Marriage counseling can seem daunting at first. If you’re about to begin counseling, you are likely feeling nervous, apprehensive, and, hopefully, excited. Seeking therapy is an important step in repairing and/or building a healthy, lasting relationship.
However, it’s important to understand that couples get out of therapy what they put into it. In other words, there’s more to therapy than simply showing up. Here are several things you can do to get the most out of your couple’s therapy.
Before Each Session
You might think all of the work you’ll be doing on your relationship is going to happen in your counseling sessions. While the groundwork for your relationship is laid there, a lot of the effort and changes happen outside of sessions—when you are at home, together with your partner, putting into practice the strategies you’ve identified with your couples therapist.
Here are a few things you’ll want to do before each session to prepare.
Understand How Marriage Counseling Works
If this is your very first therapy session, spend some time getting familiar with what marriage counseling is and how it works. It’s important that both you and your partner have a sense of what to expect. Knowing what a relationship counselor does (and doesn’t do) will help you set realistic expectations. It can also help reduce any nervousness you might be feeling.
Check In with Your Partner
Don’t wait until your next therapy appointment to check in with your partner. In order to create a successful relationship and to get the most out of counseling, discuss with your partner how you both think your relationship is developing, how counseling is going, how you can continue to build on what’s been working, and identifying what has been most challenging.
Have Something to Discuss
One of the best ways you can get the most from couples counseling is to come prepared. That means having something you wish to discuss. This creates opportunities for communication and helps your counselor guide the session. Here are a few tips to help you come prepared for productive discussion:
- Find positives you’d like to highlight during counseling.
- If you had a fight or argument since your last session, try to remain focused on the bigger picture: What caused the fight? How does it affect your relationship as a whole?
- Concentrate on the bigger objectives that you’ve established with your therapist.
Remember that Changes Take Time
Healthy relationships, even with counseling, take time to develop. You are unlikely to see or feel changes between each session. Instead, focus on three-month periods of time. If two or three sessions have passed and you haven’t noticed any major changes, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Be patient and stay committed.
Want to Improve Your Relationships with Loved Ones?
During each counseling session, there are things you can be mindful of to make the most of your time and increase your chances of building a stronger relationship.
Engage During Therapy
This might seem like a simple tip, but not every couple that goes into marital counseling does so engaged and excited to be there. Simply showing up to counseling and “going through the motions” won’t help solve problems or resolve conflicts.
In order to make the most of each counseling session, it’s important for each partner to actively listen and contribute. This can include asking questions, responding fully and honestly to your partner, or simply acknowledging what your partner is communicating.
Focus on Changing Yourself
It’s often easy to home in on what you would like the other person in the relationship to do differently or things about them you would like to “fix.” However, you can’t change your partner, nor can your partner change you.
Resorting to finger pointing, making demands, and placing blame won’t affect healthy changes in your relationship. Instead, listen to what your partner is saying and consider the changes that you can make.
Show Consideration for Your Partner
During your counseling sessions, you and your partner will need to communicate openly and honestly, sometimes about uncomfortable subjects. Always be considerate of your partner. Be mindful of their triggers including situations or words that might cause them to become angry or defensive.
Don’t Wait Until Your Marriage is in Trouble
You don’t have to feel that your relationship is in jeopardy to seek marriage or couples counseling. In fact, even couples in healthy relationships can benefit from counseling, particularly newlyweds or couples preparing for marriage.
In any event, it’s important that you don’t wait until you feel like your relationship is falling apart before seeking help. Take early action if you feel disconnected from your partner. This can dramatically increase the success of therapy.
If you’re interested in attending marriage or couples counseling with an experienced and fully licensed professional in Central Pennsylvania, contact Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling Services.