What goes on in a marriage counselling session? My goal is to normalize counselling. How I see it, is your car has a tune-up every year. However, do you do a tune-up of your marriage?
No. You just keep going and going and going and I see most couples when they’re in crisis. Sometimes the marriage has gone to a point where both parties aren’t talking to each other or there’s a huge amount of conflict. A lot of anger in the marriage and it has just shut down. There’s pain, confusion, stress, overwhelm, depression, and many other symptoms.
Picking carefully who you work with is vital: There are many different levels of counsellors with many different types of training. It’s important that the counsellor is with a reputable organization.
- Australian Counselling Association, levels of qualifications
- Supervision every month
- 25 hours of ongoing training a year.
- Insurance to include public liability and professional indemnity.
- Years in private practice doing marriage counselling
A typical session looks like:
- Confidentiality form/paperwork.
- Discussion around Confidentiality and where there can be movement for example from extreme circumstances where a client can harm themselves, harm others or if I’m sir penned by a court, it’s not full confidentiality. Working with couples individually, what one says stays in the room and not repeated to the other.
- Begin with what are you wanting from coming and what’s brought you here?
- Every single couple is different and unique, and no session is the same.
What is so wonderful about counselling is you can talk openly, and you can talk freely and sometimes that’s’ not possible with family or friends because they’re emotionally involved and they have opinions, they have biases that can affect the discussion. No judgement, professional, empathetic, good communicator are some of the skills needed as a counsellor.
Marriage Counselling encourages you to examine the parts of your lives that you are finding difficult or that you’re finding it impossible to face. It can be anything from betrayal to low libido, to parenting differences to addiction, grief, fallen out of love with your partner to name a few.
Here’s an outline of how I work with couples:
- Couples session
- Partner 1 individual session (psychotherapy)
- Partner 2 individual session (psychotherapy)
- Couples session
Involves four sessions at a time. Session one for you both to debrief and outline the issues that you face and a separate session each to resolve the issue that each of you bring with you from your own life experiences and family of origin and then session four together.
This cycle may be repeated or altered according to the needs of you both.
Needs of all couples are different and adjust sessions accordingly. Factors including commitment, time and financial can affect this.
This provides a safe space to resolve the personal issues that impact on you both and on the relationship itself in a respectful, professional and confidential manner.
How to get the most from your first session
- Discuss goals for therapy with your partner: Could be as simple as we want to have better communication and stop fighting.
- Brace yourself for total honesty and strong emotions: often when we’re honest, we can have strong emotions and strong emotions are very healthy. It’s a way of releasing. It’s a way of promoting healing. It’s a way of moving the energy within yourself, so just be prepared for that.
- Get ready to share personal history: I generally ask from birth up to now, any major events that have happened in your life. This gives a general outline of what you have lived.
- Decide carefully who you want to share with: someone who listens, who doesn’t judge, who doesn’t take sides and can just listen and hear what you’re saying.
- Know that it’s okay to be nervous about your first session: Anything that is new and uncomfortable, of course you’re going to be nervous and looking at yourself and your marriage
- Make sure both you and your partner are on board: You have to want to change and look at your marriage. As Counsellors we listen and we give ideas and strategies and tools and counselling is not about giving advice. It’s not about being judgemental. We’re in the act of helping the client to see things more clearly and help you as a couple to work through the differences and the difficulties that you’re having. It’s about enabling you to focus on your feelings you experience and your behaviours.
- Remember that couples counselling won’t change your partner – it’s about changing yourself first then as a couple: I facilitate change, positive change. It is a relationship that is built on trust, Couple’s counselling won’t change your partner. It’s about changing yourself first. And then as a couple. If you’re totally fixated on your partner changing, you’re missing the idea of what counselling is about. It’s about looking at yourself and then if your partner can look at themselves you can both move forward a lot more effectively.
- Consider clearing your schedule for your first appointment
- Takeaways/homework/practice: The work happens after the session. It’s starts to open things up. You start to get different ideas and with self-reflection it’s what’s going on inside you. By the time you come and see me for your first session, often we’re projecting, we’re very defensive and it’s all your partner’s fault. My hope is that when you leave, you’ve stopped projecting and you start looking within and start looking yourself and what can I do differently here? What’s going on for me? What blind spots do I have? What behaviours do I need to change?
- Take your time to “shop around”
My hope with this blog is to shed some light on what a first marriage counselling can look and like. Its just such a great way to get some movement and energy back into your empowered marriage.
So, take care and enjoy living in an empowered life in your empowered marriage.