As a couples counselor doing couples counseling in Thornton, Colorado for about 13 years now, I know starting couples therapy can be at least a little intimidating for most people. Most of the feedback I get from my clients is that they didn’t really know what to expect. Everyone knows marriage counseling isn’t like what you see on TV, but there are no other ways knowing couples therapy looks like. Most importantly, for most people starting couples counseling, it’s usually because your marriage or your relationship is in a place where you and your partner are struggling and you really want to make sure that counseling works for you. You want to get started on the right foot in couples counseling so you can get your relationship back on track as soon as you can.
So how do you do that? What can you do to help make sure that you’re starting couples counseling in Thornton on the right foot and make sure you’re giving your marriage the best chance of success with a marriage counselor? Well, you’re in luck! Here are 5 tips of things you can do to help you and your partner have the most success in couple’s therapy.
1. Set Goals For your Couples Counseling in Thornton
If you’re like most people, you know the problems that are going on in your relationship intimately well. You can say exactly what it is that you and your partner are doing that are causing the arguments. You can probably identify even exactly what the 2 or 3 most common things that you both argue about. But these aren’t goals. These are problems. To be successful in therapy, you need to have clear goals of what you want out of counseling.
So, what do you and your partner want out of couples therapy? Remember, don’t think about the problems. Think about the outcomes. It might help to think of it like this: when you look ahead and you think about the day that you’re feeling like things are going well enough to stop couples counseling with your therapist (on a good note!), what would that look like? At what point could you and your partner tell your therapist that you have accomplished your goals for couples therapy? What changes would you see that would show you that? For example, maybe you’re feeling like you’re finally being understood when you talk about parenting challenges. or maybe you can talk about sexual fantasies you have with your partner without either one of you shutting down or getting jealous.
Communicate with your partner about what goals you have for therapy and set them together! Remember, that when setting goals for couple’s therapy, the goals that are being worked on towards are being worked towards in a joint effort. This means that both you AND your partner will have changes that you’re working towards.
2. Remember That it’s a Process
Everybody knows that therapy is not a “one and done” ordeal. Conflicts in your marriage take months and years to build up. Oftentimes, the behaviors and patterns causing conflict in your marriage originated long before you two ever even met each other! Therefore, after just a couple sessions, don’t expect the conflicts to magically resolve. Understand the process of therapy by knowing that it will take time, effort, and commitment. You’re spending the time to do counseling anyway, so don’t try to take shortcuts. Your marriage and your happiness are important. Take the time to do it right.
Remember, you take your problems with you wherever you go so even if you decide to dissolve this marriage (which is also a solution you can discuss with your couples counselor) you’ll likely take your problems with you to the next marriage. So how much time couples counseling takes is really irrelevant. You’ll be a better person either for this marriage or the next one. If you have questions along the way, or feel that you are not moving as quickly as you and your partner would like, ask your therapist about it. It can be helpful for you and your therapist to be on the same page as to what your progress looks like in therapy and to know if you’re on the “right” track.
3. Don’t Point Fingers
In couple’s therapy, it is extremely common for couples to come in and point the finger at their partner. Simply stated, it can be easy to play the blame game in couple’s therapy. From the first therapy session until the last, be intentional in reflecting on YOUR part in the cycle of conflict with your partner. Ultimately, it takes two to engage in conflict, and so, think about what your part is in this. How do you respond to your partner during times of conflict? What do you do that contributes to the conflict continuing? How have you shown-up in you and your partner’s relationship? To have success in couple’s therapy, both partners need to take ownership for their part. Don’t point the finger at your partner, but rather, think about what you can do to improve.
Your therapist wants to hear what you have to say! Both you and your partner are going to have unique and valid perspectives as to what has led you to therapy. Therefore, it’s important for your therapist to hear from you. Oftentimes, it may feel scary or uneasy to participate in therapy, and that’s understandable. However, in order for the changes you desire to happen, your perspective, thoughts, feelings, and reflections must be told.
Outside of participation through sharing your thoughts and feelings, it is important for you to participate in the process of therapy outside of the therapy room. This means that it is important for you to start working towards changes once you leave therapy. If your therapist assigned homework, try it out! If your therapist didn’t assign homework, think about what resonates with you the most from your session and work to apply this new action or thought after leaving the therapy room. Participation in the therapy process will help you to get the most out of your therapy sessions, but will also help you start seeing the changes that you desire outside of the therapy room.
5. Notice The Good
By the time you and your partner have decided to come to couples therapy, you and your partner have likely been experiencing a great deal of stress from conflict. During this time, it can be hard to see the things that are going well in your relationship or even throughout therapy. To have the most success in couple’s therapy, be intentional in noticing the good things. If you notice your partner making efforts through this process, acknowledge them for it. If there are positive changes being made, acknowledge these as well. Moreover, remember that therapy helps create change. Therefore, think about the good things in the relationship that you hope will never change. This can help create a positive mind-set coming into therapy and also help you to remember strengths that you and your partner have in your relationship.
As a couple’s therapist, I want couples to have the most success in couple’s therapy. And I’m sure most therapists would agree with this statement! So, to experience the most success in couple’s therapy, try these tips- set goals, understand the process, don’t point the finger at your partner, participate in and outside of the therapy room, and notice the good things along the way.