In 2022, about 2.78 million couples in Canada got a divorce — and the numbers are projected to increase over the next few years. While many couples could benefit from counselling, it can seem stressful or scary to ask for help. That’s why many avoid seeking couples counselling for their relationship. Much of the avoidance is rooted in the unknown, which is why getting familiar with the process, knowing what to expect, and preparing for your first session can remove the anxiety. It’s a great way to ease nerves and make you feel confident walking into your first session.
Every couple seeks counselling for different reasons. Some want to build a stronger relationship with their partner, while others want to learn the tools that can help them overcome core issues in their relationship. Couples counselling teaches effective communication, especially in times of conflict, while creating a safe and neutral space for couples to hash out their concerns. Before walking into your first session, it’s recommended to write out couples counselling questions to ask your therapist. This will give your counsellor a better idea of your goals, and ensure you don’t forget to ask what’s on your mind.
The benefits of couples therapy
Much like other forms of therapy, couples counselling looks different for every couple. It can help you learn a number of things such as:
- Your triggers
- How to resolve conflicts
- Effective communication tactics
- Processing trust issues
- Setting boundaries
- Planning for your future
It can also help with anxiety, anger management, mental health challenges, loyalty issues, life transitions and more.
Questions to ask in marriage counselling
What questions are asked in couples counselling? This depends on the couple and their unique issues. We’ve put together the most popular questions to ask in marriage counselling, and some of the most common problems to address.
1. What are the core or recurring issues in our relationship?
In every relationship, subtle disagreements can lead to more significant issues if left unsolved. That’s why it’s essential to use your counselling session to address these early on before they become larger issues. You and your partner might have different ideas of what those issues are — so hear each other out. This process requires both partners to be vulnerable and open to reach a resolution. For example, one of the concerns may be that you and your partner don’t spend enough quality time together. What does quality time mean to each person? What does that look like? And how can you come to a resolution?
2. Which issues are the most critical?
A therapist will help you answer this question once you have laid out all of your concerns. They will help prioritize your concerns based on which ones you and your partner believe should be addressed first, and what could potentially be the biggest root cause of your issues.
3. Which needs are not being met?
Every person has their own unique needs in a relationship. And when they’re not being met, it can lead to feelings of resentment and misunderstanding.
Needs look different to everyone, but some examples include:
- Quality time
- A sense of security
- Physical and emotional intimacy
- Personal Space
- Acts of service
These unmet needs can cause dissatisfaction in any relationship, but there is hope. Research supports that partaking in marriage and couples counselling can lead to higher marital and relationship satisfaction.
4. What are your expected outcomes of therapy?
This question can be discussed together privately before starting therapy, or it can be a great starting point to kick off your first session with your therapist. No matter how you choose to tackle it, it’s crucial to know whether you and your partner are on the same path in terms of what you want from counselling. Clearing this up early on reduces surprises and barriers to your growth.
5. Why do you want this to work?
One of the most beautiful things about making the effort to attend couples counselling is that it shows you both still care, and you want your relationship to work. The answer to this question can help your counsellor create a path of resolution, or even determine whether the relationship should continue at all. The responses to this question are varied, and there is no shame in your answer. For some, it could be because you still love your partner and don’t want to lose them. But for others, you may be staying together for the kids or even financial reasons.
6. Are your expectations for each other reasonable and clearly understood?
Having expectations from your partner is normal — but when they’re unreasonable, it can lead to feelings of resentment and unworthiness.
Some examples of unrealistic expectations include:
- No arguing means a good relationship
- Your partner should know what you’re feeling without you communicating it
- Your partner should always agree with you
- Your partner should spend all their free time with you
This is where a couples counsellor can offer a neutral outside perspective. They can teach you to set healthy expectations, communicate clearly and respectfully with your partner, and determine an action plan.
7. What has changed in the relationship?
Sometimes it can feel like issues arise seemingly out of nowhere. It’s hard to go back and pinpoint what changed, and why it feels like you’re suddenly bickering consistently. A therapist can help you walk through your relationship history, create a shared understanding of how the relationship has evolved, and find which changes are the potential root of your problems.
Couples counselling questionnaire — how to find the right therapist for you
Finding the right counsellor can be a challenge. They should have the skillset for your issues, make you feel safe and comfortable, and feel like a good fit for your personality. Try asking these couples counselling questions to determine whether they’re someone you and your partner can work with long-term.
1. What is your counselling process?
Not all therapists follow the same processes and methods. Some may want to meet with you individually at times, whereas others may feel it’s best to always meet as a couple. Asking this question ahead of time can help you determine whether the counsellor’s method feels right for your relationship. A counsellor may use several different modes of therapy, including but not limited to:
- Reflective listening: An exercise that has couples use “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. For example, “I feel misunderstood when you…”
- Narrative therapy: A practice that allows couples to describe their issues in the form of narrating and rewriting their stories to see any inconsistencies and contradictions.
- Gottman Method: A popular method used by couples counsellors that helps couple manage their conflicts and other issues such as intimacy and relationship adjustments.
2. Do you have experience with problems like ours?
You may feel more confident with a counsellor who has experience guiding couples with similar conflicts. This can be particularly helpful with more complex issues such as addiction or struggles with mental well-being. Even if the therapist does not have direct experience with circumstances similar to yours, often, a skilled therapist will be able to pull from their past client experience to help couples work through their problems. Or, they may refer you to a different counsellor who has the specific experience you’re looking for. The best way to find out is to take the first step and connect with a counsellor.
3. How long will we need to be in therapy?
Some couples expect that just a few sessions will solve their issues. And although that may be true for some couples, asking about a timeline allows your counsellor to walk you through the issues that need to be addressed and how long it may take.
4. What are some things we can do outside of counselling sessions that may help?
Asking for homework can make your sessions more productive and give you goals to work towards between sessions. You may be asked to keep a journal or complete talking exercises with your partner. At your next session, you can talk to your counsellor about your experience — creating new opportunities for communication.
Although there’s a growing awareness about counselling, mental health, and seeking therapy, some couples are still hesitant to counselling because of stigma. Some misconceptions to stay aware of are:
- Therapy is only for couples who are on the brink of divorce
- Therapy is guaranteed to fix every relationship
- The therapist will be able to ‘fix’ a partner or relationship
- Therapy is only about unloading the blame onto someone else
- Therapy isn’t hard work
- There is no point in therapy
Misconceptions are just that — common ideas that aren’t rooted in research and can get in the way of couples getting the real help that they need. Focusing on your couples counselling questions is an effective way to break through stigma. Couples therapy isn’t about changing your partner and putting the blame on them. It’s about working together towards a common goal of a stronger and healthier relationship.
Start working towards a stronger relationship today
If you’ve decided to start couples counselling, these couples counselling questions to ask are a great starting point. It’s important to stay open-minded — especially at the beginning of the process. Be prepared to be honest with yourself, your partner, and your therapist, and show a willingness to follow your therapist’s guidance. Having a counsellor by your side as a neutral third party will help you better understand yourself and your partner through a new lens. Sometimes taking the first step can feel scary and challenging. Our therapists are here to support you with any other questions and concerns you may have. Affordable online couples counselling and relationship counselling — available on your schedule. Get matched with a counsellor today.