Every relationship has its ups and downs and couples counseling can help. In a long-term relationship, it’s just not realistic to believe things will always be great. We’re human. Our jobs, our responsibilities — everything piles up and sometimes we don’t make enough time for each other.
Maybe you’ve thought about couples counseling. Even if your relationship is going great, it can always be helpful to keep open the lines of communication through counseling. Go ahead and give it a go. Here are some steps you can take to get the most out of your couples counseling sessions.
Commit to the decision to begin counseling
Thinking about beginning couples counseling can feel overwhelming. Sometimes you don’t even want to think about it. It challenges you to examine the state of your relationship. It forces you to maybe admit something is going wrong.
Couples come in for counseling for any number of reasons. Here are some of the most common:
- Trust issues
- Trouble with money
- Frequent arguing
- Poor communication
- Feeling resentful or increased jealousy
- Secrets and feelings of guilt
- Tragic event
- Lacking physical intimacy
- Child rearing issues
- Substance abuse
This is only a small selection of topics. Couples join counseling for any number of reasons, many of which aren’t listed here. If you feel like there is “something off” in your relationship, couples counseling could be beneficial to you. Some couples feel like their relationship is just fine, but explore counseling to continue to strengthen their partnership. The key to successful couples counseling is to commit and to buy in to the process from the beginning.
Find the right counselor
Make sure your couples counseling includes a qualified therapist. Make sure to seek out a licensed family counselor. These professionals have advanced and very specific degrees. Also, look for someone who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
Ask questions. What’s your counselor’s background? What type of couples have they helped in the past? Does this specific counselor take your insurance? Take your time finding the professional who is a right fit for your specific situation.
What know what to expect
Counseling sessions are individualized to your specific situation. Sometimes it only takes a few sessions, for others it might be for months or even a year. In certain situations, couples attend each session together, but in others each partner might attend on their own. It might be a combination of both. Stay open minded.
Be ready to talk about both the positives and negatives surrounding your relationship. It’s only with being entirely open and honest with each other that a relationship can mend and grow. In most circumstances, your specific relationship issues can be solved. But also keep in mind that there are times when ending the relationship might be the best choice for you.
Be ready for silence or anger
Some issues will be hard to talk about. It might take a few sessions for you or your partner to warm up to the idea of speaking about deep personal feelings. Don’t get discouraged if there is a lot of silence during your first few couples counseling sessions.
On the other hand, there is the possibility that information might be revealed that could make you or your partner angry. As emotions flare, there could be some yelling. But no matter the situation, your therapist will be there to help sort through these important emotions.
It involves effort
If you want to help your relationship, the practice needs to extend beyond the counseling session. Be ready for your therapist to give you relationship exercises to continue at home. You need to take these seriously as they are extensions of the couples counseling sessions.
More care might be needed
There are times when underlying medical factors are contributing to problems in your relationship. In cases like these, one or both of you might be referred to specific medical professionals to work together with your couples therapist. Situations like this might include mental illness and substance abuse.
Have an open mind
Be ready to explore relationship approaches that might seem foreign to you. You might even feel a little uncomfortable at first. But just remember, what you were trying to fix on your own wasn’t working. Your counselor isn’t just making up exercises on a whim; counseling utilizes proven methods to mend your relationship. Keep your mind open.
Beginning couples therapy can be a bit uncomfortable. But reaching out to a qualified couples therapist is the first step. The above suggestions give you a good idea of what to expect and will help you get the most out of each session.