Written by therapist Bria McCalpin
When deciding to go to therapy, you may have multiple anticipations of what will occur. Everyone is different depending on the reasons they seek counseling, but it is safe to assume couples are looking to improve their relationship in some shape or form. It is imperative to know that although couples therapy can look different for each therapist, there are some common themes. These matters can be addressing the root of the problem(s), building skills, and individual sessions. Beginning a session can be overwhelming, as there can be many fears and anxiety about counseling, but at your first session and moving forward, that will be put to ease.
Addressing Relationship Stress
When entering your first session, you may expect you and your partner to delve into the issues you find in your relationship. Your therapist will focus on this and the history of these problems to better understand how these significant issues impact the relationship. Several examples of concerns could cause conflict between you and your partner, such as intimacy, communication, parenting, differences in goals, and more. When discussing these challenges with your therapist, it is best to be open and honest. It may seem obvious to present with sincerity, but some clients struggle to do this during the first session for a few reasons. It is crucial to the process because once everyone (you, your partner, and therapist) is on the same page, you can collaborate to improve these difficulties in the relationship.
Integration of Individual Sessions
You may not know this, but having a session without your partner is an excellent opportunity for couples in couples therapy. Individual sessions usually occur during the second/third session of counseling. These sessions offer you and your significant other to give the therapist more perspective on what brought you into counseling. Individual sessions have the intention to be a safe space for you and your partner to discuss in more detail and be vulnerable about your expectations for therapy and the relationship. Additionally, you will be able to explain your perception of things without having to worry about or respond to your partner’s reactions. Most partners could trigger one another because they know each other and that affects a story, experience, or word they may have on the other. Meeting for a separate session could help your therapist understand coping skills that may be valuable to assist you and your partner in communicating effectively. Most notably, this will be your time to be seen and feel heard without the need to, “take sides.”
It is likely that a couple’s goal of therapy is to, “solve the problem.” This is not a terrible mindset to have because when starting therapy, most people want solutions. The way to get to resolutions is through your therapist teaching you specific tools and skills to improve your relationship. Building skills can look like processing, communication via open-ended questions or actively listening, and making an effort to be vulnerable and honest. The majority of couples have some of these skills before sessions. Working with a therapist could assist them in finetuning and serve as a reminder of the magnitude of having these skills within a relationship. When learning these skills, your therapist may have you and your partner try a roleplay, practice a skill in session, or discuss what works and what doesn’t. The point of absorbing this instruction is so that you can use them outside of the session.
Our therapists at Optimum Joy are available to support you for any reason you decide to participate in couples therapy. The goal is for you to feel encouraged and understood, so if you would like to receive services, give us a call!