Therapy for Couples

Is It Time for Marriage Counseling?

You're In Good Company

Whether you call it marriage counseling, relationship therapy, couples therapy, or by a specialty like EFT – the experience is probably not one you're likely to be thrilled about. The fact that you've found your way to this page, is a good sign that you'll make it through just fine.

Often, what leads a couple to counseling is the realization that their problems can no longer be solved at home together and that they have reached a stalemate. Or their relationship has grown cold, the arguments have grown too heated - or there are illnesses, addictions, or infidelity. The thought that their relationship needs the help of a therapist can come as a shock and is often very frightening.

Know this: you are not the only couple to see things differently, argue, have difficulties, fail to communicate, or even consider you might need counseling. The fact is, all couples can benefit from the advice of a good therapist. The main purpose of couples counseling is to place you and your significant other together in a room with a neutral mediator who can advise you, guide you, and help you make sense of what seems to be going wrong in your relationship. It's important to note that getting therapeutic help for your relationship early on is going to provide you with far more meaningful results than if you wait until serious problems fester.

To help you manage your fear of the unknown, the following information will help you know what to expect from your first session and how to prepare.

What to Expect from Therapy

The purpose of couples counseling is NOT to get someone to take your side of an argument. A good therapist advocates the relationship first and creates a safe place for sharing feelings and points of view. Of course, you will have your chance to explain "your side" of things - you will also learn to listen to your partner.

In session, you will get your equal share of time, attention, and understanding - and will learn to avoid the victim (or poor me) role. If there are deeper individual issues such as trauma, abuse, mental illness, or a condition that needs medication, the therapist will offer or refer you for individual therapy.

Your first session will involve sharing some of your background information so the therapist can get to know you. The main focus of every session will be to get you both talking through your particular issues and learning to listen to your spouse. As you figure out your issues, you will learn how to address them and work on them.

The typical first question your therapist will ask will be something like, "So, what's going on?" or "What brings you here?" You and your spouse will also want to prepare to give open and honest answers to other background questions. You might be asked to relate the details of how you first met, what first attracted you to your spouse, information about your personal history, and so on. Don't discount the power of the answers to such simple-sounding questions. Preparing thoughtful answers to this introductory questioning will be well worth your time.

The therapist may want to visit with each of you individually, either during this first session or in separate sessions later. Meeting with each of you separately is typical as it may be the only way one spouse feels comfortable or safe enough to share.

Another good idea, before your first session, is to prepare meaningful questions you would like to ask. These could be questions for the therapist or your spouse.

Not Easy but Worth the Effort

Sharing the intimate details of your relationship with a marriage counselor is not easy. It's important to note that you shouldn't expect the first few counseling sessions to produce positive results. Couples therapy has as much potential to produce negative outcomes as it does positive ones. Dealing with your problems, those of your significant other, and the complex nature of being in a relationship is extremely difficult.

The therapeutic processes of couples counseling include changing the individual's view of the relationship, correcting dysfunctional behaviors, improving communication skills, and increasing empathy. These are hard concepts to grasp and harder to experience firsthand.

You might be surprised when things come up that you never knew about your spouse. You also might surprise yourself by letting a comment slip from your lips that you never even knew you thought. You may find that sessions are filled with arguing and yelling or may even pass in silence as you or your spouse fume over hurtful details.

These circumstances are normal and show that you are invested in the relationship. The job of the therapist is to mediate in these situations, advocate the relationship, and help you learn to deal with the resulting hurt, confusion, and emotional instability. You will also be learning to deal with your problems on your own, outside the office of your therapist.

It's unlikely that your situation will improve or that you will feel better after a single visit with a therapist. Honestly, it may take months or years to work through all your particular issues, but if you face things early on and head-on, your time in therapy may be far shorter.

Status Quo, Reconcile or Divorce

The troubles in your relationship will lead to three possible outcomes. These are: to continue in the marriage as it always has been, work to reconcile (within a definitive period of time) or divorce. A good therapist will help you understand your choices, make those choices and then learn to cope with the consequences of it.

Sometimes a marriage simply can't or shouldn't be saved. The therapist should be able to help you see this and then provide assistance to separate in the easiest and healthiest way. Counseling at this point turns to determining how to make the end of the marriage as amicable as possible. Most therapists can provide referrals to appropriate and skilled professionals, including accountants and attorneys.

There's no telling what the outcome of couples counseling will be for you. Each of the three potential outcomes requires work and has its share of struggle. In every event, a kind and competent therapist will help you understand things better and feel more confident in your actions.

mature happy couple in therapy

“No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give up.” - C.S. Lewis

Testimonials From Couples