How to make couples counselling work for you
Posted 22 Apr '16 by Gill Wier
It takes courage to come and talk to a counsellor about the problems you are having in your relationship. Most couples come for counselling because their relationship is under threat in some way. Perhaps one of you has had an affair, you have drifted apart or are arguing all the time. Perhaps you have already decided the relationship is over but want support to end things well.
Whatever you are facing I hope that the following ideas enable you to get the most out of your counselling.
1. Commit to the process together – the couples who get the most out of counselling are those who have made a decision together to try counselling. If your partner feels forced to come and doesn’t want to be there the counselling is less likely to work – though of course most people feel apprehensive before the first session and may find it more helpful than they expected. Having shared goals really helps as well – if you are able to discuss beforehand what you are hoping to get out of the counselling this will enable you both to be more focused on making the most of the time in the sessions.
2. Steer away from the past – if you are coming with resentments that have built up over a long time you may be keen to explain past events to the counsellor. Try to keep this brief – couples counselling is most effective when we focus mainly on what is happening now in your relationship and where you want to get to. Detailed stories of who said what take up valuable time and bringing up events from long ago can be counterproductive. If there's a specific event from the past that’s unresolved and is stopping you moving forward your counsellor may suggest using one session to focus on this and finding ways to resolve it.
3. Give it time – the first session will not fix everything - the issues that have brought you to counselling have probably developed over months or years and will take time to resolve. Counselling is a process and the first session is a starting point for this process. In my experience couples tend to need around 6 sessions – maybe more or less depending on the issues they are presenting.
4. Come willing to change – we naturally focus on what our partner is doing wrong or failing to do and wanting them to change. But those who gain most from couples counselling are those who are willing to change themselves. If you can acknowledge your own part in creating the issues your partner will be more willing to acknowledge theirs.
5. Reflect on the sessions together – immediately after the session most people prefer to have some time alone or in quiet. Avoid continuing the conversation/argument you have been having in the session. Later though, or the next day, it can be helpful to discuss what came out of the session for you and remind each other of action points you agreed on.
Whether you are seeking to improve your relationship or seeking support to end your relationship couples counselling can be an invaluable safe space to reflect together. There is no need to wait until you are at crisis point – contact us today to take the first step towards better communication.