Couples counseling is often a more directive process than individual therapy, meaning that the counselor has more direct input into how the session progresses. When couples seek me out for counseling, one of the first things I tell them is my practice is a structure-based, communication-focused method of reaching out to the most important person in your life. It’s a means to re-establish what has been lost or build what may never have been there from the beginning.
Couples counseling should be about forming deeper and more flexible connections that can grow and change as individuals grow and the relationship evolves. Providing the couple with the tools they need to achieve those connections is at the heart of this process. The counselor’s role is to model the use of healthy communications skills and intuit where the couple is along the road to applying those tools. I often tell my clients that I want them to leave my office being able to do my job.
Helping couples manage expectations is another important component of counseling. How we view a situation, and how we think about and frame our thoughts contributes greatly to how we feel about a topic. Changing our thinking or viewing a situation from a different point of view can often help couples lessen the emotional impact and eliminate the need to lash out.
All too often one or both individuals will come to the relationship with pre-conceived notions that go unspoken because those notions seem a part of the basic fabric of life. When those expectations go unexamined, tensions can build – tensions that are capable of ending the relationship.
With the proper use of communication strategies, couples learn to talk with each other about the emotional impact of the other’s actions rather than focusing on the specifics of those actions. Mastering listening and empathy enables true understanding and stronger bounds to take hold. To bridge the difficult times – be it raising children, living through the stress from or loss of a job, or the deep wounds of infidelity – couples who learn to put their relationship first through proper communications can withstand most any crisis.