FAQs About Couples Counseling
How long will couples counseling take?
Every relationship is different and your counselor can often give you a preliminary estimate about how (4-6 sessions) is appropriate. For moderate or seriously conflicted relationships we recommend that you consider committing to 8-10 sessions and assess at that point about further appointments. Couples counseling can be uncomfortable at times, so we encourage you to suspend making any decision about whether or not the counseling is helping until after at least eight sessions.
Will you always try to keep our relationship together?
Our counselors believe that we get into relationships for a reason and it’s important to sort out, whenever possible, why there is disconnection. Often with the right kind of support, some of the most difficult conflict can be transformed into an opportunity for a new and different kind of relationship.
What if my partner doesn’t want to come into couples counseling?
This happens very often. If you want to do counseling and your partner doesn’t want to, we often recommend making the appointment for yourself. If you are willing to talk about your concerns and work with your counselor on improving your reaction to your partner, we can sometimes invite your partner into sessions to help continue that work. You can try to unilaterally take responsibility for your end of the issues and relax any blame or expectations that your partner will do the same. Your counselor may be able to speak to your partner in this context and begin to address any obstacles to further participation.
Alternatively, we find that negative relationship patterns can change even when one person decides to get serious help for themselves without their partner’s participation. When you make changes consistently, over time, it necessarily induces your partner into a different pattern of behavior. Our counselors can help you look for opportunities for change even through individual relationship counseling or coaching.
How do we prepare for couples counseling?
It will be helpful for your counselor if you put thought into what you want to achieve by attending therapy. Even if you aren’t sure, think about scenarios you don’t want to see happen. Telling your counselor, for example, “I want help so we don’t fight so much but I’m afraid doing this will make it worse,” is a great way to alert your counselor to your priorities. You can tell also us about your values. What kinds of help have you received in the past and what has worked or not worked for you? The bottom line is to come as you are and your counselor will have some questions for you both that will guide the initial assessment process.
What do I do if I think our couples counselor is taking my partner’s side?
Although we are trained to avoid unintentionally taking sides when helping a couple, there will be times when it could feel like your counselor is doing so unfairly. We recommend that you voice your concern as soon as you notice it so that your therapist can be aware of it and address what is happening. It is a normal part of couples counseling for your counselor to temporarily take attention away from you and focus more on your partner. Usually your counselor will tell you when this is happening so you can relax and let the process unfold naturally to where equal attention eventually comes back to you.
Will our sessions always be with both of us?
Your counselor may prefer to meet with you together as much as possible. Some counselors routinely conduct initial assessments with couples by interviewing the couple together, then spending equal times with each of you individually in separate sessions. You can request a certain type of format if, for example, you need to reveal information to your counselor that is essential for getting help but you are not ready to disclose to your partner. Some therapists strongly discourage intentional sharing of so-called “secrets,” while other therapists are comfortable with how to handle this safely with everyone’s best interests. If such sharing does occur, usually your therapist will discuss with you the limits of confidentiality.