I have heard it mentioned so many time by people in the first session, their fear, anxiety and reluctance in attending relationship/couple counselling, as they are uncertain of what to expect from the process in couple therapy. They are not sure of what to expect from the therapist and the unknown is often quite unsettling.
I have been focusing my clinical practice towards working with couples/relationships for the past 6 years, over this time I have arrived at several guidelines that I believe makes our work together more effective. First and foremost, I would like to point out, your relationship, is my client. As such, my primary role is to help you improve your responses to each other without violating your core values and beliefs.
Your job coming into the first session is to create your own individual objectives for being in therapy, and my job is to help you achieve them. I have many tools to help you experience more enjoyment out of your relationship, they work best when you have a clear idea of your own aspirations.
The major aim of therapy is increasing your knowledge of yourself, your partner, and the patterns of interaction between you. Therapy success depend on how well you apply the new knowledge to break ineffective and outdated patterns of behavior and try out new ones.
To create the relationship you really desire, there will be some difficult tradeoffs and tough choices for each person.
First tradeoff will be time. It takes time to create a relationship that flourishes: time to be together, time to be with family, time to play, nurture, relax, coordinate, hang out and plan. This time will encroach on some other valuable areas i.e. your personal and professional time.
Second tradeoff is comfort. This means emotional comfort i.e. try new ways of thinking or doing things, engaging in curiosity and openness instead of butting in by offering solution or judgement, speaking up instead of becoming resentful, shutting down or withdrawing.
The reality is that, effort is required from each of you to make a sustained improvement. Picture two ballroom dancers, one person cannot do most of the work and still create an exceptional team.
How to guarantee maximum return when investing in Couple Therapy?
There are 3 common yet unproductive patterns in couple therapy which is worth paying attention to, these are:
1. Focusing session on whatever problem happens to be on someone’s minds at the moment. Although, it’s important to address the conflict, if whole session is a he said/she said then it’s most likely going to be ineffective.
2. Arriving at session saying “I don’t know what to talk about, do you?” while it may open some interesting doors, it’s a hit or miss process.
3. Discussing current fights/arguments, while that has its place, if it’s not supported by the larger context of what you wish to learn from the experience, then it’s often not so useful.
A more powerful approach to your couple’s therapy sessions is for each person to do the following reflections before each session:
1. Reflect on your objective for being in therapy.
2. Think about your next step that supports or relations to your larger objectives for the kind of relationship you wish to create, or the partner you aspire to become.
This level of preparedness requires some effort and if done, will yield great payoff. Look at it this way, would you call an important meeting and then say “Well, I don’t have anything to bring up, does anyone else have anything on their agenda?” I don’t think you would.
Some final thoughts
You can’t create a thriving relationship by only fixing what’s wrong, but it’s a good start.
Practice, practice and more practice. Practice the right things and you will get there.
Love is destroyed when self-interest dominates.
Trust is a key pillar in any healthy relationship, you can only create trust by doing what you say you will do.
If neither of you ever rocks the boat, you will end up with a dull relationship.
Knowledge is not power. Only knowledge that is applied is power.
Effective change requires insight plus action. Insight without action is passivity. Action without insight is impulsive. Insight plus action leads to clarity and power.
If you want to create a win-win solution, you cannot hold a position that has caused your partner to lose in the past.
To sum up, I know it’s hard to face difficulties/challenges that stem from our intimate relationship, it takes courage to reach out for support. I invite you to consider taking up my offer of a 15mins obligation free chat before deciding. I look forward to being of support to you and your relationship.