It’s been months of non stop fighting and the two of you have agreed it’s time to go to counseling. You feel anxious, unsure what to expect, hopeful that this helps. It feels like so much is riding on this. You hope you choose a good therapist, you hope the therapist can help you explain your side, you hope they can help the two of you start talking again.
It takes a lot of courage to come to couples therapy.
You may be gearing up to come into therapy and unload everything that is wrong in your relationship, some therapists might have you do this.
When a couple comes to me, Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, LMFT I work with couples right away to get them talking and to help them start connecting again. Friendship is key to being able to work out any relationship problem.
In my first session with client’s I start off by first welcoming them to therapy. I go over the business stuff I’m required to verbally say to you and answer any questions you or your partner might have about the paperwork, fees, confidentiality, etc.
From there I invite one of you to share what brought you into couples therapy. In this first session both you and your partner get to share about some of the issues that led you to couples therapy. I might ask about your history in couples therapy, what the two of you gained from past experiences in couples therapy, what didn’t work in couples therapy. I usually ask about the history of your relationship, how you met and how you got to where you are today (living together, married, committed, etc.). If time allows, I have you and your partner discuss a problem while I watch, like a fly on the wall. During this time I’m just observing the interaction between the two of you and seeing what is working, and what isn’t working.
At the end of the session I talk about some more assessment pieces that I do, one is an in depth online assessment, the other is to schedule a one on one with each person in the partnership. At the end of the session I also give you my clinical impressions, how I see myself helping you and your partner.
Sessions 2 and 3 are those individual sessions.
During our individual time together I invite you to share with me any additional information, concerns, or issues you’d like to address in our work together. It’s a chance for you to talk a little more freely about some of the struggles you’ve been facing in your relationship. Some things I might ask in our time together; what is your commitment to working on the relationship? What do you want to work on as a couple? What do you want to work on individually within the couple? History of affairs? Alcohol and other drug use? At the end of our session together I re-cap and answer any questions you might have about therapy.
With the information that you provided me through your couples session, individual sessions, and the online assessment I go a little bit deeper into my clinical impressions and suggest a few initial goals for therapy. Therapy works best when you are working on goals that feel important to you. If you don’t agree with my goals, or if you find that you were wanting to work on something else, tell me, let’s talk about it.
Now the hard work starts. Gottman therapy works under the framework of the Sound Relationship House. The idea being that for you to work through the hard stuff, like conflict, you need to have a strong foundation upon which to grow; friendship and understanding of each other. Goals for therapy focus on building friendship and connection, learning to speak to each other in ways the other can hear, learning to manage your emotions when you are in conflict, supporting your partner when they are flooded with emotions, and so much more.
By the time you leave couples therapy my hope is that you feel reconnected to your partner, passionate about your relationship, you feel heard, seen, and accepted, you enjoy each other. I want for you to have the confidence to know that the two of you can work through conflict and grow closer together as a result of it.
It absolutely is possible to grow closer to your partner through conflict. A couples therapist can help you learn how to turn conflict into a chance to learn about your partner and grow.