You ask, “is this going to work for us?” Here are some factors that affect couples counseling and help you to get the full benefit of what couples counseling has to offer. Keep in mind when you ask, “is this going to work for us?” I’m guessing your goal is for couples counseling to help you (re)build safe and secure bonds with one another.
Couples counseling is not quick and easy. Couples counseling requires clarifying your goal, and giving significant commitment, time, money, and energy – emotional energy. Basically what I’m saying is, for couples counseling to work, it requires each partner prioritizing it as an investment.
Is Your Goal for Couples Counseling Clear?
The first key to successful couples counseling is having a similar goal. Each partner needs clarity on what they really want. Many partners are not sure what they want by the time they reach a marriage counselor. You may have experienced so much pain, mistrust, and anger at this point that you are not sure if you still want the marriage or if you believe it can even be helped.
A knowledgeable marriage counselor will be able to help you and your spouse gain clarity on your goals. It will be important to determine if the goal is to:
- Stay together
- Amicably depart
- Contemplate a temporary separation (and what the parameters and duration of said separation would be)
In order for couples counseling to be effective in rebuilding safe and secure bonds and reestablishing trust, it’s important for you and your spouse to have goals that point in the same direction. Your goals and needs may not be identical, but the end game needs to be the same.
It is not the role of a marriage counselor to convince one of you to stay or leave or to manipulate a partner to remain in a relationship they are not wanting. A marriage counselor will honor each partner’s goal and then assist you in navigating that goal.
Are you willing to make the investment?
Have you ever considered that your marriage is likely the most significant relationship you’ll ever have? There are few other relationships that compare. In the course of your entire lifetime your closest relationships include those with parents, your children, and your spouse. And all of us know each of these relationships can go array!
When you consider investing in your marriage imagine the positive outcomes for the future. Using marriage counseling as an investment in your marriage impacts both your relationship and you as an individual. Furthermore, consider the positive outcomes of the investment in light of those you are responsible for, ie: children you’ve born into the world.
Creating a household with non-conflicted parents and setting an example for healthy relationship will highly impact your children for years to come. A lot rests on the shoulders of your marriage. Making the investment to create safe, secure, attached bonds with your spouse is priceless.
The investment will require consistent attendance, financial investment, and emotional availability, to name a few.
I mention consistent attendance for a reason. First, your marriage difficulty and distance did not occur over night and healing your marriage will not occur overnight either. In order to gain traction in couples counseling weekly attendance is recommended. In fact, many counselors will minimally require you to attend weekly for at least the first several weeks in order to establish the therapeutic relationship.
When couples counseling is not consistent it affects how well you and your spouse retain and practice new ways of relating to each other when out of session. For new pathways of relating to become established and well ingrained consistent practice, mindfulness, and processing is required.
Financial investment may also be required. While many prefer to use insurance coverage, most health insurance policies do not cover marriage counseling. I find this incomprehensible in light of the epidemic of failed marriages and the costly effects of divorce. And, even in cases where marriage counseling may be covered, there are often huge deductibles that must be reached first. Furthermore, more and more marriage counselors are becoming direct pay only. All this means that you will most likely be paying for marriage counseling out of pocket.
While paying out of pocket may initially be hard to swallow, I again point you to the concept of this being a life long investment in yourself, your spouse, and your relationship. The returns on being happily married, setting a healthy example for your children and exploring your own personal growth have countless rewards.
Emotional availability is one more investment I’d like to point out. Often when a couple comes to the point of seeking marriage counseling being accessible and open with one another has greatly diminished. In order to rebuild bonds of safety and trust it’s imperative that each spouse becomes emotionally vulnerable with each other.
Trust me, I don’t expect you to immediately be open and trusting of one another. This is a process that grows over time. A knowledgeable, intuitive marriage counselor will be able to support and foster your ability to grow in your emotional availability.
Openness and honestly may not be easy, in fact that may seem really scary right now! But please know, that no healthy marriage can exist without a deep sense of having access to one another’s truest thoughts, feelings, and needs.
Choosing a Couple’s Counselor
As a final note, the above recommendations are what you can do to prepare to make the best of couples counseling. In addition to your part, it’s also very important to find a counselor who’s done their part. Sadly, many counselors may market themselves as providing marriage counseling but in reality they have little to no education, training, or successful experience in providing marriage counseling. As you seek a marriage counselor be sure to review the counselors experience particularly with couples. Working with couples is much different than working with individuals. Some items you can check on include:
- What is the counselor’s model of marriage counseling (what is the framework from which they will be helping you)?
- Examples include: Emotional Focused Therapy, Gottman Method, Imago, or PACT.
- How much training has the counselor received in this model?
- You can directly ask the counselor this question during the initial consultation.
- Has the counselor received additional supervision or continuing review of their work?
- To gain significant proficiency in marriage counseling, it is my opinion that counselors who participate in ongoing training or supervision tend to have a much better ability to deliver competent couples counseling.
So What’s Next?
Ready to make the investment? Your next step is to make the call (703) 457-6828 or contact me via the contact form on this website. I look forward to meeting you!