Published on: 29 Aug 2023
Knowing how to prepare for couples counseling can be a game-changer if you’re looking for ways to maintain a mutually rewarding and healthy relationship. Any relationship can suffer from communication issues, unaddressed fights, neglected feelings, or unhealthy behavior patterns.
Research suggests that most couples wait an average of 2 ½ years before seeking professional help via therapy. For most relationship or marriage problems, couples counseling can provide practical tools to help you develop a healthy partnership. In short, the sooner you start, the sooner you can take advantage of the benefits of couples therapy and build a stronger relationship.
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Strengthen your relationship through couples therapy you can participate in together or apart, at your convenience.
If you’re wondering how to prepare for couples therapy, keep reading to learn how to get as much as possible from the experience.
1. Make Sure the Both of You Are Open & Invested
To ensure a successful couples counseling experience, both partners must be willing and eager to engage in the counseling process. You should be ready to openly express emotions and discuss important couples therapy topics with one another and dedicate yourselves to creating positive transformations in the relationship.
Tips for being open in therapy
- Discuss expectations with each other before your first session
- Acknowledge any fears or concerns about attending sessions together
- Maintain an open mind throughout the process
- Communicate openly and listen without judgment or blame
- Show empathy if your partner has reservations about seeking help
- Create a safe space that encourages honest dialogue by listening actively without interrupting or becoming defensive
“Couples counseling is challenging, so it’s important that both parties, at least, have agreed to participate because they have reached a position in their relationship that either feels stagnant or regressive. They both agree that a neutral, third party, could potentially give them tools and resources that they haven’t otherwise tried.”
– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
2. Reflect on Individual and Relationship Dynamics
When learning how to prepare for couples therapy, take some time individually to reflect on your behavior. Look for any patterns or dynamics that might be contributing to issues.
Questions to consider:
- In what ways do I contribute positively/negatively to our relationship?
- What are my strengths/weaknesses within our partnership?
- How can we manage inevitable disagreements productively?
- What are some effective communication strategies we can use?
- How can we create a harmonious and emotionally safe environment for each other?
Reflecting on these questions can help you better understand the other’s point of view, leading to more effective relationship counseling.
3. Establish Goals for Your Relationship
Before attending couples therapy, set goals for what you hope to achieve. Relationship goals can help you stay focused and motivated throughout your treatment.
Examples of possible goals for couples therapy
- Learning effective communication skills
- Managing unhealthy or unhelpful emotions
- Building trust and intimacy
- Resolving conflicts in a productive way
- Creating a more satisfying and fulfilling relationship
- Creating a budget together
- Creating a list of designated assigned chores with due dates
- Negotiate new sexual agreement terms
- Allowing each other to fully share thoughts and work on active listening
“It’s important to reflect on the 3 categories in your relationship that you feel need the most work. We can reach these answers by reflecting on topics that continuously resurface when there’s conflict. Some examples include finances, household chore division, sexual frequency/intensity, and communication.”
– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
4. Search for the Right Couples Therapist
Choosing the right therapist is a critical piece of the puzzle. To get the most out of therapy, look for a licensed, experienced mental health professional who works with couples.
Finding a couples counselor who makes you feel emotionally comfortable and safe is also important. You should feel free to ask questions and express any concerns about the therapy process.
Tips for finding the right couples therapist
- Research credentials and experience: Look for therapists with specialized training in couples therapy, such as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). Check their background, education, licensing status, years of experience working with couples, and any relevant certifications.
- Read reviews or ask for recommendations: Online reviews can offer insight into how other clients felt about a therapist’s approach. You might also ask friends or family if they know a good therapist.
- Schedule an initial consultation: Many therapists offer free consultations where you can discuss concerns, goals, and expectations. This can help gauge whether both partners feel comfortable with a counselor’s style.
- Evaluate compatibility: Both partners must feel at ease with the therapist so open communication will be possible during sessions. When assessing compatibility, consider factors like personality fit, communication style, empathy level, and cultural sensitivity.
For more guidance, learn how to find a good marriage counselor with our guide.
5. Provide Your Therapist with the Necessary Info
Filling out the paperwork required by your therapist helps them understand more about your relationship dynamics, history, challenges, individual backgrounds, and specific goals you each have. When a therapist knows what you want to get out of therapy, it’ll be easier for them to help you make progress.
Be prepared to provide a therapist with certain information
- Gather relevant documents: If applicable, collect pertinent records, like medical histories or previous treatment summaries.
- Fill out paperwork: You’ll need to complete paperwork that shares medical, financial, and relationship history before your first session.
- Be honest and thorough: Provide accurate information about your relationship, including any challenges you face as a couple.
- Discuss goals for therapy: Clearly outline what you hope to achieve through couples counseling so the therapist can tailor their approach to best suit your needs.
“It is helpful, but certainly not required, if couples agree upon the strengths, weaknesses, and maybe even some ideas they have individually generated in terms of what would help. Reflecting on our backgrounds is also helpful in terms of what we watched growing up or what people around us have role modeled in their own relationships.”
– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
6. Manage Expectations Ahead of Time
Before going to couples therapy, you should take the time to set realistic goals. Remember, counseling requires both people’s dedication, energy, and endurance.
Key points to keep in mind before you go to couples therapy
- Progress takes time: Don’t expect immediate results after your first appointment. It can take several sessions before you start noticing significant improvements in your relationship.
- Honesty is crucial: Be prepared to be open and honest with your partner and the therapist about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Trust is key to establishing a safe space where both can open up and express yourselves.
- It might be uncomfortable sometimes: Therapy often involves discussing sensitive topics or addressing issues you’ve avoided for a long time. It’s normal to feel vulnerable or uncomfortable during these conversations. It might help to remind yourself that this type of discomfort can lead to growth and healing.
- Your therapist is neutral: A good therapist won’t take sides. They’ll act as a mediator while guiding effective communication strategies.
Couples Therapy from the Comfort of Your Home
Attending couples therapy doesn’t have to be inconvenient. With online therapy platforms like Talkspace, you can access professional help and guidance right from the comfort of your own home. This means you can engage in sessions without worrying about scheduling conflicts, travel time, or feeling awkward in an unfamiliar setting.
As you learn how to prepare for marriage counseling, remember that online couples therapy offers many benefits, including flexibility, accessibility, and affordability. Talkspace makes the process simple — use the method of communication that works best for you and your partner. You can seek therapy through text messaging, video calls, or audio messages.
Benefits of Talkspace therapy include:
- Flexibility: Online therapy lets you schedule sessions at times that work best for both partners’ schedules.
- Accessibility: Regardless of where you’re located, therapy will always be within reach as long as you have Internet access.
- Affordability: Online therapy can be just as, or more, cost-effective as traditional face-to-face counseling.
Taking proactive steps before you start therapy helps you be more open and invested in the process. Establishing clear goals, finding the right therapist, and managing expectations ahead of time are the first steps in taking your relationship to a better place.
- Doherty WJ, Harris SM, Hall EL, Hubbard AK. How long do people wait before seeking Couples Therapy? A research note. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 2021;47(4):882-890. doi:10.1111/jmft.12479. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33411353/. Accessed May 27, 2023.
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