What should I expect from couples counseling?
For couples who have never been in any kind of therapy or counseling before, I find there can be some misconceptions about what couples counseling is like. One or both partners might be afraid that the therapist will take sides against them, or try to convince them that their viewpoint is wrong. The reality of counseling is very different from this!
First and foremost, I work to establish a safe, caring, and respectful environment where both partners can feel free from judgment. During the initial phone consultation, I will ask you about the "big picture" stuff regarding your life and relationship, such as how long you and your partner have been together, whether you have any kids, what types of struggles you've endured together, and what kinds of things you'd like to change in your relationship.
The first appointment
The first appointment typically lasts 90 minutes, during which I meet with both partners to discuss some of the important points of the counseling process, such as the risks and benefits of treatment, and what you can expect regarding confidentiality and privacy. I will have you fill out some forms that outline this in writing, and spend a few minutes reviewing this as well as other information about you and your family history. I will ask about the story of your relationship specifically, and work with you to determine what kinds of things you would like to change.
After this first session, I will ask that you fill out several assessment forms that help plot out those areas of strength for you and your partner, as well as the areas that need improvement. This includes how well you know your partner, how you deal with conflict as a couple, how you spend your time together, and how you handle romance in your relationship.
Following our initial appointment, I then meet once with each partner individually in order to understand their unique perspective on the relationship. I will ask more about family history, history of prior therapy, how each partner's personal goals line up with those of the couple, and how each partner describes their commitment to the relationship. This helps me get to know you better and craft a treatment plan that meets your needs.... even when you feel that your needs might be in conflict with the needs of your partner.
Bringing it all together
After meeting with each partner individually, we will then all come back together in order to finalize the assessment and determine what to focus on for the remainder of treatment. We will review how well you and your partner are aware of each others' world, how you express affection to each other, how you stay emotionally connected to one another, how you deal with conflict, how you share your big life dreams, and how you make meaning out of your relationship. Much of the following sessions will focus on having partners talk directly to each other while being coached on specific communication techniques, as well as raising awareness of your own emotional and physiological reactions to your partner.
Don't wait any longer!
Relationships can be difficult under the best of circumstances, and even healthy couples may fight about chronic issues that don't have a clear resolution. If you are hurting because you can't seem to connect with your partner the way you really want to, you don't need to continue suffering. Many couples wait far too long before seeking help with their relationship, which often leads to a breakup or divorce.
If you've been considering couples counseling, call me today for a free initial phone consultation, and let's work on getting your relationship back on the right track!