Mending a Broken Thing: What You Can Expect from Couples Counseling

Psychological consultation. Beautiful and happy young couple visiting psychologist for relationship counseling.

In the United States, there are 876,000 divorces per year. On the contrary, unmarried people in a relationship hit the honeymoon phase at around three months.

Despite these statistics, some relationships still survive and even thrive. How? They decide to stick together and work it out.

Building, mending, and maintaining relationships takes work and sometimes it necessary for a third party to enter the picture to make that happen. This is where couples counseling comes in. 

Many couples can benefit from marriage counseling or couples counseling. If you have a relationship that’s proving to be a struggle or you’d just like a little extra advice, read on to find out what you can expect from couples counseling. 

What is Couples Counseling?

At its basic level, couples counseling is when couples enlist the help of a counselor or therapist of their choosing to help them work through their problems. A therapist specializing in marriage and relationships is preferred as they understand the dynamics of those relationships. 

When you think of therapy, your mind may wander to lying on a couch and airing your thoughts to a psychologist. Usually, with couples counseling, both of you go together and discuss your issues openly with the therapist and each other. However, each therapist will have different methods they believe will best suit your situation.

Is it Worth It?

Going to counseling can be intimidating and seen as a sign of weakness, but it’s not.

Some people believe that their marriage or the relationship might be far beyond help. But if you both are willing to work, the success rate can be anywhere between 50-75%, though that percentage is highly dependant on the method the therapist uses.

With those high percentages, it’s worth it to give marriage counseling a try.

What to Expect From Marriage Counseling

If you’re wondering what happens in marriage counseling, look no further. Before you search the internet for the right counselor, here are a few things to expect at your sessions.

1. Discuss Your Relationship History

In order for the psychologist to treat your issues properly, they will need to understand your relationship history. They may ask questions about how you met, length of the marriage, and very basic get-to-know-you questions.

This is a crucial step, as the therapist is establishing trust and a relationship with you two as a couple. Being honest and listening to one another (and the therapist) is important during this time.

2. Define Your Goals

As your therapy progresses, the psychologist may ask you if you have any goals in your relationship. What are you planning to get out of therapy? Where do you see your relationship going versus where it is now? 

It’s encouraged that you sit down with your spouse and discuss what goals you have for your relationship before you have your first or second session. The therapist may or may not bring this up, so be sure to talk about it ahead of time and express those concerns with your therapist. Be sure to listen to each other’s goals, aspirations, or concerns.

3. Not Every Session Will Go Smoothly

If you have any rough patches to smooth out, there could be some sessions that seem incredibly difficult. Listening to each other – the concerns, worries, fears, – of your spouse or partner is key here. When people are ready to face their problems, it often becomes messier first and they sludge through.

This is expected so don’t take it as a sign that therapy isn’t working. The therapist has likely seen situations similar to yours, so they know sessions sometimes have a rocky start. Sticking it out for several weeks or months is recommended, even if those first few sessions are entirely unpleasant. 

4. There Could Be Homework

If homework wasn’t your thing in high school, that’s OK, as this is relationship homework! As you go through your sessions, your therapist could assign you both tasks to complete. These could be anything, but likely their purpose is to strengthen your relationship with each other. 

In addition to tasks, the counselor could walk you show you some tools that would be beneficial in improving communication and listening skills. At your next session, you’ll give the therapist feedback and discuss how these tools and tasks worked in your real life.

In a session, you’re likely to work on problem-solving techniques, open-ended communication, ways to discuss your differences without judgment, and how to approach conflict. 

5. Take Responsibility For Your Actions

If you’re heading into couples counseling thinking your partner needs to change, think again. While that statement might be true, there are probably things about you your partner wishes they could change!

In counseling, the therapist may ask you some tough questions about yourself, and you must be honest. Facing your personal problems is challenging, but if they are serious enough for your spouse or partner to be concerned, it’s worth taking a hard look at yourself and considering changing. Couples counseling isn’t just about the couple but can focus on the individual and what aspects they may need to change to make the relationship healthier and hospitable. 

6. It’s OK to Go Alone At First

If your partner is completely opposed to the idea of therapy, it’s ok to begin therapy alone. Going alone may feel isolated and hard, but if you take the first step by deciding to change yourself, then this is a positive thing. 

Having time alone to reflect and talk about your own problems could shed new light or help you gain a new perspective on how to approach the relationship. Therapy is about identifying old habits that are harming the relationship and replacing them with new ones. 

If at some point your partner or spouse decides to join you, ask the counselor their thoughts on the matter. The therapist may or may not think this is wise, as they now know you much better than your partner. Consider their advice and go from there.

7. Therapy is Usually Not Forever

When people enter marriage counseling, they tend to think it will be forever. This is often not the case. 

Depending on the severity of your issues or goals, therapy can last anywhere from a few months to a year or sometimes more. The length of therapy is greatly defined by your situation, and the specific help you both need. 

Session times can vary as well. Some couples only see a therapist once a week or a month, others biweekly. Others will need an appointment more than once a week. 

Finding The Right Counselor

Once you both (or just one of you!) decide to head to counseling, you begin the task of finding the right counselor. Be advised that no matter how much research or credentials a person has, they might not be the right fit. Interviewing or attending a few sessions to check it out should be enough to know whether they will be able to help you.

Need more guidance? Here are some tips on finding a good therapist.

Do Your Research

Start online or by asking friend and family if they have any recommendations. Search for counselors who are trained in marriage and/or relationships. Try to look for someone local and who has office hours that are flexible with your schedule. 

Sometimes your doctor or local church or parish will know of therapist they can recommend. 

Contact the Therapist And Do A Mini-Interview

Once you think you’ve found someone, (or more than one!) call or email them (they will likely provide their preferred way to contact), and ask a few questions.

What’s their education? How long have they been practicing? How long is a typical session? Explain your problems and concerns and ask what type of therapy they would implement.

All these things can point you in the right direction and weed out potential candidates. 

Ask About Insurance And Cost

Not all insurance companies cover the cost of insurance, so check with your insurance first to find out your benefits. Though many will cover a portion of the cost. Ask about the cost per session and if they accept the type of insurance you have. 

For self-pay patients without insurance, some therapists base their fee on a sliding scale by a set of standards. If payment is challenging, some clinics or counselors are willing to negotiate pay.

What Does Therapy Cost?

Lack of funds can contribute to couples passing on therapy when they desperately need it. Don’t let money have too much of a say if you know you both need counseling. See it as an investment in your relationship and your future.

Most therapists charge a fee by session. Fees have a wide range and if the therapist is an independent contractor, they set their own fees. A general range for an hourly session is anywhere from $50 to $150.

Either way, knowing the cost before you head to therapy is important.

Try Therapy

Couples counseling can offer you great insight into your relationship if you desire to stay together. The counselor is there to mediate and make recommendations, but hard work must happen on your part if there’s to be any change. If you think couples counseling is for you, take the steps mentioned about to find a therapist that can help. 

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