Preparing for Couples Counseling
Deciding to seek couples therapy is only the first step to creating a improved relationship. Now you must think about how you can make couples therapy successful. Here are five steps you can take to get off on the right foot.
1. What would a positive outcome look like? Imagine that therapy has helped transform your relationship. What changed? If someone close to you noticed the change, what would they see that would indicate your relationship is improved? If your relationship was filmed, what would you see on the screen that has changed?
These questions will get you thinking about your relationship in terms of behavior change. You can also think about how your feelings would change with the change in your relationship.
2. What would be your contribution to the change you would like to see? You probably have a list of changes you partner could make to increase your satisfaction in the relationship. If you enter couples therapy with this agenda, your partner will feel blamed, become defensive and resist change. Instead, you should consider what you could contribute to an improved relationship, assuming your partner is also willing to make a similar contribution.
3. How do you expect the therapist to conduct the session to be helpful to the relationship? You don't have to know what couples therapy is all about to imagine how a therapist could be helpful. Do you see your therapist as being more in control of the session or turning control over to the couple. Do you expect your therapist to give advice or be more of a listener?
How will you judge whether your therapist is being effective for your goals? What personality would you prefer for your therapist to have? Do you want a highly structured therapy session or a more relaxed approach?
4. How much of a commitment to therapy are you willing to make before judging whether therapy is helpful? Some couples only give therapy one session to give hope for relationship change, while most realize that couples therapy is a process that must be assessed over several sessions.
Discuss with your partner what your expectations are for the number of sessions and amount of time you will give couples therapy before deciding it is ineffective. By having this discussion, you will build accountability for a future moment when one of you loses motivation or feels discouraged by a lack of progress.
5. Consider potential stumbling blocks to maintaining your commitment to couples therapy. The dropout rate for couples therapy exceeds that of individual therapy. It is easy to see why.
- You have twice the struggle to free up with time for therapy.
- Loss of motivation in one partner undermines therapy for both.
- Quick improvement in the relationship can lead to ending treatment before long-lasting change has been made.
- Therapy can create tension that can lead one or both of you to avoid by simply ending therapy.
Now is the time to address issues that may arise so that you remain motivated to proceed with therapy rather than allowing there to be a premature exit. Assessing your expectations, motivation and potential stumbling blocks can increase the likelihood that couples therapy will help you to regain the connection you desire.