Are you wondering how relationship counselling works?
Starting couples counselling can be a daunting challenge.
In my experience, many people find it harder to start couples counselling than individual counselling. Instead of talking privately with a supportive stranger, you'll be sharing your inner-most dreams and fears with your partner by your side. If you've been through months or years of conflict and distance, then this can feel risky.
You may be worried that your partner will disagree with your point of view, or you may not want to expose yourself further to someone who, at times, doesn't appear to have your best interests at heart. On the other hand, you may think the truth of how you're currently feeling may hurt your partner. You might fear it will make a bad situation worse.
To make matters worse, you probably don't understand the process of relationship counselling, and you're not clear about what to expect. You fear the therapist will take sides. The lack of clarity is causing you to put off booking a session.
But the truth is, the rewards of relationship counselling are often quick and long-lasting.
Over 30-years of intense research into what makes relationships work means there is a framework for helping you mend your relationship.
You don't have to struggle unhappily in a relationship with someone you love; a proven process helps couples mend relationships.
Let's look at the process of couples therapy in more detail.
1. What brought you here?
If you enter couples counselling with me, I will spend the first 10-15 minutes of our initial session asking you and your partner what you think the problems are. What caused you to choose therapy right now?
I will make sure both of you get a chance to speak and demonstrate from the start that I am impartial and not there to take sides. Both of you will get equal and fair treatment, and both of you will have your concerns listened to and understood.
I'll make notes of the things we can work on. I aim to share enough insight and understanding that you will immediately start to have some tools to begin mending your relationship. You will feel confident that counselling will be a worthwhile investment.
2. How did you meet?
After the initial introduction, I will find out a little about your relationship history. When did you meet? What attracted you to each other?
I must know how long you've been together, what your memories of the relationship are and if you can pinpoint a time when your problems started.
I will find out what drew you to each other, how you've managed challenges in the past, and what significant life events have shaped your relationship.
Most couples like recalling happy memories: Doing so allows them to put their recent troubles in the broader context of their relationship. Hopefully, we can pinpoint when things went wrong in your relationship and why they might have done so.
3. What are your strengths?
Either in the first or second session, I'll introduce my training and the research I base my couples work on.
Part of that is introducing the Sound Relationship House, a model developed by John and Julie Gottman that covers all the attitudes and behaviours that go into making a good relationship.
The Sound Relationship House is based on over 30-years of research into what makes relationships work.
I'll briefly introduce each part of the Sound Relationship House, and then I'll ask you what you think the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship are.
Later in the therapy, we may agree for you to complete a set of questionnaires to understand these strengths and weaknesses in greater detail, but for now, we want to highlight the good and get a clearer idea of where we need to focus.
4. How do you manage conflict?
Since we're all unique and have our own personalities, dreams and values, navigating difference is one of the critical skills couples need to learn in a relationship.
I will most likely dive right in and start to point out the rhetorical behaviours that are damaging your ability to understand each other.
Unless these have been pointed out to you already, these will likely come as a surprise. Most likely, you'll recognise at least one bad habit damaging your ability to communicate and resolve issues.
Although it's going to take at least a few sessions for you to change your current habits, you can now put a name to some of your communication mistakes and start to try alternatives.
5. How good a listener are you?
I have a lot of communication exercises that John and Julie Gottman developed for different scenarios. They all have one thing in common; they ask you to put aside your initial judgment and try to tune into what your partner is saying.
They ask you to hear your partners pain and concerns. When you're talking, the aim is not to persuade your partner of your point of view. Instead, you should explain to your partner your thoughts and feelings about your position on an issue.
If you're the listener, your goals are to hear the speaker's feelings and be present with your partner. We are not trying to solve a problem, at least not initially; the goal is to understand.
I aim to help you use the communication exercises to resolve your difficulties and build up your skills so that you can fix your differences amicably in the future.
Get the skills, understanding and support your relationship needs
The five steps outlined in this post are the core pillars involved in my couples counselling. Although there is a lot more, these steps form the nuts and bolts of my therapy work.
How do you feel about these five steps? Can you see how they'd be helpful?
If you have doubts about couples counselling, I hope this post has addressed them.
You don't need to struggle in a relationship. There is a well-defined process and method to couples counselling that can help.
I'm here to help you get the skills, understanding and support your relationship needs.