Getting Ready For Couples Therapy: What Does A Therapist Do To Help You And Your Partner?
Updated March 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Elizabeth Strong
Relationships are not easy. They take work, compromise and a whole lot of time. Often, two people find themselves unable to navigate the issues that arise between them and the work of the relationship seems insurmountable. Thus, many couples experiencing relationship trouble choose to reach out to a therapist to help them deal with the problems in their relationships. If this describes you or sounds familiar, you could be on the verge of looking for a couples counselor. And you may not have any experience with therapy and be a little intimidated at the prospect of spilling your thoughts to a perfect stranger. But fear not, as you are prepare for your first session, this article aims to answer the question you might be asking yourself: what does a couples therapist do?
One of the most important roles therapists take on is that of a listener. He or she will likely ask you what brings you to therapy. They must have a clear understanding of what has gone awry in your relationship. This will require them to listen to both parties to get a full sense of the problems you are dealing with. Your therapist should let you speak until you have expressed all of your thoughts and emotions, and your partner has done the same. For your therapist to provide you with the best care, he or she will need to fully grasp the issue you're facing. He or she will also need to hear and understand the perspective each partner has in regards on what is going on between you. This will ensure that the correct treatment or interventions are implemented, and saves time and frustration throughout your therapy sessions.
They Ask Questions
Once your therapist has sat and thoughtfully listened, it will be time to dig for more information. He or she will ask probing questions to get a clearer understanding of your relationship dynamic. You can expect some of these questions to be a little awkward or uncomfortable. However, understand that these questions can be necessary in order to get the most accurate picture of your relationship. Your therapist will need to ask the hard questions to give you the best care possible. And he or she will be skilled enough to know how to ask without shaming you.
You will also be given time during your sessions to ask your therapist questions. It is advisable to take full advantage of the time you have and get everything you can out of these sessions! If there is anything you don't understand or if you feel misunderstood yourself, be sure to speak up so that everyone in the room is on the same page.
They Provide Insight
Now that you have someone that understands the dynamic of your relationship, you have a teammate. This is a person that you can depend on to give you insight that you can use in your relationship for years to come. They will see things from a perspective different from yours and your partners, which can enable you to reevaluate how you think about a situation you are facing. This will then lead to more self-awareness when it comes to disagreements with your significant other. Put into practice, you may be able to get out of your own head and see where your partner is coming from, and vice versa. Of course, this comes with practice and will not be accomplished in the first few sessions. But, as you, your significant other, and your therapist continue to work together, your therapeutic relationship will get deeper, thus ensuring that solid work can be accomplished.
They Act As A Neutral Third Party
The role of a couples counselor is to help you get through your problems together, not pick a winner in an argument. A couple's therapist is a neutral third party. This person will never take sides or tell you who is right or wrong. They will be there to help you navigate (possibly heated) conversations, and they might suggest a different approach. A therapist will provide support and help to get your relationship on track without ever taking a side. Think of him or her as a mediator who can understand the deeper issues that arise in couple who is obligated to remain unbiased.
They Keep It Real
We all need someone that will keep it real with us in our lives. Especially in a relationship, it can be hard to find someone that will be completely unbiased and remind us of what's important. That is why it is so important for a couples therapist to stick to the strict code of always being transparent and straightforward with both parties. This does not mean that they will yell at you or make you feel uncomfortable for speaking your mind. It means that they will give you insight into what they interpret you are saying or where they feel you may be coming from regarding a certain matter or point. Basically, they will be on the lookout for verbal and nonverbal cues and will call attention to what you may say or do that they deem important to recognize. This helps to cultivate self-awareness in you and in your partner so that you too can be more cognizant of what going on with you, your partner and your relationship.
They Focus On The Positives
No matter how many negative issues there are in your relationship, there are often positive aspects, too. A couples therapist can help you determine what these and remind you that they exist. This will help you to refocus and remember the good things about your partnership. All too often, when we are experiencing relationship problems, the good gets lost in the shuffle. Sometimes we need someone to remind us that it's there.
But They Will Address the Negative Too
Clearly you and your significant other have some things to work through or else you wouldn't be meeting with a counselor. So, it would be pointless to not dissect the negative aspects of what's going on, in addition to the positive. Your therapist will need to address the problems that you are there to deal with, but will do so in a constructive way. It's not about just digging in the dirt, it's about talking about the real issues you are facing and figuring out the best way for you both to work through them. A good couples counselor will hold both of your hand through that process.
They Teach Problem Solving
Your therapist will help you apply strategies that can allow you to navigate the issues you face outside of his or her office. These strategies will vary, but regardless of how mild or severe your problems might be, you will be greatly served by learning problem-solving skills. They will not only enhance your romantic relationship but will improve your life and communication skills overall. A very important aspect of a lot of therapeutic work is homework. You may be sent home with things to address and practice between one session and the next. It is very helpful to follow through with this, as it will only benefit you by reinforcing the hard work you are putting forth in the counselor's office. He or she may ask you to try some listening exercises every day for a certain amount of time or may even ask you to go on a date. No matter the homework, it will go a long way in the progress you make together.
They Will Warn You About Setbacks
Progress in counseling usually isn't a straight trajectory. You will be talking about very personal matters that relate to your feelings about your partner and your relationship- talk about delicate territory! There is certainly potential for hurt feelings and resentments may arise that cannot be processed and dealt with in the time allowed in a single session. Your counselor should warn you that you may leave some sessions feeling worse than when you walked in. But this is all part of the therapeutic process- it takes that hard work to understand one another and grow together- something a skilled therapist will help you recognize and navigate.
Often, problems between couples are difficult to maneuver without an outside perspective. Couples counselors are equipped to handle a myriad of issues you may present with in therapy. No matter what your problem or the severity of it, you can rest easy knowing that seeking outside help can be a great decision for your relationship.
Finding A Therapist That's Right For You
Finding a couples therapist that checks all your requirements might seem like a large task, but it doesn't have to be.
The counselors and therapists at ReGain are fully accredited and available for help online. They can impart all the same benefits as a therapist in an office but from the comfort of your own home.
Don't let your relationship cause you pain or suffering any longer. Reach out and get the help you deserve today!