What to expect in couples counselling hosted by Wellin5 online counsellors across Canada

What to expect in couples therapy

Couples counselling involves talking through issues, challenges, and goals with a therapist who acts as a neutral party. Couples counselling is a great opportunity for you to improve your communication skills and learn more about the steps you and your partner can take to support a healthier relationship. It may seem like the last step to save a struggling relationship, but consider this perspective: going to therapy means you and your partner want to be together and are willing to put in the work. The right counsellor can help you create a relationship worth saving. Perhaps you’re considering going to therapy but are unsure what a session could look like, and wondering what to expect in couples counselling. Remember that like most kinds of therapy, couples counselling looks different for everyone, but there are similar procedures that take place with many benefits.

Understanding couples counselling

What happens in couples therapy? Couples counselling is a type of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, that helps couples learn techniques to change behaviours, emotions, and thoughts that are potentially damaging to themselves and their relationships. Counselling can be beneficial for any kind of relationship, including: 

  • Every kind of sexual orientation 
  • Interracial couples
  • College relationships
  • Pre-marital counselling 
  • Married couples 
  • Age gap relationships 

Couples counselling — what to expect

The length of therapy depends on the severity of the problems at hand. For some couples, it can take years to work through their issues, while for others, it can be a couple of months. The length of counselling can also be based on how much effort couples are willing to put into improving their relationship. Your therapist will help you communicate in a healthy and honest way while better understanding each other’s perspectives and feelings. Therapy can teach couples how to ask for what they want without causing their partners to shut down or get upset. Knowing what to expect in couples counselling gives you a head start on the journey with your partner. 

When to seek couples counselling

Every relationship has its ups and downs and couples in a relationship are bound to argue — showing anger toward each other at some point. Arguments are completely normal, and can even bring couples closer if they have the correct tools to manage disagreements. But if the arguments become consistent, more escalated, and damaging, then seeking couples counselling is a good idea. Look for these signs that might signal it’s time to get help:

  • Feeling distant from your partner
  • Wanting to improve your relationship
  • Past traumas trickling into your relationship
  • Tackling a big life decision
  • Considering divorce or breaking up
  • Going through the feelings of betrayal, such as an affair

Couple’s counselling techniques

Much like any other form of therapy, couples counselling  is different for every couple, as therapists cater their methods to the unique needs of the relationship. Couple’s counsellors use a wide range of techniques and even borrow from other forms of therapy to create a treatment best suited to your needs. A couple’s therapist may dive into many strategies. Here’s what to expect at your first couples counselling session:

  • Getting to know you and your partner, and trying and help you actively work through your problems and reach your goals.
  • Teaching you skills and providing you with the right tools to maneuver common issues like anger management, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.
  • Exploring the past and unravelling potential traumas that can be affecting the goals, fears, and behaviours of the relationship.
  • Learning more about your emotions and feelings, and how to properly express and process them.
  • Correcting negative behaviours and actions that are damaging the relationship.

Counsellors may ask different questions and use varied methods based on your goals and motivations, and where the issue stems from. For example, in a relationship where behaviour is the cause, therapists may introduce behavioural therapy that often uses classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning to help their clients. When the issue is related to thoughts, feelings, and emotions, therapists may incorporate cognitive behavioural therapy to treat underlying conditions such as depression, anxiety, and phobias. 

Effective approaches to couples counselling

The three most common and established approaches to couples therapy are the Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), and Imago Relationship Therapy

The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method comes from the popular work of Dr. John Gottman, author of The 7 Principles of Making a Marriage Work; where couples need to maneuver their conflicts with positive communication, rather than “the four horsemen.” These are four behaviours that cause damage to relationships: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Emotionally Focused Training (EFT)

EFT addresses the emotional safety of couples and helps them develop an attachment bond. A therapist will help the couple map out their emotional needs and create an action plan to fulfill those needs. 

Reflective Listening

This requires each partner to take turns actively listening. This type of therapy requires both partners to feel safe in order to freely communicate. This isn’t just an exercise — it’s a skill that’s developed and applied over time. 

How to prepare for your first couples counselling session

Much like any other counselling session, it’s important to do research on the therapists available to you. Determine if their criteria matches what you are seeking. Be prepared to talk about yourself and your emotions, even if it may seem hard at first. Because therapists need to know what’s really going on in order to help you effectively. 

Therapy sessions can seem daunting, especially when it’s the first session. The feeling of overwhelm can sometimes cause you to forget what you wanted to discuss. That’s why it’s a good idea to write down your goals. Also consider writing questions you have for your therapists, and take them with you to your first session. This will make you feel more comfortable and prepared. Examples of common questions can be:

  • When did you meet?
  • How long have you been together?
  • What are your expected outcomes of this session?
  • What do you feel are the main reasons you’re seeking counselling?

Even though therapy can significantly help couples, some couples start therapy not knowing if they want their relationship saved. Regardless of your position, it’s important to consider that couples counselling works best with the full participation of both you and your partner. But that’s not to say that one person can’t seek counselling for their relationship alone. Individual counselling can help establish a relationship based on communication, forgiveness, problem-solving, and resolution of needs and feelings. Remember: there’s no definitive answer to how successful therapy will be, but putting in the work, and wanting to establish a better relationship is a great first step. 

Improve your relationship with couple’s therapy 

Couples counselling can be helpful at any stage of your relationship. Don’t wait until things get overwhelming to get help. If you believe that you and your partner can benefit from couples counselling, our counsellors at Wellin5 are prepared with the correct tools and knowledge to help you and your partner reach your relationship goals. Affordable online couples counselling and relationship counselling — available on your schedule. Start now.