Posted on October 06, 2020
This blog article will discuss what to expect from marriage counseling in terms of what to expect, how to prepare, and how long it typically lasts. This will incorporate using Advekit to find a therapist for marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling is a loaded term. Seeking out professional therapy for your relationship can carry a lot of negative stigma for some people. It can feel like getting help is the equivalent of waving a white flag in defeat. It can make one or both parties of a couple feel shame and failure. But, this doesn't have to be the case. Marriage counseling with a therapy matching service is absolutely not the first step to divorce.
It’s a common misconception that marriage counseling should only be used during difficult periods. It’s not likely that you learned how to effectively emote, communicate, or work together in an intimate partnership, so when things can get heated—or when we’re not sure how to approach a difficult situation—it’s easy to feel as if we’re failures in our relationships.
In fact, it might surprise you that most couples actually seek therapy for more ‘preventative’ and ‘enhancement’ counseling to boost their already great relationship. Relationship counseling can help any partnership, not just marriages. It offers a safe space to discuss difficult or uncomfortable topics openly, can help clarify certain assumptions or expectations, and enhances emotional and sexual intimacy.
Wondering what to expect from marriage counseling? Let’s dive in.
Married couples seek relationship counseling for different reasons but, generally, it is either to improve an already functioning, healthy relationship or confront ongoing challenges. Marriage counseling is a tool used by people who feel they are not being heard by their partner or getting their needs met in their relationship. Oftentimes, if a partnership feels stuck repeating the same conversation and conflict without any resolution, marriage counseling is sought.
Couples therapy is useful in helping a couple move from conflict to a more emotionally and intimately connected state, where needs are being met and problems are collaboratively and constructively solved. Even if a relationship is relatively healthy, marriage counseling can be enormously beneficial in improving intimacy and connection by giving couples tools to improve communication in marriage and listening, while also working through past issues.
There can be many different reasons why a couple would want to begin marriage counseling. Some of the most common issues include:
Repeating same arguments over and over
Never fighting and ignoring the problems
Physical intimacy issues
Not everyone’s marital problems will look the same, but identifying specific pain points is an important step. In fact, you may go into therapy thinking that your issue is all based on intimacy, but your therapist could soon discover that the real root of the issue is a lack of trust and communication.
As you share concerns, your therapist will look for underlying, connecting themes.
Therapy is a safe and neutral space for a couple to explore their relationship, and confront issues both past and present. Involving an objective third party can help partners say things to one another that are difficult to do on their own.
The first session is focused on learning more about each individual person and your relationship as a couple. Before you can dig into the real issues, it’s important to lay the groundwork of developing a real understanding of each other as people outside of the relationship. A therapist or counselor will probably ask questions about everything from your childhood to how you met each other. While these facts may seem insignificant, they are important to illustrating your whole story, and fundamental to fixing ongoing problems,
Many people get discouraged after the first session, coming in with expectations for a breakthrough and a quick resolution. It can feel like the first session is more of an interview, and less of therapy. As sessions continue, they will naturally progress into traditional talk therapy approaches.
In order to figure how long you’ll need to be in marriage counseling, it’s important to first identify and develop goals for therapy. Every couple’s goals will look different. Maybe you want to reignite physical intimacy, or work through a past transgression. Some of your goals can focus on specific skills or tools to manage a major life adjustment together like having a child or the death of a parent. Remember that your goals can evolve over the course of your therapy. So your initial goal won’t necessarily be your end goal.
Once you lay out your goals for therapy, you and your therapist will develop a timeline together. This will happen once you already go through a few sessions and they get a better idea of where your relationship stands. A certain percentage of couples may decide that their goal is to end the relationship with mutual respect. Therapy can also help you realize that your relationship is beyond saving and learn how to exit healthily.
Some couples only need a few months of therapy. Other couples may consider therapy a new part of their relationship.
The most important aspect of marriage counseling is learning new skills that’ll benefit your relationship beyond the marriage counseling session. Some of the most important skills in a relationship include:
Different communication styles
A path to forgiveness
Understanding how to take care of yourself and your partner
Most couples have expressed all the essential skills at some point in their relationship but forgotten how to use them. Therapy sessions will remind you of the importance of these skills, introduce new ones, and show how they can improve your unique relationship dynamics.
Working on your relationship doesn’t stop once your therapy session ends. In fact, a major part of couples therapy is what happens in between the sessions. You’ll have tasks, or homework, to complete between each session. These sessions can help with conflict resolution skills, setting realistic expectations, and developing healthy communication. It’s important that you take your lessons seriously and complete these tasks if you want the counseling to work.
Some of these homework assignments could include:
Go out on a date without your phones
Initiate intimacy with your partner
Keep a log of your emotions and any arguments that arise
Read a self-help book together and hold discussions
The ultimate goal of this homework is to get to a point where you can work out your issues on your own without the assistance of therapy. You’ll start small with a few tasks but eventually, you’ll be able to tackle any issue that arises.
While couples sessions are the basis of marriage counseling, there are most likely issues you need to work on as an individual. It’s a personal choice of whether or not you want to make space for your own therapy during the week or month. Oftentimes, marriage counseling can be more effective and quicker when one or both parties are working through their own issues and developing a deeper understanding of themselves to bring to their couples sessions.
Whether you’re looking for both an individual or a marriage therapist, finding the right fit is critical to your success. Using a trusted matching service like Advekit can help narrow down the choices to make sure you get connected with a great therapist fast.
Now that you know what to expect from marriage counseling sessions, it’s time to find your therapist. There’s no time like the present and you have nothing to lose.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.