So you have taken the difficult step to go to couple counselling – what do you do now?
Obviously there are a lot of variables when it comes to couples’ attending counselling together. Some couples are both on the same page and have a common goal, albeit they are struggling to reach that goal, whereas others may have very different wants and needs to each other. Your particular circumstances will dictate whether you prepare for your first session as a couple or you take a more individualistic approach.
If you are new to counselling in general and couple counselling specifically, the days and hours leading up to your first session may feel daunting and anxiety provoking. You are likely to worry about both how the session will go and whether or not your counsellor or psychotherapist will be someone you can work with.
On of the most common fears that individuals in a couple have is that the counsellor will ‘side’ with one party in the couple against the other. Indeed, one can go a step further and suggest that secretly this is often a wish that individuals in a couple may have: that the clinician will see things from their point of view and help explain to their partner where they are going wrong. Well, whether a wish or a fear, any couple counsellor who is well trained
is not going to take this position and will work instead to facilitate a dialogue between the couple and to establish the goals of the work.
Unlike open-ended psychotherapy which can go on for many months or years (indeed, it should), couple therapy is very different, in that it is far more goal orientated. The goal(s), however, are to be defined by the couple themselves and if this is unclear then this can often be the first piece of work that is done together.
A couple counsellor is not invested in whether a couple stay together or not. This may sound counter-intuitive, but they will work with the wants and needs of the couple and in couple counselling, whilst break-ups are invariably painful, a ‘good’ break-up can be an as successful a piece of work as where the couple decide to remain in the relationship.
Returning to the question of how best you can prepare for couple counselling, if you are working towards a common goal as a couple then it can be wise and productive to spend some time in advance of the session talking about what you each wish to get from the session(s) as well as what you as a couple wish to get. You will both have individual
needs and the couple as an entity also has needs.
If you are unable to communicate together, or are clearly on very different pages in terms of what you want, then I would suggest you spend some time on your own thinking about what you want to achieve from the work.
Lastly, it is important that you are both comfortable enough working with your couple counsellor. Inviting a third party into your relationship is an intimate act and you need to be sure that the person you are seeing is both qualified to help you as well as someone you both feel you can be honest with. If one of you is too uncomfortable to work with a particular clinician, then there is no point in proceeding with any further appointments.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy is a collective of experienced psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors working with a range of client groups, including fellow therapists and health professionals. If you would like more information, or an informal discussion please get in touch. Online therapy is available.