We have previously discussed the topic of “does couples counseling work?” This is a common question therapists receive and is also a great source of fear and apprehension for many couples who want relationship counseling. It shouldn’t be!
Since we know that relationship counseling can be an extremely helpful tool, let’s shift our focus on how to make couples counseling work for you and your partner. There are many things you can do to make relationship counseling successful, or more likely to be successful, for you and your situation.
One important step in making couples counseling work for you and your partner is don’t wait! Couples, on average, spend six years of being unhappy before reaching out for help and most couples wait too long before seeking counseling. The sooner you begin to tackle the problems, the more likely you are to achieve a positive outcome.
Steps to take to make couples counseling work for you and your partner:
- Have realistic expectations for what you’re looking for in counseling and what you’re hoping to achieve.
- Realize conflicts are inevitable. Choose your battles wisely and distinguish between petty issues versus important ones.
- Be open minded! Be willing to learn basic skills and become more self-aware, as well as emotionally vulnerable with your partner.
- Stop seeing each other as the opponent, but as a team working towards a mutual goal of cooperation and contentment.
- Have a desire and the ability to be able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and to feel compassion for your partner’s vulnerable feelings and past emotional traumas.
- Be willing to own your part in the problems, as well as your ability to bring about positive change in the relationship. Couples counseling won’t work unless both individuals are open to change some aspect of their behaviors and interactions. Assume you’re as much a part of the problem as your partner.
- Do what your counselor tells you to do! You would not go to the doctor and get a prescription to feel better then not take it, right? Therapy only works if you do the work.
- Keep your problems between the two of you. Complaining to family members, co-workers, and others outside the relationship promotes negative energy in the relationship, encourages a victim mentality, and keeps you locked in negative patterns.
- Don’t threaten divorce. This can trigger more defensiveness and stress from your partner.
- Don’t look around at your other options. This prevents you from seeing your partner in the same way and only brings the same issues to a new relationship. Nothing gets solved.
- Be sensitive to how scared both you and your partner may be at the prospect of a breakup of the relationship. Relationship breakups are a big deal and a life altering experience.
- Keep coming as long as your therapist thinks it’s beneficial.
Relationship counseling has shown to be effective for at least 75% of couples and decreases the number of complaints and distress among partners, and these results remain consistent for at least two years after the conclusion of treatment. Partners can learn to identify toxic patterns of behavior and communication, they can explore problems from a different perspective and learn ways to resolve conflicts more effectively. Couples counseling can also improve the overall quality of interactions and increase intimacy among couples.
Remember, counseling is a preventative process. It only works if you keep practicing what you’re taught and what you have learned from the experience. Most importantly, make sure you find a therapist that both you and your partner feel comfortable with. Connection with a counselor that both of you feel is fair, equitable, and listens to both of you is key to a successful couples counseling experience. We are here to help you and your partner and we are happy to help both of you have the best relationship possible.
Brooke, M. (2016, November 04). 10 Things You MUST Do for Marriage Counseling to Work. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/marriage-counseling-will-not-work-unless-you-do-these-10-things-dg/
Gaspard, T. (2018, April 03). Timing Is Everything When It Comes To Marriage Counseling. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.gottman.com/blog/timing-is-everything-when-it-comes-to-marriage-counseling/
Grande, D. (2017, December 06). Couples Therapy: Does It Really Work? Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-it-together/201712/couples-therapy-does-it-really-work?eml