Starting Couples Therapy can bring up a lot of anxiety, and usually couples therapy is started when a couple is already having personal life stress in addition to relationship problems. So, it can definitely help to ease anxiety and fear to know what to expect when starting couples therapy. I think many people who have never been to couples therapy before have no idea what to expect! Some people think I am kind of like a judge who will rule on who is right in the relationship. It really does not work like that, although I do often encourage each partner to change or look at some things differently. I am also far from a neutral party who just listens to each person talk about their viewpoint. I sometimes give directions, coach people on positive changes they may want to consider for the success of the relationship, and I suggest couples therapy exercises that I think will help the relationship. Okay, so I just gave you an idea of what Couples Therapy is not. Now, I will give you a brief overview of what you can expect from couples therapy, in my own words!
I use the Gottman Method so at the first session, we review your relationship history – what brought you together, how you met, significant events that have happened within your relationship, etc. I like to know what the strengths are in your relationship and what you think your partner’s strengths are. Of course, we also discuss the problems you are seeking help for. During this part of the first session interview, we want to make sure each partner’s concerns are heard and understood. Believe it or not, another part of the first session if there is time is to observe you discussing a problem or having a conflict discussion. This is so we can start to understand where you are getting stuck in your overall communication pattern with each other. At this point, I like to tell you how I see myself helping you and how many weeks or months we might need to meet to accomplish your goals although I never know for sure!
Next, as part of the Gottman Method we meet with each partner for a separation session. There are often things that each partner is feeling that might be difficult to discuss initially in therapy in a joint session, so this is one reason for the individual session interviews. During the session, I am able to develop a better understanding of each person’s individual personality, family history, and concerns about the relationship. In order to have successful sessions, I want each partner to know that I understand their concerns and will work towards fining resolutions to resolve the problems they feel are most important.
I also ask each partner to complete an online Relationship Checkup Assessment from The Gottman Institute for a $29 fee. This is a very thorough assessment that each partner completes separately between the first appointment and the third joint appointment. At the third appointment when we the couple meets with me again together I utilize all the information from the first joint session, the individual sessions, and the assessment to present a treatment plan that will help you to create a more successful relationship with your significant other. At this point, the assessment phase of Couples therapy is completed and we start engaging in interventions to help you reach your relationship goals.
What can you expect next? Most couples start to see some progress and improvement with their connection and conflict management. Of course, you will sometimes relapse and fall back into old patterns and habits in your relationship but with guidance, these setbacks should not slow you down for long. Eventually, most couples come in less frequently and eventually we wrap up regular therapy sessions. Some of these same couples who finish couples therapy will still pop back in from time to time to work out a problem or to get a refresher. As I say in my Make Your Life Matter Motivational Speech, I have the wonderful job of witnessing people transform a crisis into a triumph. With couples, it is great to help people turn Drama into Success!
Please contact me for more information about Couples Therapy in Baltimore, Couples Therapy in Silver Spring and Couples Therapy Frederick through my contact page!