Couples Counseling: What to Expect

For those who have never been part of the counseling process before, the idea of sharing one’s most intimate self with someone (a therapist), as well as their spouse, is fear-inducing. Many couples come to couples counseling because they want to learn how to better communicate with each other, and lack the trust to be able to breach the topics of the most sensitive issues: sex, money, trust, power. Men have a hard time with relationship counseling. Most would rather enjoy a root canal that have to buy into couples counseling.

But, couples counseling is not as scary as most people think it is. In couples counseling, it is the job of the therapist or counselor to be an impartial and participatory observer, among other things. Many fear that the therapist will take sides, which is understandable yet false. A good couples counselor should be supportive of both sides, and encourage dialogue, awareness and insight for both relationship partners.

Usually, a two-hour intake will include designing a treatment plan, which is based on the agreed upon goals each couple wants to work towards together, completing an in-depth interview, and agreeing on the treatment process with a consent to treatment conversation and paperwork completion.

Couples counseling sessions are designed to identify the blocks and barriers that keep relationship or marriage partners apart and disconnected. Moreso, through insight, greater awareness and ownership, each partner is encouraged to dialogue in a way that is not falling into blaming, avoiding, hurting or any of the other myriad ways couples dysfunctionally interact with each other outside of the counseling office. Goals are set, and weekly homework assignments are given to each couple/partner to work on between sessions. Always, prioritization of quality time together needs to be the foundation, even if there are hurt or angry feelings that need to be communicated about. Couples that maintain their distance will continue to: it’s addictive to want to avoid potential conflicts, especially for many men and people who are conflict-avoidant.

These are a couple of things to think about when considering starting the process of couples counseling. It’s critical that you interview your couples counselor and make sure that the therapist is competent, experienced, compassionate, and, most of all, that you connect with your marriage counselor. Couples counseling is an investment: psychically, financially, chronologically, emotionally. Because you are putting in so much, get a sense that you’ll get out of it what you need to by researching and choosing the right therapist for you.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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