You might be wondering what to expect from couples’ therapy if you haven’t attended before.
Firstly, if you are feeling daunted or intimidated, rest assured that this is normal! The hardest part of couples’ counselling is making the call. The next hardest step is showing up to your first appointment.
I’m not saying that it’s all smooth sailing from there. But most couples we treat do find that just taking the step toward getting some help for their relationship is in itself a big relief.
Marriage Counselling and Couples’ Therapy at The Bondi Psychologist – How It Works
At The Bondi Psychologist we use Gottman Method of Couples’ Therapy. You can read more about the Gottman Method here.
In this method of relationship therapy, we follow an initial protocol with all of our couples. You can expect your first appointment to be a longer session (80 minutes) so that we can gain all of the preliminary information about your relationship prior to moving on to formulating your treatment plan.
During this session your therapist will ask questions about:
- The beginning and early days of your relationship
- Some of your relationship highlights (so far)
- Some of your moments of difficulty.
Gottman Relationship Checkup
You will each then be invited to individually complete an online Gottman Relationship Checkup. You can complete this from home or wherever you like.
The relationship checkup is a comprehensive questionnaire about your relationship, how YOU feel about it, what YOU are concerned about, as well as some questions about you personally.
Once you have both completed this questionnaire, the results will be sent to your therapist.
What To Expect from Couples’ Therapy Session Two
Your next appointment with your Psychologist will be an individual session, where your therapist will have an opportunity to ask you more about your childhood, family and relationships. Your partner will also have a separate session at this point.
This is a great time for you to tell your therapist anything else you might wish for them to know about the relationship, or to discuss any other personal concerns you have.
What To Expect In Couples’ Counselling From Here
Third Session and Beyond
After your respective individual sessions, we come back to couples’ sessions.These are either regular (50 minutes) or long (80 minutes).
We will look at what the Relationship Checkup has uncovered as strengths for your relationship, and what are the areas that need some work.
You may not be shown the specific results of your checkups. The main thing is to see an overview of what your therapist discovered about your relationship with your partner.
In your third session (your second session together with your partner), the plan for your treatment is unveiled. At this point, your therapist will highlight the areas of your relationship that need the most urgent attention. With your agreement, this is where you and your partner will start on the track to create the relationship you want.
How Long Does Marriage Counselling Take?
Many couples want to know how many marriage counselling sessions it will take before things start to improve in their relationship.
This is really hard to answer. It is different for all couples.
Often, your therapist will notice improvements that you and your partner can’t see for yourselves. Rest assured, you will be making progress.
What If Things Get Messy Or Heated In Couples’ Therapy?
Well, they likely will at times get a little uncomfortable.
It is your therapist’s job to bring to the fore all that has been unsaid (or said but ignored) in your relationship. Your therapist is skilled in managing couples in crisis and will provide a safe space for you both to discuss your relationship in all its colours.
If your therapist thinks it’s necessary, you may be asked to attend an additional individual session so that you can be taught some self-soothing techniques so that these fraught encounters happen less frequently.
What If Couples’ Counselling Doesn’t Work?
Research shows us that on average, couples wait for six years of feeling disgruntled with their relationship before seeking professional help. This is too late for some, but not for others.
Sometimes one or both partners are coming to couples’ therapy so that they have a safe space to break up in. Breaking up is hard to do. We are there to support you in whatever choice you make (but we will ensure that you have tried everything to get your relationship back on track first!).
Sometimes you will have lost all hope for reconciliation. That’s okay. Your therapist will hold the hope until you start to feel it too.
Please be assured that your therapist is not on one person’s side – the relationship is our client, and the relationship is what we are working for as your therapist.
Advice for Couples Seeking Relationship Therapy
The best advice is to get help early. Typically, the earlier the intervention the better the outcome.
Given that couples wait on average six years before seeking help for an ongoing issue, that’s a lot of arguments, hurt, resentment, and disappointment to undo.
Never Too Late
Having said that, it is never too late. As long as both partners are willing, your relationship can improve greatly.
Avoid Criticism and Contempt
The other suggestion is to refrain from chiding your partner if they do the thing that the therapist said not to do – bring it to therapy instead. Chances are your partner knows what they did and adding criticism to whatever else is happening, is not a winning combination. It will take some effort but bite your tongue (not literally, unless that is literally the only way you can stop yourself commenting!) and see if your partner is able to reflect on the behaviour without your input.
Book Your Couples’ Therapy Appointment Today
At The Bondi Psychologist, we offer relationship therapy either online or in person (due to Covid-19, we offer therapy sessions online, by phone and now face to face once again).
We currently have two Psychologists providing marriage and couples’ counselling:
If you have any questions about what to expect from couples’ therapy, feel free to ask them in the comments section below, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org