The secret to couple counselling: before you attend (part 1)


Talking with a counsellor can help. 1866 833-7690

a coupleCouple counselling is hard work!! It’s hard work for the two people involved in the relationship and it’s hard work for the counsellor. It’s a sad commentary that despite all this hard work, and the best efforts of all three people involved, successful outcomes do not happen in all couple counselling experiences.  For their part, counsellors take training courses in couple therapy, read books and engage in supervision in order to increase their success with counselling couples.   But are there things that couples can do to increase the likelihood of a positive couple counselling outcome as well? The answer is an emphatic YES!

Here is a list of some of the more significant do’s and don’ts for clients that I have gleaned from my years of counselling couples:

  • Don’t wait until it’s too late! Let’s face it, going for couple counselling can sometimes be about as much fun as a visit to the dentist, and because of that, many people put off going to a counsellor until they are in so much “relationship pain” that they can no longer avoid it. But, like that visit to the dentist, the longer you let a relationship problem develop, the more painful the treatment tends to be, with lower chances of success.   The earlier you treat the problem, the less painful the intervention, and the more successful the experience.
  • Don’t treat counselling as “the final option”:  As the natural extension to waiting until it’s too late, many people unfortunately only consider couple counselling as a last ditch desperate effort to save the relationship just prior to separation or divorce.   So much anger and bitterness has built up by this time, that in many cases it would require a counselling miracle to reverse the momentum towards separation, no matter how skilled and caring the counsellor is. Make counselling one of your first options, not your last.
  • Come with realistic expectations: Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) counselling is a short term solution. Within this context a successful couple counselling experience usually means that the couple has resolved a specific concrete issue or two, or may have taken some significant first steps in improving those issues, and will have to pursue longer-term work for issues outside of the EFAP program. Complete resolution of long histories of a couple’s conflict, and the achievement of “perfect” relationships, may not be attainable in this short term context. The relationship will have improved by a couple of significant degrees. But as one couple counsellor once put it: “We don’t turn Chevrolets into Cadillac’s, we just make the Chevy run a little bit better.”

At times, clients attend couple counselling even though they never had any intention of remaining with their partner, or they attend out of guilt, from pressure by an outside source, or because they wanted to be able to declare, “Well, I tried couple counselling but it didn’t work”, using it as a reason to leave the relationship. This just doesn’t work and it ends up being a waste of everyone’s time and money. If you and your partner can review these suggestions before you attend, you will have a much happier and successful couple counselling experience – and a happier couple counsellor too!

Watch for part 2 about how a counsellor can help your relationship.

Tags: , ,