The First Appointment
Many people show up for the first appointment with at least one person nervous, suspicious, or even skeptical that counseling can do anything for them. That’s actually very reasonable. A good counselor should be able to answer all of your questions, help you make sense of your problems, and demonstrate how the suggestions made could help improve your relationship. During our initial session I will ask each of you to share with me, from your perspective, what types of challenges you’re experiencing and how long they have been present. I might also ask a little bit about your family and experiences growing up. This is not a rehash of your entire childhood but just enough to help me understand what types of relatinoships you saw and how your past might be impacting your expectations for this relationship. At the end of the session I will share with you what I’ve heard, my initial perspectives on your challenges, and then make recommendations for where I’d like to go with your case. At that time you will both have the opportunity to once again ask any questions you have to make sure everything was clear, seems reasonable, and that you are getting what you want out of counseling.
What We Work On
One thing that almost all couples coming to see me have in common is that their friendship, the thing that initially brought them together, has been neglected or damaged. When this happens small conflicts become big conflicts, big conflicts become huge conflicts, and no conflicts are forgotten about or healed. The most important thing we do in counseling is working on rebuilding or repairing that friendship. As the friendship starts to grow you will begin to notice the good feelings start to come back. This is a sign that trust is slowly starting to be restored. When you have a relationship built on trust and a solid friendship most conflicts aren’t nearly as threatening and tend to work themselves out.
There are some conflicts, however, that for a variety of reasons have become bigger than the two of you. Maybe you weren’t able to resolve the issue so it got pushed under the rug. Perhaps it was so big no one knew how to even begin working on it. These are some of the ways conflict can leave a couple in a state of gridlock. Together we will work on resolving and healing the hurts from these past conflicts.
What The Counselor Does
It is my job to teach my clients how to make a relationship work. I will help you understand the sources of your conflicts and the roadblocks keeping you from being able to communicate and resolve them. I will help the two of you walk through whatever specific issues you have to begin to heal the past and help you move forward. I will show you how to keep different priorities, values, and communication styles from threatening your friendship. Finally I will teach you how to safeguard your relationship in ways that are practical, reasonable, and easy to understand.
What You Can Expect
It’s very important to me that all my clients are being set up to be successful on their own. In the office you can expect I will help you work through and heal conflicts. I will teach you how to prioritize your relationship so it doesn’t go back to this place again. Many couples come in overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling defeated. The last thing they need is for a counselor to judge them, change them, ask them to be someone they aren’t, or give them unrealistic things to do. Weekly date nights and weekend getaways are wonderful but if you are a couple working full time and raising children on a budget that may not be very realistic. Since many happy couples tend to fit that description we also know you shouldn’t have to do those things to have a successful relationship. We will look at your family’s priorities, strengths, and challenges to figure out together how to make the relationship strong.
What You Won’t Get
I’ve seen all kinds of things in this field from long and involved personality assessments to relationship contracts, 5 year plans, and even family meetings with a scribe and a talking stick. You will NOT get any of those things here. You will also not get books to read, handouts to study, or complicated communication techniques to implement. Why? Simply put, people don’t use them…especially when they are hurt or angry. I’ve seen many couples believing they failed when conflict started and they forgot to use their “I statements” or “Active listening skills.” You shouldn’t have to sound like a psychologist or read enough books to earn a PhD just to have a successful relationship. When you have resolved your conflicts and brought trust back into a relationship, communication flows the way it should and when arguments do come up ( because even the best relationships have conflict!) they aren’t as threatening to the friendship and are able to be worked through. While it is likely that therapy will teach you to hear each other better and consider each other more, the good news is you won’t have to become someone you’re not just to be happy together.