How does couples counseling help?
You and your partner finally agreed: you’re both ready to go to couples counseling. You’ve been through challenges and you’re ready to face the issues in your relationship head on.
You’ve tried several things before, maybe self-help books, getting advice from friends, trying to schedule date nights, but you know you’re still missing something.
Now that you’ve both decided that couples therapy is the next step in improving your relationship, you’re imagining all the possibilities of how your communication and intimacy will improve. You’re wondering what the therapist will be like, what they’ll ask you, and what good takeaways you’ll leave session with each week. It’s exciting for you, to know that you and your partner have made a great choice in working to improve your relationship.
What to expect from couples counseling
You’re also wondering what to expect, and how couples counseling can actually help you. When you start to think about the time and money you’re planning to invest in therapy, you want to make sure that you will both really get the most out of it and that your relationship will grow.
Just a disclaimer here that no therapist can completely guarantee results of couples counseling for you and your partner. There are so many factors that impact counseling, and your time in session is only part of that.
However, if you and your partner are both ready to really change how things are going, your work in therapy can be very valuable.
There are many benefits of marriage counseling, and it’s important for you to know what to expect. Every therapist is different, so when you look for one, make sure that you and your partner find a therapist who speaks to your needs, and is specialized in helping you with the issues you face. When you find a therapist who is a good fit with you, you’re also more likely to invest your energy into therapy and experience greater benefits.
In fact, there’s even been research to determine how important the relationship and fit between therapist and client is for the outcome of therapy. They found that when the alliance between therapist and client is secure, there is more consistency between the client and therapist on working toward their therapeutic goals. Basically, when you trust your therapist to really help you with your specific difficult issues, you’re more likely to work well together and agree on how to reach your goals in therapy. So you want someone who will really understand what you’re going through and specialize their treatment toward you. (The article discussing this research is by Taylor, Rietzschel, Danquah, and Berry, and is titled “The Role of Attachment Style, Attachment to Therapist, and Working Alliance in Response to Psychological Therapy.”)
Counseling also requires a lot of effort. It can often seem like it’s getting worse before it gets better, because you and your partner are both sharing some hurt feelings. This is to be expected. So it’s important for you to know going into it that therapy isn’t always comfortable, but it’s very rewarding. Once you and your partner work through the more challenging issues, you come out on the other side feeling closer and more connected than before.
Benefits of marriage counseling
Overall, here are just a few important benefits in how couples counseling can help you and your partner.
- You have a third party, the therapist, to maintain a balanced and safe space for you both to share your perspective. The therapist brings attention to deeper meanings and feelings in what each of you have to say, to help you begin to actually listen to each other.
- You and your partner can identify and understand the cycle (usually a cycle of conflict) you get stuck in through the work you and the therapist do in session. From your work in session, you start to notice this cycle at home, too. You gain better understanding of each other as you begin to recognize what drives how you respond to your partner and how they respond to you.
- Once you have a better understanding of the cycle you each get stuck in, you can learn new ways to communicate so that your spouse can better understand what you really mean. Communication issues are often what couples come to therapy for. Much of the work is done in helping each of you find effective ways to express your thoughts, feelings, and needs, and to gain insight into your partner’s as well. The therapist helps you each find the words to express what you really mean, so you can develop clear and open lines of communication.
- Once you are more understanding of each other’s perspective, you can begin to see your partner for who they are, someone who loves you and is trying to improve the relationship. You’re communicating more openly and you feel more accepted by your partner. New appreciation develops for each other when you feel understood and accepted. Acceptance does not mean you have to agree on everything. It does mean that you accept each other and learn how to still show kindness and love when you disagree, to help you find common ground.
- You develop trust through new communication, insight, and honesty with each other. As you work through difficult issues together in session, you truly become a safe place for each other. The therapist helps your partner to become aware and understanding of how you reach out for them, and you feel safe to share what you need and want in the relationship, trusting that your partner will listen.
- Once you both have worked to develop understanding for each other and can communicate with more gentle honesty, you have a new way of working through issues and resolving problems. The therapist, continuing as third party to guide you both in connecting with each other, can point out places where you get stuck and help explore new ideas for how to resolve these issues.
Overall, couples counseling benefits you and your partner because you come together, with a common goal to improve your relationship. You focus on each other and you spend dedicated time receiving help and guidance to redirect unhealthy patterns and bring you both to a place of new communication and intimacy.
Click HERE to learn more about couples therapy services in the Greenville, SC area.