When people tend to think about marriage counseling, they may have antiquated views about the service. For example, they may imagine a couple who has grown to hate each other, and who is going to counseling as a last-ditch effort to repair the marriage.
However, many healthy couples go to marriage counseling, and couples who come in like the ones described above can end up leaving with their marriage repaired. Going to marriage counseling doesn’t mean your marriage is bad, but instead, it means that you care about it and you want to fix it as soon as possible.
With that said, what can you expect out of marriage counseling? Here are some things you should expect out of it.
1. Expect to Do Sessions With and Without Your Spouse
In marriage counseling, you may visualize a couple sitting away from each other as they are forced to talk to the counselor. However, individual sessions are done as well. Sometimes, one person does not want to attend counseling and instead the other goes. Other times, the therapist may want to talk to them one-on-one at first. With a one-on-one session, you may be able to open up more about the situation. What you tell the therapist is confidential, so don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.
2. Expect to Be Asked Questions You Think Are Irrelevant, but Aren’t
Therapists and counselors are good about asking you questions that you may think are unrelated to your current issues. For example, they may ask you to talk about your childhood or talk about your best friend growing up. These questions seem to have nothing to with your marriage, but you may discover that indeed, they are related. For example, if you are overly attached to your spouse, it may have to do with losing a friend in your childhood.
No matter what type of counseling you go to, be it online counseling or free counseling, expect these questions to be asked.
3. Expect Homework
You may associate homework with something you do at school, but it’s quite common in marriage counseling. For example, after your first session, you may be asked to write about the last miscommunication you have, or draw a picture of your partner according to you. Other times, you may have to fill out marriage counseling worksheets that are like questionnaires.
This is to help the counselor get a better idea of how you two operate. Since these sessions are weekly, you can have time to think about the homework and not be rushed. Obviously, this isn’t a class you’re going to fail, but you do need to put in the effort if you want to have a successful counseling session.
4. A Counselor Isn’t Going to Take a Side
A counselor, at least one who is doing their job, isn’t here to take one side over the other. Plenty of couples come in with a “he said, she said” attitude, and conflict does arise from time to time. However, a therapist isn’t going to take any signs, but rather to help rebuild trust and resolve any conflicts that you may have. Diplomacy and finding common ground are two things you may expect from marriage counseling.
5. Expect Nothing Huge for a Few Sessions
As one knows, counseling takes more than one session to be effective. The first couple of sessions of marriage counseling may be to get to know the counselor and explain your conflict. The true conflicts will come in later, when you may have to learn conflict resolution and how to get along despite everything.
This principle applies to most therapy sessions, so make sure that you’re prepared to be in it for the long haul.
6. Everyone Needs to Take Responsibility
In many relationship conflicts, both sides share fault. Even if not equal, one important aspect of marriage counseling is to reflect about your conflicts and admit if there was any fault. Sometimes, it takes a lot to reflect, admit fault, and find a way to do better. Often, this realization doesn’t happen overnight, and it can take a few sessions.
That’s something that is always important with therapy, with all things said. You have to put the effort into it. Your therapist can’t just wave a magic wand and everything comes back to the way it should be.
7. You’ll Need Fewer Sessions as You Progress
With marriage counseling, you may realize that the amount of sessions that you need becomes fewer and fewer. At first, you may be seeing a therapist once a week, sometimes twice. Once the therapy progresses and you have successes, you may seek a therapist once every couple of weeks. Then, you may show up once a month for a follow-up. Then, once a year for an update.
8. You May Not Get it Right the First Time
Every couple is different, and techniques that work well for one couple may not work for another. If the therapist’s advice didn’t end up working well the first time, don’t end the session. Instead, see if the therapist can provide you with a different technique. A therapist uses what they know about you to help you, but they may need to use different solutions.
9. Marriage Counseling Sometimes Ends in Divorce
Marriage counseling has helped many people whose marriages were falling down a cliff pick themselves back up. However, some marriages are irreparable. Sometimes, a marriage counselor may make you two realize that the marriage wasn’t meant to be, and you can learn to separate in a way that is as civil as it possibly can be.
These are just some things to expect out of marriage counseling. Every counselor is different, but they often have similar processes. By informing yourself about the marriage counseling process as best as you can, it can allow you to have a more successful counseling session.
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