If you are experiencing relationship problems, it might feel like there is nowhere to turn. Perhaps you normally to go your partner with problems, or you don’t trust many people with your personal information. No matter the reason, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need human touch, love, and affection to thrive. You deserve to be in a relationship where you can feel carefree and happy.
What You Learn in Relationship Counseling
Many couples are hesitant to begin relationship counseling because they’re not sure how it can help them. You may feel as if traditional methods of therapy won’t work for you, or maybe you don’t understand the options. On the other hand, you might be sure that you want help, but you don’t know what to expect.
In counseling you’ll learn about skills like communication and problem-solving; then your therapist will help you apply them to your relationship. Before long, you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor in a happy, stable relationship. We’ll discuss these skills in more depth later in this article.
Relationship Counseling Statistics
Does relationship counseling work? Can therapy sessions save a marriage characterized by arguing and constant negativity? Statistics show that counseling for couples is likely to help communication and other important aspects of a relationship.
It can be difficult to cope if you feel like everyone around you is in a healthy, happy relationship. But when it comes to relationship issues, you’re not alone. Fortunately, relationship counseling can help heal your partnership, leaving your relationship on much better terms. While some statistics report a 38 percent failure rate for couples who attend family therapy, other sources like the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists report a 98 percent of couples consider counseling a success. Ultimately, the success of couples counseling will depend on your willingness to engage with the treatment.
How You Can Make it Work
When you begin relationship counseling, the attitude of both partners can determine their success. While it may seem self-evident that those seeking professional counseling want help to change, this is not always the case. With couples, there may be other factors that prompt them to consider counseling, and these dynamics are not always optimal for success. For instance, some people only want to show that they’ve given serious effort to save their relationship. Others may genuinely care about their partner, but they’ve already decided to leave the relationship, so they choose to attend counseling to ensure their partner connects to a supportive therapist before their imminent departure.
That said, in many couples, both parties are sincerely open to improving their relationship by receiving support, assistance, education, and counseling. In this case, these couples will reap the benefits of open-mindedness as well as a willingness to listen to the other partner. In surveying couples attending therapy for the first time, five more surprising lessons stood out. We’ll discuss these below.
- Relationship Counseling is not about “he said, she said.”
Most qualified experts in relationship counseling know there’s no winner in a game of “he said, she said.” So, blaming, victimization, and woe-is-me stories are not encouraged. Counseling isn’t about who was right or wrong; it’s about repairing trust and re-establishing boundaries. While a single person can choose to end any relationship, healthy relationships require the participation of both parties.
And we can learn a lot from our partners. For instance, sometimes the very qualities in our partner that drive us crazy are the qualities that we possess! Instead of complaining, we’ll benefit if we look at our own behavior first. If I tend to complain that my partner never listens to me, I may want to consider how well I listen to him. If I find myself feeling hurt because he is not paying attention to me, I can evaluate how intentionally I attend to him.
One of the greatest sources of conflict in relationships is a misunderstanding, much of which originates from miscommunication. Therefore, a common part of relationship counseling is about communicating effectively and developing conflict resolution skills. We may be truly astounded by how much conflict is the result of a simple misunderstanding. In counseling, you’ll learn productive tools for managing conflict like healthy listening skills; speaking for oneself rather than for the other person; listening more than speaking; asking open-ended questions to gather more complete and accurate information from the other person before responding; using mutually respectful time outs; and learning the differences between passive-aggressive and assertive communication.
It is helpful to recognize that change and blame are mutually exclusive. We have no control over anyone other than ourselves. Of course, we influence others, but we do not have the power to force another person to change. The more we focus our attention on our partner, the less it may even occur to us to look at our own behavior. And because we can’t compel our partners to change, such attempts only lead to feeling more out of control. It is much more productive for each partner to focus on themselves. Relationships are systems where change in any one part automatically creates change throughout the system. There is greater hope and likelihood for change when we commit to changing ourselves.
- The first few visits are informational: don’t expect major conflict.
Most counselors start with a simple question and answer session, asking both partners to explain their history as well as the problem. You’ll get a chance to talk and tell your side of things. These first few sessions establish the tone of counseling and the goals you have as a couple seeking to improve your relationship. Many relationship counselors prefer that the initial session include both partners. This helps to ensure the foundational dynamic of the therapeutic relationship with the couple as a client, rather than only one of the partners as the primary client.
However, it is also quite common for the clinician to strongly recommend, if not require, at least one individual session for each partner immediately following that first joint session. This allows each partner to share whatever they need to express without concern for how their partner may interpret their comments. It also allows the clinician to observe how the partners interact both together and separately.
It is wise to note that, often, things seem to escalate before improving in counseling. This is because we often wait to seek counseling, and in the interim we create coping mechanisms to help us live with the difficulties of our relationships.
Most coping mechanisms serve, in some way, to minimize our awareness of those issues. However, counseling generally requires that we bring everything out into the light. This can cause an increase in both awareness and intensity while working effectively through the counseling process. Please do not be alarmed if you experience this to some extent. It is very normal and to be expected, so, you can view it as evidence of progress, even if it doesn’t feel that way!