Thanks to movies, TV, and memes, couples therapy has gotten a bad rap. However, the reality is that couples counseling can be a positive and preventative process. You and your partner may be going for some specific reasons, but there’s also a good chance you’ve chosen therapy as a path toward deepening your connection.
Your counselor is there to listen without bias. They’ll serve as a sounding board, a guide, and a mediator. They bring experience, knowledge, curiosity, and compassion to your sessions, with the collective goal to move toward healing, healthy communication, honesty, and respect.
How to Prepare For the First Session
It’s normal to feel nervous about couples counseling at first. You may not feel comfortable telling a stranger about your personal issues. Or you might have trouble communicating certain feelings to your partner for the first time. Just keep in mind that your therapist interacts with many couples, and they won’t judge you. Their goal is the same as yours: understanding your emotions and reconciling differences.
It can be counterproductive if one of you isn’t fully committed to the process. Sure, there’s nothing unusual about having one partner initiate the conversation, but that conversation must include learning about any hesitations your partner may have or vice versa.
Take advantage of a free consultation with a therapist so both of you can get a sense of what lies ahead. If one of you remains reluctant, allow that person to have an individual phone consultation.
Also, you should decide in advance who you plan to tell about this. Are there friends or family members who would support your decision to attend counseling? Being more open about such a private matter is a powerful way to practice communication before your sessions begin!
The First Session
Your first session will begin with a personal intake. Think of it as your “origin story.” This may include information that goes all the way back to your childhood. Your counselor may also ask about other people in your life, past relationships, physical health issues, hobbies and interests, and more.
So get prepared together and agree not to hold back. You might not always be proud of your past or your feelings but it’s crucial that you share as much as possible. Pledge in advance to be forthcoming and honest.
2. Talking About Shared Goals
Once you’ve both shared some of your backgrounds, you’ll need to identify some shared goals. For example:
- Get on the same page when it comes to sex and intimacy
- Create a deeper connection
- Improve communication and listening skills
- Hash out differences related to a major decision (starting a family, relocating, etc.)
- Learning more about conflict resolution
- Creating a five-year plan
- Syncing up your parenting styles
Your counselor will remind you that it’s not a debate. You’re not laying out your positions and asking the therapist to play referee. Instead, this will be an early opportunity to establish that you’re both here to work together.
3. Learning About the Process
Your therapist will slowly begin introducing their style and approach. Meanwhile, they are there to answer questions you may have about the process. Psychology is a science, so be ready to learn about how your brain works — especially in a relationship. The more you understand yourselves, the quicker you will be able to create changes.
You and your partner will be assessing how you feel. Are you both clicking with the counselor? Do you feel safe, validated, and heard? You will have times of discomfort, of course, but it’s important to differentiate between such moments and a bigger picture feeling.
Why not reach out to set up one of those free consultations (together or individually) mentioned above? We would love to meet you both.