Feeling nervous about couples counseling is totally natural. Think about it, you’re inviting a stranger into the most intimate parts of your relationship. Then you’re trusting that stranger to help you make things better. You’re expected to be honest, open and forthcoming. You’re expected to change and do things differently. It’s kind of a big deal.
Deciding to work on your relationship is a big step. The average couple waits until the point of crisis to come into relationship therapy. Others want support right at the beginning with premarital counseling. Wherever you are on that continuum, deciding that you want to start couples counseling is the first step on a journey that will hopefully make your relationship stronger, more authentic and healthier.
Common reasons couples seek counseling
Some of the common issues couples seek support around include communication problems, intimacy issues and addiction concerns. Often times couples will want a few tools that they can practice on their own and use to improve their connection.
Finding a therapist
Finding a couples therapist is not always an easy job. While there may be a number of counselors in your community, it is important to find a therapist with experience and training in working with couples. Not every therapist will have that training and expertise and working with couples requires a unique skill-set that is essential for effective treatment.
How do I know if we have the right therapist?
Whether you’ve asked friends or other professionals for referrals or you’ve done an online search on your own, finding the right therapist takes time and commitment. Most couples counselors will offer a free phone consultation and I recommend you talk with a few people to see who you are most comfortable with. Talking on the phone is often a good start, but you’ll be spending the first few sessions deciding whether or not the therapist is a good fit for you.
I’m scared about what I may hear from my partner.
Unlike individual therapy, when you do counseling with your partner you never can be sure what may come up. Your partner may be holding a secret or have feelings that they’ve been holding back for years. While this can be scary, it can also provide an opportunity for growth and renewal. One of the main purposes of couple therapist is learning to have new experiences in your relationship. That could mean better communication, more sex or less fighting, but the bottom line is that in order to change you have to have different experiences together.
What should I expect from relationship counseling?
You should expect growth and change. Not from your partner, but from yourself. In relationship therapy you’re going to have to look at your part in the problem and what you can do differently to bring about change. You can expect to dedicate time outside of therapy to process and work on the new skills that you’re learning. You can expect to become more intimate and vulnerable with your partner and yourself.
Will couples counseling work?
Sadly, there are no guarantees in life. That is true of couples counseling as well. That being said, even in times when couples decide to break-up, I have seen individuals grow, evolve and blossom through couples work. The measure of success is not necessarily whether you stay together, it’s more important that you can be more of yourself and find more contentment and peace in your life.
How do I know if it’s working?
Sometimes things get worse before they get better. This can be true when you work on your relationship, too. Whenever you’re learning a new skill, you have to expect that you’re not going to be very good right at the start. If you’re learning an instrument, you’re probably not going to start out playing in a symphony. As you learn, experiment and incorporate the skills you’re mastering in couples work, your relationship will often start to feel better.
What if couples therapy makes things worse?
This is always a possibility. In fact, like I said above things usually get worse before they get better. However, chances are there are conversations you’re not having and things you’re not sharing that you’ll have to deal with eventually. Might as well get some practice having difficult conversations sooner rather than later.
Hopefully this article has helped relieve some of the nervousness that you may feel around starting couples therapy. If you’re curious to learn more about working with me, please feel free to schedule a call online or send me an email with any questions you may have.