How does marriage counseling work?
If you’ve never done marriage or couples counseling, you might wonder how it works. The way I work with couples is this – I like to take the first session and meet with a couple together. I assess the way you interact, listen, respond or react and the reasons you are coming to therapy. I want to understand each person’s perscpective and get a sense for the issues you are struggling with. At the same time, I will assess what happens when you are discussing the problems and to see if you interrupt, agree, disagree and understand. The second and third appointments I like to meet with each person individually to get a sense for their background and experience. It helps me to connect one-on-one to learn more about what each person feels and needs and what they are not getting in the relationship.
I also like to understand what each person experienced growing up when it comes to roll models for relationships. I will often ask how did your parents or other significant caretakers treat one another and how did they treated you. It gives me a good idea of how each person was “conditioned” to relate and how tow people from different backgrounds can have different views and expectations around relationships. You may want to repeat or avoid they way people treated each other when you were growing up. It is impoprtnt to undestanding how the past affects the present when it comes to relationships.
Many people that have gone through traumatic experiences growing may face have more challenges in their love relationships and therefore may need more help creating a more satisfying and stable relationship. I do want to understand attachment style and how secure or insecure you felt growing up how secure or insecure you feel in your marriage or relationship now. Understanding all of this and then helping you both understand the patterns and dynamic of your relationship is what we work on in the couples therapy.
Many people ask how long is couples therapy or how long will it take. Without knowing each of you and your dynamic…without knowing what each of you bring to the relationship from your past, it’s hard for me to answer that question other than to say the work that I do is short term in nature. Anywhere between 8-20 appointments for most couples. Some couples are in therapy longer. So I hope this helps as you’re searching for a couples therapist and trying to understand how therapy works if you are new to the process.
Just know that changing patterns and behavior takes time, awareness and consistent effort. Pain is a great motivator and usually people are much more willing to change something when there is a threat of losing your spouse or partner. Ultimatums like “i want a divorce” or “I can’t do this anymore” will make many people very scared and ready for counseling. The real challenge is staying what is most importnat to your partner or spouse – learning what they really need and responding rather than reacting. We do this together to help each person really understand and respond to needs of the other person without discounting, neglecting, defending, criticizing or invalidating when you don’t understand. Understanding and responding to each other rather than reacting is critical to building a stronger and ongoing connection with one another. I hope this helps as you’re searching for a therapist to understand the process of marriage counseling or couples therapy.