better understand the relationship rather than an adversarial one.
There are several exercises we will try to explore different aspects of your relationship and provide insights into each other’s feelings, hopes and fears.
Summarizing the Session and Preparing for the Future
To end the session, each partner is asked for their thoughts about the session and what they can personally do before the next appointment to improve the relationship. This helps us all plan for the future.
You might also be given some homework to:
- Offer each other at least one formal daily appreciation.
- Avoid “atomic bomb” issues when they are at home and save these issues for therapy sessions.
- Avoid talking to friends or family about your conflicts since others are likely to support only one’s point of view and that will further emotionally separate the couple.
In future sessions, couples need to continue learning to understand each other’s desires, feelings, and thoughts.
As couples listen and express more positive feelings, they develop trust and feel closer. Neural scientists find this physically changes brain structure, with more “loving cells” being created and fewer cells holding anger and through this daily repetition of positive behaviours, our old brain [limbic system] repaints its image of our partners, and we again become a source of pleasure for each other.
I usually interview a couple together during the first meeting before seeing them separately. This helps me understand the dynamic between the two of you.
During the first meeting we would discuss the issues you have concerns over and reach agreement on the therapy goals, both jointly and separately that you are aiming to achieve from the therapy.
Based on your therapy goals, we would address one of the issues, for example say, Active Listening and practice ways in which this can be improved and you may be given some homework to take away and practice with in your own time.
The next session usually starts with a review of how the ‘homework’ went and what other issues may have arisen in the meantime.
We would usually meet once a week. Each individually on separate days usually as this doesn’t involve hanging around. I can also meet in your home for joint sessions if you prefer.
Sessions last from 60 to 90 mins.