Couples Therapy

What happens in Couples’ Therapy?

Many clients ask me this, and the questions behind the question are usually along these lines:

Do we both have to go to marriage/couples’ counseling?
Is marriage/couples’ counseling going to be really uncomfortable or painful?
Is marriage/couples’ counseling going to work?!

Here are some thoughts about these questions:

Do we both have to go to marriage/couples’ counseling?

There are no hard and fast rules about this. Sometimes only one person in the couple is interested in talking to a counselor about marriage/couples’ problems, and sometimes one is enough, even if that one person thinks the other person is the problem. There have been studies that have shown the risks of one person coming to marriage/couples counseling: the big risk is that the sessions turn into gripe sessions, with the offending person conveniently absent. You should know that I am trained to notice this when it starts to happen, and have a lot of experience steering clients back to the real issues they’re facing. Remember: if you’re the one coming in to marriage/couples’ counseling and your partner isn’t interested, I will certainly understand your anger and frustrations about your partner, but I will also be challenging you to work on yourself.

Is marriage/couples’ counseling going to be really uncomfortable or painful?

Sometimes, but not always. I can’t promise that marriage/couples’ counseling will be painless, and of course you already know that it won’t. I can promise that if I am actively inviting you to think about painful topics or work on big challenges in your life, challenges that open you up to your own grief, fears, or frustrations, I will be doing so with the goal of your personal growth and health in mind.

Is marriage/couples’ counseling going to work?

Whether marriage or couples counseling works depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to “fix my marriage,” “make my partner change,” or “get my mom to support the life I’ve chosen with my partner,” then I can’t promise marriage/couples’ counseling will work. If your goal is to grow, to make sense of your emotional pain, or to deepen the connection between yourself and your partner, then the odds are far better that marriage/couples’ counseling will work.

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