What to Expect from Couples Therapy

what to expect from couples therapy

Marriage counseling, also known as couples therapy or relationship counseling, can be an effective way for couples to work through issues and strengthen their relationship. However, many couples may feel unsure about why couples seek counseling and what to expect from their first counseling session.

Below, we explored what typically happens during a couples counseling session and what to expect from the first session.

Whether you are considering couples therapy or have already scheduled your first session, understanding what to expect can help you approach the first few sessions of the process with greater confidence and openness.

What Are the Main Goals of the First Marriage Therapy Session?

The main goals of the first marriage therapy session are to establish a connection between the couple and the licensed marriage therapist, gather information about the couple’s history and current situation, identify the primary issues that are causing difficulties in the relationship, and begin developing a treatment plan.

  • During the initial session, the couples therapist may ask a series of questions to gain an understanding of the couple’s relationship history, the nature of their relationship issues, and any serious mental health issues or other factors that may be impacting their relationship.
  • The therapist may also observe the couple’s communication patterns and interactions to better understand the dynamics of the relationship.
  • The therapist may also provide some initial feedback and guidance to help the couple understand the issues they are facing and begin to develop strategies for addressing them.

What Makes Couple’s Therapy Sessions Useful?

Couple therapy can be a valuable tool for couples who are struggling to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Many couples wait too long before seeking help, which can make it more difficult to create positive change. However, with the help of a skilled couples counselor, it is possible to break old negative patterns and improve the quality of a couple’s sex life and relationship.

  • One benefit of couple’s therapy is that it allows both partners to work on their communication skills and relationship together. While individual therapy can be useful in addressing personal issues, it doesn’t necessarily address the dynamics of the relationship.
  • Couples therapy provides a safe and supportive space for both partners to explore their feelings, communicate more effectively, and develop strategies for resolving conflicts.
  • In a counseling session, couples can learn new skills and strategies for improving their relationship. The therapist may provide homework assignments or suggest activities that couples can do together to strengthen their bond. By practicing these skills outside of therapy, couples can reinforce positive behaviors and break negative patterns that may have developed over time.
  • It provides one-on-one time for couples to connect and focus on their relationship. With busy schedules and other demands on their time, it can be easy for couples to neglect this important aspect of their lives.
  • Couples therapy can help address issues that may be impacting physical intimacy and sexual satisfaction. By addressing concerns and working on healthy communication, couples can improve their overall physical and emotional intimacy. For couples dealing with emotional challenges, the article Why Am I Not Affectionate Anymore? explores the complexities of emotional disconnect in relationships, which could be relevant to couples seeking therapy for similar issues.
  • Therapy can help rebuild trust in the relationship by addressing past issues or conflicts. A Family therapist can provide a safe space for partners to express their concerns and work towards a more committed and fulfilling relationship.

Types of Couples Therapy

Couples therapy, also known as couples counseling or relationship and marital therapy either, is a type of therapy that helps couples improve their relationship and overcome conflicts. There are several types of couples therapy, each with its own approach and techniques. Here are a few common types of couples therapy:

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

EFT is a popular form of couples therapy that focuses on the emotional bond between partners. Here, couples therapists help couples identify negative patterns in their communication and behavior and guide them toward creating a more secure, intimate attachment.

Guttmann Method

The Guttmann Method is based on decades of research on what makes relationships work. A therapist can help couples learn skills for communication, conflict resolution, and building intimacy and healthy relationship. The goal is to help couples strengthen their friendship, manage relationship problems, and create a shared sense of purpose.

Imago Relationship Therapy

This is a type of couples therapy that emphasizes the role of childhood experiences in shaping adult relationships. It is designed by couples therapists to help couples identify old patterns and beliefs that may be hindering their relationship and guides them toward creating a more positive and fulfilling dynamic.

Narrative Therapy

This type of couples therapy emphasizes the stories that we tell ourselves and others about our relationships. Experienced couple therapist can help identify negative narratives and replace them with more positive ones. The goal is to help couples create a more hopeful and optimistic outlook on their relationship.

Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-focused therapy is a type of couples therapy that focuses on the present and future rather than the past. As licensed therapist, we help couples identify their strengths and resources and guide them toward finding solutions to their problems.

couples in therapy session

Common Challenges in Couples Therapy

As a therapist who has worked with many couples, I have found that despite their best intentions, couples can face common challenges in therapy. These challenges can range from communication breakdowns to power imbalances and can impact the effectiveness of therapy if not addressed.

However, by understanding these challenges to healthy relationships and learning strategies to address them, couples can work towards a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

Communication Breakdowns

Communication issues are one of the most common challenges faced by couples in therapy. Communication breakdowns can manifest in many ways, such as misunderstandings, misinterpretations, talking over each other, or not feeling heard or understood.

Couples may also struggle with expressing themselves effectively or using language that doesn’t come across, such as attacking or blaming.

Your therapist would work with you and help you identify patterns of miscommunication and teach you skills and techniques to improve your communication. This may include active listening, using “I” statements, and expressing feelings and needs effectively.

Different expectations and goals

Another challenge that couples may face in therapy is having different expectations and goals. One partner may want to work on improving communication, while the other may want to address intimacy issues.

Or one partner may be more focused on rebuilding trust, while the other may be more interested in resolving conflicts.

A quick fix to this will be to help the couple understand each others needs and goals and find common ground. This may involve prioritizing certain issues or finding a compromise that addresses both partners’ concerns.

As communication is a key focus in couples therapy, the piece How to Tell if Your Partner is Lying About Cheating provides insights into understanding and improving communication patterns, which can be beneficial for couples struggling with trust issues.”

Lack of commitment or participation

Couples therapy requires both partners to be committed and actively participate in the process. If one partner is not fully invested, therapy may not be as effective. Some partners may feel reluctant to participate in therapy or may be resistant to change.

As a therapist, I would work with the couple to identify any barriers to participation and address any concerns or fears that may be hindering progress. I may also help the couple set realistic expectations and goals for therapy and motivate them to stay engaged in the therapeutic process throughout.

Book Your First Session With Our Experienced Couples Therapist

Couples therapy can be an incredibly transformative experience, and it all starts with booking your first therapy session. If you are feeling overwhelmed by conflicts or issues in your relationship, it’s time to take action and seek help.

Couples therapies provide a unique opportunity to work through these challenges in a supportive and non-judgmental environment and can help you develop healthier communication patterns, resolve conflicts, and strengthen your relationships.

Perhaps you are feeling hesitant or unsure about starting therapy. It’s understandable to feel apprehensive about discussing personal issues with a stranger, but keep in mind that therapists are trained professionals who are there to support you.

They have seen and heard it all, and have the tools and knowledge to help guide you toward positive change. By booking your first session, you are taking a powerful step toward creating a brighter future for yourself and your relationship.

About our Author Michelle Landeros, LMFT license# 115130
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT

Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.

Last updated: February 28, 2024