What happens in relationship and marriage counselling?
Your couples therapy questions answered
I frequently receive calls enquiring about what happens in relationship and marriage counselling. And what they can expect in the first session.
So I thought it was the perfect topic for a blog!
Dealing with stress and conflict as a couple
Couples are often dealing with a huge amount of daily demands and pressures – and we all have different ways of coping with them.
It’s important to understand and learn about your unique differences. Only then can you, as a couple, work out the best ways to support each other through difficult times.
Regardless of how long you’ve been together, it’s common for unhealthy patterns of communication to develop. And if that’s the case, you might find it tricky to deal with conflict effectively by yourselves. This can lead to deeper hurt, conflict, and resentment in the long term.
So if you’re going round and round in circles over the same issues and feeling a bit frustrated, you’re not alone.
Ultimately, this is what brings couples to therapy.
What’s the benefit of couples counselling?
For many couples, counselling can feel mysterious and confusing. The idea of sharing intimate personal details about yourself and the relationship can feel daunting and a little overwhelming.
However, therapy can help you manage and navigate through difficult situations so you can feel more secure and stronger than ever before.
Couples counselling will help you find a way forward that’s most helpful to your unique situation and relationship – whatever that might look like. Everyone’s situation is different.
How can we prepare for the first session?
This is a common question I get asked.
While there isn’t anything specific you have to do, it can be helpful to take some time to consider the following questions:
- What are your main concerns?
- How long have these issues been a problem in your relationship?
- What have you and your partner done to try to resolve these issues?
- What do you hope to achieve from couples therapy?
What can we expect from the first session?
It’s okay to feel a bit nervous or apprehensive about your first counselling session. It’s not always easy to open up about intimate difficulties or personal experiences with a complete stranger.
However, our first session will cover the typical counselling process, which includes plenty of opportunities for questions so you both feel comfortable.
And yes, I recommend that both parties attend the first session together.
This is important because it allows us to establish a big picture understanding of the concerns that brought you to therapy – from both sides of the story.
We’ll also discuss the key aspects of your relationship history, such as:
- How and where did you meet?
- What attracted you to your partner?
- How long have you been married and/or been together?
- How many children do you have? (If applicable)
- Have there been any big challenges or milestones in your relationship?
Finally, we’ll talk about your key goals for attending couples counselling. I’ll then help you prepare a tailored plan to build a healthier and more secure relationship.
Following the first session, I often request individual sessions.
The individual sessions are a really important part of the overall relationship assessment as it helps me understand your individual histories better. How we learn to relate in relationships often stems from our life experiences.
Therefore, these discussions provide me an understanding of any significant events that may be playing a part on your couple relationship – before coming back together for future sessions.
The Gottman Relationship Checkup
Prior to the individual sessions, I also recommend both parties complete a confidential online assessment. Known as “The Gottman Relationship Checkup”, the assessment determines your strengths as a couple and the challenges you may face.
The checkup contains 480 questions that deals with friendship, intimacy, how well you know and understand your partner, how well you manage emotions and conflict, how you share your values and goals, and what gives you and your life meaning, plus more.
It can be done at any time and in any setting.
While it’s a somewhat lengthy process, it’s important to complete so I can gain a deeper understanding of your life as a couple in a minimal amount of sessions.
What can we expect from our relationship counselling sessions going forward?
After we’ve done the groundwork and the goals for therapy are clear, we’ll begin discussing the key issues one-by-one. We’ll use new communication methods to help you both through the counselling process.
This might include:
- Openly discussing difficult topics
- Sharing how you both feel – one at a time
- Analysing your behavioural and communication patterns
- Learning techniques to improve your communication methods
- Deepening understanding and repairing and healing hurt
Below are some of the topics we’ll cover.
Your individual histories
As your counsellor, it’s important for me to understand your individual histories. This includes key milestones and life experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today.
As mentioned above, this often plays a big part in how you relate to and communicate with others, including your partner.
Your long-term vision
While most people come to relationship counselling because they’re unhappy or dissatisfied with their partner, they don’t always know how they want their relationship to be at the end of the process.
Depending on the key issues that led you to therapy, it can sometimes take time to develop a clear vision of what’s important and how you want your relationship to look and feel in the future. But with the help of your therapist, you’ll be assisted and guided towards a vision you both desire.
Your strengths and what’s working well
When there’s a problem or two in a relationship, it’s easy to overlook the positives. But through the couples process, we also focus on all the good things you have going on and what you’re doing well in your relationship.
Perhaps you recognise your partner is a great parent.
Or they’re a very good cook.
Or you can tell they’re working hard to support your family.
Focusing on each other’s strengths provides great building blocks for our sessions.
Changes you need to make as individuals
Many couples get caught up in all the things their partner is doing wrong – and avoid or find it difficult to take any responsibility for the conflict.
However, you both need to commit to making changes if you’re eager to make things work.
New ways to communicate and relate to each other
If you’ve already tried resolving the issue and it hasn’t worked, we’ll discuss some new strategies and tools to help you move forward. We’ll start small and see what works best. So yes, this will involve a bit of homework in between sessions!
One of the secrets to a long-lasting relationship is knowing it’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes, it takes a lot of work.
By choosing to invest in your relationship, you’re creating the opportunity to strengthen your love.
How long will we need counselling for?
The number of sessions required varies for each couple based on their issues and goals.
We’ll continually assess the success based on how you both feel over time and the changes experienced. We’ll also reflect back on your original goals.
What approach do you use for couple's counselling?
I’m professionally trained in Level 3- Gottman Method – An approach to couples therapy that includes a thorough assessment of the couple relationship and integrates 40 years’ worth of research-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory.
Read more about the Gottman Method here.
How do we set up our first appointment?
There are a few ways:
Over the Phone: 0404 032 636
Online: Book an appointment online
If you don’t find the specific time you’re after, feel free to contact me directly via phone or email.
If you are still unsure whether you may need relationship counselling, I’d be happy to chat to you over the phone in a free 15 minute consultation.
During the call, I can answer any further questions you may have about the therapy process, gain an understanding of how I work, and work out whether I’d be the right fit.
If you’re unsure when the right time is to seek couples counselling you can find out more here.
Do you need Counselling Support?
If you need counselling support, contact Kylie Lepri for a FREE 15-minute phone call to discuss your situation and find out how she can help. Call us now on 0404 032636 or book your free phone call online.
Kylie Lepri is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Training Consultant. Since 2003 she has helped individuals and couples work through life stressors, develop new goals and create better relationships. Get Kylie’s FREE ebook: 5 Proven Strategies to help manage stress today, by joining her newsletter below.