What can you expect when you attend your first couples counselling session? Even within strong, secure relationships, all couples can experience difficulties or conflict where they need outside expert help occasionally. Relationship differences are common and can be caused by many factors, including environment, career and family changes. These differences unless managed well and respectfully, can cause hurt, stress and conflict for a couple. Good couples counselling can prevent these differences from becoming problems. Working with an experienced counsellor, couples can learn to communicate with each other more effectively and work towards a healthier relationship.
What Kind of Relationship Issues Can Couples Counselling Assist With?
Relationship issues may present themselves in the form of day-to-day disagreements but are often caused by a deeper problem.
Some of the common relationship issues facing modern couples include:
Poor conflict management. Different ‘arguing’ styles can result in poor conflict management. Unresolved conflicts can lead to resentment between a couple. It is never too late to process long held resentments and doing this is essential if the relationship is to survive and thrive.
- Lack of intimacy. Many couples experience a discrepancy in their desire to be physically intimate at different times in their relationship.. There may be many reasons for this and opening up honest dialogue is essential to help each person understand what is happening.
- Infidelity and trust. When an affair or infidelity has occurred, it can have serious repercussions for a couple. Couples need to work to rebuild trust within their relationship, deal with the hurt and pain and build a new relationship together. For others the trust rupture makes staying together not possible and they may need help to process the rupture and move forward in an amicable way to separation.
- Infertility. Being unable to conceive a child can put significant strain on a couple, and this stress can cause breakdowns in communication or a sense of blame within couples.
- Pressure from society or family. Especially for same sex couples, a lack of acceptance from family can impact romantic relationships.
- Separation. Couples ending a relationship and moving into separation often need help to process their feelings and negotiating the way forward, especially when children are involved.
- Blended families. Blended families can be doubly fun, and not surprisingly can be challenging for everyone as they transition to the new family and changed dynamics. Developing skills to assist in resolving difference and conflicts and working towards building understanding and acceptance can assist all family members.
- Mental illness. When a loved one is living with mental illness, it puts a strain on not only them but the people around them. Couples facing this experience often need validation and good psychological health so they are able to sustain the daily pressures of life.
- Physical pain. Experiencing chronic pain can make people tired, depressed and frustrated , which can negatively affect their relationships. Couples living with this need to communicate effectively to avoid conflict.
- Ageing parents. The stresses associated with ageing parents and the difficulties of end-of-life care can cause disagreements and conflict within couples.
How Can Couples Counselling Help?
If you are experiencing trouble in your relationship due to some of the issues listed above, or for other reasons, couples counselling can be extremely beneficial. Checking in with a counsellor can prevent issues from becoming bigger and causing conflict and resentment.
Counsellors are able to offer an unbiased opinion. They don’t take sides, they don’t blame and they are interested in each person gaining awareness of how they behave in the relationship.
Counsellors can provide strategies and skills development so couples learn how to manage these issues differently and by themselves over time.
They facilitate an open and honest discussion in which you and your partner can share your thoughts and feelings, without fear of judgment or reproach.
Couples counselling can also help the individuals within the couple. Many people find that through counselling they improve their self-confidence and become happier within themselves.
If a relationship is important to you, it is worth taking steps to help it. Even if you are experiencing difficulties, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be a couple anymore – it might just mean you need to learn some skills to communicate more effectively with each other.
What Happens at Your First Couples Counselling Session?
Many couples approach their first counselling session with some trepidation, this is entirely normal. It is not easy to know you will be talking with a complete stranger about the most intimate aspects of your life, your relationship. Our counsellors are highly skilled at working with all sorts of people who bring their fears, joys, anxieties, grief, anger and curiosity to the sessions.
You do not need to bring anything to your first session, but you may want to spend some time beforehand thinking about the reasons why you are pursuing counselling and what you might want to discuss.
Couples counsellors will normally spend time in the first session explaining their work and methodology, so that couples know what to expect. Following this, your counsellor will get to know you and your partner better by asking questions about issues in your relationship, what you may have done to try to resolve these issues, and what your expectations of counselling are.
Your counsellor will ensure that both people have the opportunity to speak and voice concerns, and that you and your partner feel at ease and comfortable. While in counselling, it is important that both people feel the counsellor is the “best fit” for both of them. Unless both people feel confident and comfortable with the counsellor you will not get the most out of your sessions.
What Happens After the First Session?
The counsellor will arrange to meet each person individually, then bring you back together for another joint session. The first four sessions form the Assessment Phase of the work and along with the completion of a comprehensive on-line questionnaire both people attend, provides your counsellor with important information to help plan the therapeutic phase of your couples work.
Every relationship is unique and comes with its own set of complications. But with an experienced counsellor, you can develop stronger bonds and work towards a healthier relationship.