Couples counseling is often seen as a final effort to save a relationship on the rocks. In actuality, a lot of couples attend counseling to strengthen their relationships. Before entering counseling, it is important to understand what it will and will not do. If you and your partner are heading to counseling, here is what you need to know.
What Can You Expect?
One of the reasons that a couple might not be successful in couples counseling is that they are looking for someone to take sides in disagreements. However, the counselor's job is not to take sides, but to help you and your partner identify the source of your conflicts and work on how to resolve them. Both of you will be pushed to take responsibility for your roles in the relationship.
During counseling, the counselor might work separately with each partner. Separate sessions allows the counselor to find out exactly what each person wants from the counseling and to focus on areas that he or she needs to work on outside of the couples therapy.
The counselor will also help you and your partner explore whether or not continuing in the relationship is possible. If not, the counselor can help you and your partner emotionally face the breakup. This is especially important if you and your partner share children.
What Can You Do Before Counseling?
Prior to attending counseling for the first time, there are a few things you and your partner can do to prepare. Preparation increases the chances that the therapy will be successful.
One of the first steps you and your partner can take is to write down the goals that you have for counseling and your relationship. You do not have to share your list with your partner yet. Your counselor might ask you to do so during your first session, though.
You also need to commit to the experience. If you are not committed to working on your relationship, chances are the counseling might not be very effective. Improving your relationship takes work and time. You must be prepared for this.
In addition to these steps, you need to be prepared to be honest. Without honesty, it will be difficult for the counselor to help you and your partner determine what the root of your problems is. It is important to remember that being honest about your relationship and partner also means being able to accept your partner's honesty about you.