Many couples enter a relationship with the thought of spending a lifetime together. However, challenges are inevitable and may arise at varying points in the union. While many issues resolve quickly with a bit of communication, others may be too difficult to handle. Before calling it quits, it’s best to seek couples counseling from a therapist who can provide long-term solutions to your problems.
Couples counseling can positively impact your relationship as long as you and your partner are willing to do the work. Keep in mind that the whole process takes time and requires adequate preparation. You should also be open to the process and embrace the insights from your counselor. Otherwise, it’ll be a futile engagement.
Here are some helpful tips on making couples counseling work for you.
1. Find The Right Therapist
It’s essential to work with an expert therapist for your relationship problems. A professional understands how to handle you and your partner at such an emotional juncture. Consider hiring a counselor with specific attributes to ensure an effective couples therapy session. Some key characteristics to look for in a counselor include the following:
- Ethics-oriented: Ethics are paramount for therapeutic services. A counselor is expected to have a professional working relationship with their clients. Therefore, ensure you can determine their professionalism level from your first interactions. Instances like a therapist spreading the information you give them or taking advantage of your problems to manipulate you aren’t ethical.
- Culturally sensitive: Working with a therapist that recognizes and respects cultural diversity is beneficial. With such an attribute, you can count on the counselor to understand you better, even if your cultures differ.
- Experienced: At the end of the session, your counselor’s insight should help you solve some issues. In this case, a counselor’s experience comes in handy. Their experience handling other clients will significantly help you solve your relationship problems.
- Relatable: It’s paramount for a therapist to build a working relationship with the clients. Such an attribute breaks the ice and makes the environment conducive for your session.
Consider hiring therapists from reputable facilities. It’s an ideal place to start your counseling journey. The good thing is that you can always find one with diligence. Whether you’re after couples counseling in Eugene OR, other Oregon cities, or other US states, you’re sure to find a reliable counselor who’ll help you address your woes and find lasting solutions.
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Remember that you and your partner must be comfortable talking to the therapist. This way, you can easily explain the details of your problems. If you can’t establish a good rapport with the counselor, the sessions may not be helpful.
2. Be Honest About Your Problems
Your therapist can only help you if you’re open about the issues disturbing you. Once you decide to book a couples therapy session, it helps to be outright honest. Hiding the truth from the therapist isn’t prudent, as they won’t fully understand the situation, detect the root of the problem and offer practical solutions.
Opening up can sometimes be challenging. Even if you trust your therapist, discussing your relationship issues can be daunting. Here are some tips to consider when having difficulties opening up during couples therapy:
- Write your thoughts down before therapy.
- Start with small topics and work your way up to bigger topics.
- Bring in something to reference.
- Practice in front of a mirror.
- Ground yourself.
- Allow your therapist to guide you through the healing process.
These are only suggestions; it would be best to evaluate your needs and respect your process in sharing and addressing the issues.
3. Put In The Time
Couples therapy requires ample time input to make the most out of the sessions. A rushed session may not always yield the desired results. Remember, both of you must tell their side of the story for the therapist to offer an unbiased opinion. It isn’t something that can take only an hour.
Depending on the intensity of the conflicts, counseling can span a few days to several weeks or months. So, it helps to commit your time and energy to the counseling sessions. Your counselor will suggest how many times they should see you every week. Make it easy for them by punctually attending every session.
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Also, make the necessary preparations before every session to make it successful. If the therapist gave you assignments from the previous sessions, ensure you complete them before the next one. Also, list a few questions or concerns to raise during the appointment. And if there’s any paperwork required from you, do it in advance to save time during the session.
4. Go In With An Open Mind
It wouldn’t help to attend couples therapy sessions with an already formed decision in your mind. Based on the events surrounding the relationship, you could have already decided to take on a divorce or separation. But that beats the logic of why you’re undergoing therapy. The primary goal of such sessions is to find solutions to your relationship woes. So, seek help with an open mind.
Your attitude has a significant effect on the outcome of the process. It would be best if you had the patience to allow your partner to explain themselves. Your therapist can guide you toward making an efficient decision from your sessions. Another thing, don’t try to justify yourself by all means. It could be that you’re the one in the wrong. An open mind helps you accept corrections and apologize to your partner.
Sometimes, you may fail to find a solution, and divorce may be recommended. In this case, consider the positive impact it can have on your lives and the opportunities that may come with it.
5. Learn Effective Communication
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Poor communication is a significant factor that gets many couples into trouble with their relationship. Remember to be mindful about preventing this problem from spilling into the couples counseling sessions. Excellent communication with your spouse and counselor involves active listening.
Active listening helps slow down conflicts. Some critical active listening skills you’d want to learn include:
- Asking open-ended questions
- Nodding your head
- Making eye contact
Your couples counseling sessions could highlight some aspects you neglected during your conversations. For instance, if you don’t let your partner finish their words, they could feel unappreciated. They’ll develop a strong sense of acting up instead of speaking up. Other coping mechanisms that your partner can develop because of poor communication include:
- Using aggressive speech
- Brushing things under the rug
- Passive-aggressive behavior
- Walking away in the middle of conversations
- Yelling or screaming
- Silent treatment
Such traits are best explained during your therapy sessions. Note that it’s common for couples to disagree. However, it’s essential to dissolve the arguments amicably. Active listening skills come in handy in such situations.
6. Set Couple Goals
You should be on the same page if you attend couples therapy. It helps to know what you’re after in a relationship, so the counselor can suggest possible ways to achieve your desires. Typical couple goals include the following:
- Having daily conversations
- Keeping sex interesting
- Supporting each other’s careers
- Resolving issues with maturity
- Adventuring together
- Making the relationship a priority
- Raising kids together
- Investing jointly
- Ample “me time”
With a clear view of what each party wants in the relationship, your therapist would be in an excellent position to offer valuable advice. Note that you’ll have to make tradeoffs and compromises for better results. Not every desire will be feasible, especially if your partner’s goal conflicts with yours. For instance, having five days of individual time may not be practical while your partner desires daily intimacy. Setting mutual goals that meet both your needs is vital.
7. Capitalize On Individual Change
Note that even if you attend therapy as a couple, it can only work if you improve individually. Working on yourself in the presence of your partner could positively impact your relationship. So, if you want the sessions to be effective, evaluate your individual shortcomings and work on them. Pay attention to what your partner is complaining about. Your therapist can further elaborate on how your behavior affects your partner, so you’ll be better equipped to address them.
Don’t assume you’re always the one on the right and that the sessions are meant to transform your partner. It’s counterproductive and unhealthy for the relationship. Understand that you might also be wrong, and strive to make a personal change.
8. Put The Insights Into Practice
One of the main things you’ll probably get from your couples therapy sessions is insights. Let them not be just another set of entries in your notebook. Implement them in your relationship. For instance, if your partner’s complaint was your poor communication, strive to get better at it. Whether it’s through calling, texting, or one-on-one conversations, do everything possible to improve your communication. Such an intentional approach gives you a better chance of solving your problems.
Couples counseling is helpful when your relationship problems get out of hand. However, understand it’s a process, and it takes time. Additionally, it can only be successful if you’re both invested and ready to do all it takes to resolve your conflicts. You can create couple goals to guide you throughout the sessions.
On the same note, finding an expert and experienced therapist to help you through the whole process is crucial. Be honest and open throughout the therapy, and you can be sure to find long-term solutions to your problems. Take into account your therapist’s insights and work on them. They’ll help you significantly improve your relationship.