Here’s what you can expect when you come into my office.
1. That first appointment is going to go very fast. I’ll send you the paperwork to fill out ahead of time, but we’ll still need to review a few things like confidentiality and office policies. I’ll talk fast, but it’s going to take 5-10 minutes anyway. We’ll start by getting an idea of what you think your issues are and what you want to see changed. I’m going to collect a little history in that first session, as well. By the time it’s over, I’m going to want to know what you think your strengths are as a couple, too, not just the problems.
2. It can be a little humiliating to admit you need help. Making the call for couple therapy and reaching out for help requires a certain amount of courage. And sometimes even a certain level of desperation. As hard as it is to make that initial call and come in for that first appointment, most people feel better just getting scheduled. You’re not going to have to figure this out on your own anymore. There’s support available.
3. No therapy will work unless you both feel safe in the room and heard. I know that and I want you to know that. One of my primary goals in our first few sessions is making sure this is the case for you. You both need to feel you can trust me over time or we’re not going to get anywhere together.
4. You’ve hired me to advocate for the relationship. That means I’m not there to side with one or the other of you—I’m siding with your relationship. No matter what you think, I know both of you are contributing to what’s going on in your relationship right now, good and bad. I’m an equal opportunity offender and I will be calling you both out from time to time as well as identifying and coaching you in your strengths. You aren’t hiring me to fix your partner or get them into line for you. I’m there to help you learn how to nurture your relationship, not win the fight.
5. It’s not always going to be fun, although we will laugh a lot. Actually, there will be times when it will be downright uncomfortable. We’re going to talk about things you may have avoided dealing with for some time. We may talk about things you don’t want to talk about at all. Sex, for example. Or taking responsibility for your own actions, thoughts, and reactions.
6. It may feel worse before it feels better. This is a big enough side effect of therapy that I talk about it with all my clients—individual or couple. The fact is, it’s going to depend on what we’re dealing with. Some material will bring up old pains from your past: the history of this relationship and even from your family of origin. Those old patterns are playing out in your relationship now and we want to figure out what they are, stay awake to them, and deal with them.
7. Our work will be a balance of acquiring new skills and of self-knowledge. You’ll be working on solid ways of communicating effectively with one another. We’ll work together to flesh out the expectations you have of your relationship and negotiate what it takes to address those needs and desires. I’ll create a safe neutral space for you to have those difficult discussions without them getting out of hand or taking you off a cliff. We’ll deconstruct your patterns, learn new ways of negotiating, and figure out how to learn from your communication blunders and missteps. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about your partner and even more about yourself.
8. Couple therapy is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than divorce if you’re married, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. When couples stick it out and do the work of therapy they can end up happier than they ever expected to be. It takes commitment and work over a period of time. It takes owning your own stuff and learning how to give your partner the benefit of the doubt again. We’ll be focused on building a relationship that’s safe enough to be vulnerable in, so you can take the risks that create real intimacy. A happy solid relationship is like gold in the bank and it can form the solid foundation of both your life and your family.