Everything you should know about couples counselling

Couples CounsellingIf you’re feeling like you and your partner could use some couples counselling, you might have 1000 questions about what the process is like. This blog is meant to help you understand couples counselling a bit better and to take some of the anxiety out of the process.

I’ve tried to answer the questions that might come up for you in deciding whether couples counselling is for you. If I’ve missed anything, just leave a comment and I promise to answer! So, here are some common questions that come up for couples:

 Who should go to couples counselling?

I think there’s a misconception out there that couples counselling is only for people who are on the brink of divorce. This is so far from the truth! Couples counselling can be used for all kinds of situations, from improving a relatively healthy relationship to helping a couple deal with domestic violence. Truly, it’s my belief that almost every couple could use a “tune up” at some point in their relationship.

One thing to keep in mind with this is, it’s always best to come to couples counseling sooner rather than later, if possible. This helps prevent the issue from becoming bigger and more difficult to manage. It’s completely fine to come at any point though, so don’t be afraid to come in if things have gotten really challenging!

Common reasons for booking a couples counselling appointment are:

  • to improve communication with each other
  • to deal with changes after having kids
  • to figure out how to deal with differences in parenting styles
  • to cope with infertility
  • to deal with sexual incompatibilities, like a difference in sex drive
  • to help a couple stay connected after a trauma or loss
  • to deal with an infidelity
  • to work through stress about money
  • to move forward after domestic violence has occurred

One other reason to see a couples counsellor is to have some premarital counselling appointments. This is a great way to start your marriage off in a healthy direction. It’s truly amazing how a few changes at the beginning can make a world of difference in the quality of your marriage over the long run!

How to suggest couples counselling?

So you’ve decided that couples counselling would be helpful, but you’re feeling stuck on how to raise the issue with your partner. It’s best to bring it up using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Also, try to use soft, non-confrontational language and focus on the benefits of coming to counselling. Consider saying something like:

“Hey <name> can I talk to you for a minute? I think our relationship would improve if we could learn to talk to each other in a more respectful way. I’ve found a psychologist that can help us and I think we should book in an appointment. What do you think?” If you know of friends who have benefitted from couples counselling, you could always bring this up as well (as long as it’s OK with the friends of course).

It’s a good idea to think about how your partner might react to your suggestion to go to therapy. If you think that they will feel that your relationship is ending, then try to put their mind at ease with a statement like,

“I love you and I want us to be as happy as possible in our relationship. This counselling will help us to do that.”

If you think they might be worried about opening up to the counsellor, you might want to try to say something like,

“Psychologists are trained to help and everything we say to them is completely confidential.”

At Ward & Associates, we are always happy to chat with you on the phone before the first appointment to make sure that therapy is a good fit. This is especially helpful if one of you is quite anxious about the process.

What is the process for couples counselling?

When you make an appointment at Ward & Associates, our office manager Kristie Chow will schedule you in and give you all the information you need for the first session. She’ll typically contact you the way you contacted us (if you called, she’ll call, if you emailed, she’ll email). She might email you the intake forms or you might fill them out when you come to the office (whatever you prefer). She’ll let you know the fees per session and how we take payment. She’ll discuss whether we might be able to offer direct billing for you (through Veteran’s Affairs, Alberta Blue Cross, etc.). She’ll give you directions to our office. She’ll answer whatever questions you have and if you want to speak to the counsellor, she’ll arrange that.

When you attend the first appointment, the psychologist will give you some information about who they are, what their training is and how they help couples. Then they’ll allow you to discuss what you want to work on. Before you come to the session, it’s a good idea to talk to your partner about what you want to accomplish in counselling and have these goals in mind. At the end of the session, the psychologist will recap what was said and you’ll all agree on some goals for treatment. She’ll discuss what she can offer to accomplish the goals. There will be a chance to ask questions and you’ll leave with a plan for how you’re going to work together. Often our psychologists will then book individual appointments (to see each partner separately) to allow the therapist to have a good idea of each person’s perspective. Then couples counselling will begin after the individual sessions.

How long will it take?

Obviously, there’s no “one size fits all” approach where I can say that it will take a certain number of sessions to improve your relationship. We can see big improvements quickly, but it can also take time, depending on the issue.

At Ward & Associates, we offer evidence-based approaches to therapy, which means that we offer treatments that have been proven by research to be effective. For marriage therapy, we have psychologists trained in the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy, which is an evidence-based approach. These types of treatment tend to work faster than those that aren’t evidence-based.

How to find a good couples counsellor?

You want to make sure that your therapist has proper training and experience. For example, all psychologists at Ward & Associates have undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology and are registered with the College of Alberta Psychologists. The “fit” between the therapist and the couple is very important. Read a profile written by the psychologist on their website and see if it sounds like a good match for what you need. Also, as mentioned above, it’s important to have psychologists who offer evidence-based treatments.

If you think you might be interested in working on your relationship, check out the profiles for Stephanie Baker and Anne Clifford, who are the psychologists at Ward & Associates who specialize in couples counselling. They will be happy to help you get your relationship back on track. Whatever you decide, I hope this article helps to reduce any worries you have about couples counselling.

 

 

 

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8 Comments

  • Yes, counseling is not only for people who are at a brink of divorce. But it does take the relationship to go that far; on a brink of collapse, which makes couples think of investing in the process. Why would anyone want to delve out their innermost conflicts and relationship troubles to a third party otherwise? I think your article provides an answer to this very important question. Sadly, in a country where couple’s therapy is typically not included in medical insurance, this is a luxury option for most people.

    • Dr. Jennie Ward says:

      Yes, we tend to wait until something is a serious problem before we act on it, unfortunately. I’m a big fan of prevention of problems as much as possible.

  • My favorite part of this article is when you corrected the misconception about who attends a couple’s counseling. Society has created this stigma that only couples who are going through a rough patch are the types of couples who need counseling. Personally, I think of counseling as nothing more than consulting a friend. You don’t need to have a problem just to talk to a friend, right? You can simply be asking for advice or insight for that matter. If there’s something that my husband and I are unsure of, we will see to it that we’d get counseling. Thanks for this very empowering read!

    • Dr. Jennie Ward says:

      I agree with you Patricia…often people think of couples counselling as the step before divorce. It can be so much more than that and a great way to enhance a strong relationship or to work through inevitable problems that arise.

  • Sophia Lara says:

    Nice article. You have shared everything that I liked most. I can say that your blog is really very helpful to couples. Great share and keep sharing. Thanks for sharing the following points that are couples counselling appointment.

  • You are absolutely right. Marriage is one of the most important decisions for a person’s life. You have done a very good job by sharing this post.

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