10 Tips for Making Couples Counselling Sessions Work
Close relationships have the power to bring out the best and worst in us. Relationship Counselling is a valuable tool for identifying patterns within the relationship and cycles of repetitive behaviour can be illuminated, and their origins uncovered. This enables individuals to replace negative behaviours with positive ones, leading to more constructive outcomes. Look through the following Top-Ten Tips to make your couples counselling a success.
- Commit to the Process:
- To make relationship counselling effective, you must invest in it personally. Although you need success as a couple, you also need to identify what you individually are going to achieve from therapy. For example, focus on and use the “I” statement not the “We”. Your commitment and effort are crucial for the success of the counselling process -don’t waste your money or time on counselling if you have not decided to put the effort required in.
- Be Real & True to Yourself:
- Honesty is key in couples counselling. Therapists aren’t mind readers, and we have to go with what you are able to share. Therapy can’t fix issues that stay secret. Whilst it is true that we don’t always know what the motivations are in all of our behaviours, it tends to be somewhat unhelpful if you try to fool the therapist or yourselves.
- Homework Matters
- Your couples therapist may assign homework, and completing it is beneficial. Sometimes, the shared task with your partner is as important as the content. Clients who engage in homework between sessions tend to experience faster progress.
- Regularity of Couples Therapy Sessions:
- The pattern of therapy -traditionally weekly – is important as it helps to manage the deep emotions that are often brought up in a session. This is because it allows you to keep the momentum going and have a safe place to regroup.
- Be Prepared to Change:
- To break free from recurring relationship patterns, you must think and behave differently. Positive change contributes to a more optimistic view of the relationship. It is a truism that “Only you can change yourself”. Similarly, because you cannot make someone else change, it is helpful to recognise that it is your partner’s responsibility to change themselves.
- Pick your Therapist Carefully:
- Both you and your partner need to feel comfortable with the marital or couples counsellor that you choose. The session needs to work and you need to feel confident that the therapist can keep you both OK whilst allowing you to move and explore the relationship.
- Cheating and Betrayal:
- Rebuilding a relationship after infidelity is possible, but continuing an affair during therapy is counterproductive. Commitment to the counselling process is vital, and honesty about any ongoing betrayals is essential.
- Voodoo Therapy:
- Couples therapy is not magical mumbo-jumbo; it involves practical steps to identify and address relationship issues. However, like voodoo, it won’t work if you don’t believe in its potential. Trust in the process is crucial.
- Voice your Concerns:
- A therapy session with a couples counsellor is an ideal place to discuss issues that are challenging to address in everyday conversations. Open communication is the foundation for progress.
- Intimacy Matters:
- Couple’s therapists value openness and won’t be shocked by what you might share. Creating a safe space for intimate discussions is integral to the therapeutic process.
“Relationships end too soon because people stop putting in the same effort to keep you, as they did to win you.” – Unknown
Expectations of a Couples Therapy Session:
Before attending a couples therapy session, it’s essential to set realistic expectations. Understand that the therapist’s role is not to provide instant solutions but to facilitate communication and to guide the process. Be open to exploring emotions, addressing challenges, and working collaboratively with your partner. Embrace the opportunity for growth and positive change, recognising that improvement takes both time and commitment.
Can Couples Therapy Make Things Worse?
Despite the potential benefits, couples therapy may have downsides. Not all relationships can be fixed, and therapy can exacerbate issues if both partners aren’t ready or if one is unwilling to address the underlying problems. Lack of commitment or interest in resolving issues can exacerbate problems. Significant anger, resentment, or bitterness between partners can make it challenging to address issues constructively.
Couples therapy is not a tool for forcing your partner to change; it’s designed to open up communication and work through issues collaboratively. It may lead to emotional discomfort, frustration, and increased resentment if one partner is unwilling to engage in the process. Consider the substantial financial investment, dedicated time and effort, and potential disappointment if expectations are too high.
However, if both partners are willing to work on the relationship and are committed to making things better, then couples therapy can be an extremely effective tool in helping couples resolve the issues causing problems in their relationship.
Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including couples counselling and marital therapy. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .
Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Saville House, 5 Saville Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8DQ
More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page: Couples Counselling Resources
Practical steps to take your relationship forwards in the meantime include getting a couples therapy workbook online or in a bookshop, and working through it together with your partner each week. Some ideas below:
“Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson has some useful question and answer sections to work through.