As the stigma surrounding mental health continues to break down, counseling and therapy are becoming more common—and that’s a good thing! Couples counseling helps partners improve their romantic relationships and solve interpersonal conflict. It can take place in person, in a therapist’s office, online through a telehealth counseling system, or through an app. Any couple, whether they are going through a rough patch, looking for strategies on how to manage conflict, or preparing for a big life change, can consider couples counseling. If you and your partner are considering couples counseling, here are ten things that you should know:
There is no taboo
If you and your partner commit to couples counseling, know that there is no taboo! You can talk to your counselor (and your partner for that matter) about anything that is on your mind, no matter how taboo, shameful or embarrassing you think that it might be. After all, couples counseling requires vulnerability for it to be successful.
It doesn’t mean the end of the relationship
The decision to try couples counseling does not signal the end of a relationship. In fact, it can mean just the opposite! Plenty of happy couples pursue couples counseling as a way to talk through their problems, learn to manage interpersonal conflict, or just to get an outside perspective on their relationship. No relationship is perfect, which means that every relationship has some room for improvement.
Couples counseling is not only for times of crisis
Couples counseling is for any type of couple! (Happy, sad, healthy, unhealthy, etc.) Whether it’s a time of crisis, a time of transition, or a time for change, counseling can help during any stage of a relationship. If a couple waits until the relationship is on the brink of a breakup before trying counseling, it often means that problems in the relationship have gone on for too long. Most relationships are salvageable if you and your partner are willing to put in the work and make changes, but if you wait until a crisis, the problems are often too far gone.
There are different kinds of couples counseling
There are many different types of counseling available from the Gottman Method to narrative or solution-focused therapy. It’s helpful for you and your partner to research the different methods and which one is best suited for you as a couple. More often than not, counselors have an array of training and can tailor your counseling experience using the most appropriate method.
You can attend individually or with your partner
This is often news to people! Couples counseling does not necessarily require you and your partner to talk to a counselor at the same time. Whether it’s because of your schedule, your personal preferences, or the determination of your counselor, sometimes it’s better to have separate counseling sessions about your relationship.
Be prepared to share
It can be daunting to open up about your most personal issues, but it’s one of the biggest parts of counseling. If you are not in the practice of articulating your feelings or sharing them with another person (especially a stranger), then it’s a good idea to collect your thoughts before walking into a counselor’s office. One of the first things a counselor will often ask is what you want to work on in the relationship, so before your first counseling session, it’s a good idea to think about what improvements you want to make.
It’s not an instant fix
It’s important to have realistic expectations about the counseling process since it’s not a quick fix! Committing to trying counseling is the first step in the improvement process, but going to one session isn’t enough to resolve your issues. Depending on your relationship, couples counseling can last a long time, and for some, it continues for years. Of course, every couple is different, but it’s helpful to recognize that changes take time, and no matter how long it takes, it’s worth it.
The skills you’ll learn will help in other areas of life
While a significant part of couples counseling is focused on intimacy (whether it’s emotional, physical, or sexual), other parts are focused on communication, conflict resolution, and other skills that can help you and your partner navigate other close relationships in your life. Lessons that you learn in couples counseling can be translated to family relationships, friendships, and even dynamics in the workplace!
It’s ok to switch counselors, providers, platforms
Finding the right counselor can often take some trial and error, but it’s important to keep trying until you find the right option. Counselors understand that there needs to be a good connection and will not be offended if you shop around to try and find the perfect fit. If things aren’t working out as you hoped, remember that it’s totally okay to change counselors or the platform you’re using to try and get better results.
It can actually be fun
It’s true! Couples counseling shouldn’t be thought of as something negative. Identifying weaknesses and making goals to improve them can be incredibly rewarding and strengthen the bond you have with your partner.
Couples counseling is often seen as something that only desperate couples should invest in as a last-ditch effort to save their relationship—but that is far from the truth! It’s something that even happy partners should invest in as a part of routine relationship maintenance. Making the decision to try couples counseling is the first step to a stronger, healthier relationship.