12 Nov Your Couples Counselling Questions Answered!
People are often intimidated by the idea of attending couples therapy – they worry about the emotions that will be stirred up, things that might be said, or the possibility of a negative outcome. These are normal fears to have when considering therapy, or even going into your first session. Below are some common questions people typically ask about couples counselling. Hopefully my answers can remove some of the stigma, and help you to understand what the process is like!
What are some common issues that couples seek counselling for?
Common issues that couples seek counselling for include, but are not limited to, communication breakdown, to learn how to express emotions effectively, conflict resolution, intimacy issues or feelings of disconnect, to reconcile differences in parenting styles, and to rebuild trust following infidelity. Sometimes couples will come to counselling to try and sort out whether or not they want to stay together, or to work on ending the relationship in an amicable and healthy manner.
How do you decide as a couple that it is time to seek the help of a counsellor?
For couples therapy to be effective both partners need to be engaged in the therapeutic process. They have to want to put in the time and effort to make changes to their behaviour or ways of thinking. If one person really isn’t interested in making those adjustments, it’s hard for the therapist to help them participate in sessions, and they are less likely to take what they’ve learned into consideration when they leave our offices. Couples therapy might be right for you if there is an issue you would like to work on, and you both feel open to introspection and change.
How can we prepare for couples counselling?
Before you give counselling a try, sit down and have a conversation with your partner about your expectations – what you want from the relationship, from each other and from a therapist. Then do your research to find a therapist that fits with what you are looking for. Social workers, psychologists or marriage and family therapists will often have their profiles online for you to look at before meeting them. You can also take advantage of free consultations (if offered) before deciding on the best therapist for you.
What can we expect from the first session?
Once you have found the right match for you, your first session will focus on the counsellor getting to know you as a couple. You will likely be asked general questions about your relationship – how you met, what attracted you to each other, when you began to notice things had changed or when your difficulties began, and what you are hoping to get from counselling. Some counsellors will schedule individual sessions with each of you next. This gives them a chance to get to know each of you a bit better, as well as what is going on for you specifically. After that, the counselling sessions will continue with both partners.
What is the role of the therapist in sessions?
Recognizing that you need help navigating your relationship can be difficult for many people, but couples therapy is a great place for partners to come and discuss their issues with someone who is a neutral participant and can help make sense of what’s going on. You can expect your counsellor to help you sort out the issues you are having, discuss where they are stemming from, and help guide you both to achieve your goals – whatever those may be. Your therapist may guide the conversation, make suggestions, and even present alternate perspectives, but the real work is up to you!
How will we know when we are ready to end our sessions?
There is no formula for deciding when you are ready to stop seeing your therapist. You may decide that the two of you have learned enough to try working through it yourselves, just checking back in occasionally if you need it. Your therapist might tell you she thinks you are ready to stop, or you might decide that you are done with couples sessions but would like to continue with individual therapy. Your relationship, like any, will continue to grow and change over the years, and sometimes you may find it more difficult to adapt than others. You will not always need a therapist to help guide you, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you do!
Lindsay Kenna, MSW, BSW, RSW