What to Expect in Couples Counseling

Starting counseling can be a daunting experience – especially couples counseling.  In fact, most couples put it off until they just can’t take it anymore.  According to research by Dr. John Gottman, couples wait an average of six years experiencing distress in their relationship before they seek counseling.

When I talk to new clients on the phone, I often hear the nervousness in their voice.  Understandably,  they often have questions about the process. 

Here are some of the frequently asked questions that I get asked as a couples therapist:

How does this work?  The general format for couples therapy is to meet as a couple.  It’s important that your therapist hear from the two of you about why you are seeking therapy and your goals for counseling.  If you are a couple in crisis, meeting with you both together is also going to be the most efficient option to help the two of you stabilize.  After that first session, it’s typical to meet with each person individually.  Most of the work after those sessions will be done by meeting with you as a couple.

How long should we expect to be in counseling?  Couples therapy is generally considered a short term therapy.  It’s important that the couple develops new insights, skills, and habits in therapy in order to resolve difficult situations on their own without becoming dependent on the therapist.  Dr. Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has found that most couples participate 8-20 EFT sessions before completing therapy.  

I don’t know if I want to stay in this relationship and I’m not sure if I even want to do couples counseling.  What do you recommend?  Oftentimes one party in the relationship isn’t sure if they want to stay in the relationship.  On these occasions, we start with clarity counseling.  Clarity counseling provides a space for the couple to process the state of their relationship (both as a couple and individually), discuss their options, and move forward in a manner that works best for them.

How can we find time for couples therapy? At GROW, we have several options for couples counseling.  Some couples find it beneficial to do their couples counseling in an intensive format.  Intensives allow us to cover in two days what would normally take us weeks.

You can find more information on our couples counseling options, including Couples Intensives, on our website!

Written By: Jackie Dunagan