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Make sure you get your money’s worth in therapy. We all know that life can often bring financial stress to individuals, couples and families. Not having enough money is a known stressor. By choosing a couples therapist with post-graduate training in couples work you’re making a wise investment into your relationship and family life.
If not, you can increase your stress because of the additional demands on your bank account. Here are some good tips for those who have entered or are thinking of starting counselling.
She says: “The way to have a successful and rewarding couples therapy experience involves you becoming an active partner in the process. This involves being willing to address hot button issues, setting and pursuing goals for yourself, and listening to your partner’s challenging viewpoints with an open attitude”. Following her wise advice will go a long way in assisting you to spend well in your therapy.
Last chance at hope – relationship coaching
Many couples are at their wits end when they begin couples therapy. They look to their therapist as an expert to provide direction, tools, and a safe environment to practice these in. These are perfectly reasonable expectations at the outset of therapy.
However once you have shared your different perspectives about the problems, have gotten some feedback based on the Gottman Relationship Checkup, are feeling comfortable that your therapist is competent and have established clear goals for your therapy, that’s the time when you need to become a partner in the therapy process.
Instead of thinking of couples counselling as a service provided to you, a more accurate way to see it is in terms of relationship education and coaching. It’s just like with a personal trainer at the gym: if you don’t actually do the work, things won’t improve. And more than that, it’s not just about making the most out of the session, but making lasting changes in your relationship.
Get your money’s worth in therapy
If you’re ambivalent/undecided about being in the relationship, don’t start doing couples counselling. It will probably fail. Make sure your counsellor is trained in doing Discernment Counselling. This short process takes only one to five sessions at most. It is not couples counselling. The discernment counsellor helps individuals and couples decide between three things:
- whether to try to restore their relationship/marriage to health
- whether to move towards separation/divorce
- whether to take a time out for a specified period of time and decide later.
If you do decide to restore your relationship to health, a competently trained couples counsellor will not let you just “attend” couples therapy. They should not let you just show up for ninety minutes of your time and pay the session fee, without arriving mentally prepared. I you don’t prepare for couples therapy, and also do the necessary homework, this can lead to frustration and even disillusionment. Make sure your counsellor is comfortable with addressing any issues around sex and sexuality that you may have. This is often a major issue in couples work.
If you find the progress towards your goals becomes slower and slower, and the positive experiences of connection and renewed hope you felt in the beginning become a distant memory, making it even harder to continue, your counsellor may not have specialized training in couples work. Listen to my audio about this.
If your counsellor is not trained in how to break through stuck places in your counselling, you’ll find yourself doubting the entire therapy process, and wondering if you should perhaps cut back or even discontinue. Attending sessions irregularly because you’re ambivalent and disengaged is pretty much a recipe for an unsuccessful experience. Your counsellor should have advised you to start discernment counselling first.
The good news is, the power to break out of this downward spiral lies in your hands. The way to have a successful and rewarding couples therapy experience involves you becoming an active partner in the process—being willing to address hot button issues, setting and pursuing goals for yourself, and listening to your partner’s challenging viewpoints with an open attitude. Here are a few tips on how you can work to make therapy both cost-effective and rewarding:
1. Make a commitment
The commitment I’m talking about is not necessarily the one to staying with your partner. Maybe you’re still trying to figure that one out. Commit to the process you started in couples therapy. And, yes, part of that package is not threatening “break-up” every time things don’t go your way. Even if you don’t mean it, it’s a low blow and ultimately not effective in getting the positive reactions you crave. There’s always time for a break-up, but there may not always be time to work on your relationship. It is helpful to commit to an agreed-upon time frame during which you will try to work things out and participate in therapy – say three months. If you make the effort of investing time and money, then why not give it all you can?
2. Put in the time, make the effort
The higher your level of conflict or disconnection, the more you’ll have to work hard at changing yourself. Couples therapy is seldom a quick fix. However, what happens in between the sessions may be as or even more important. Did you take any notes during the session or afterwards? Do you know what you will be working on this week? Do you know your partner’s goals, so you can spot their efforts throughout the week? What gets in the way of making an effort this week, and how can you plan ahead to make it work anyway? “It only works if you work it”, as they say. 40 years of research by the Gottman Institute shows that it takes a total of 6 hours energy per week devoted to your relationship, broken up into small moments, that will maximize the chances that your relationship will flourish.
3. Create goals for yourself, not your partner
Focusing on what your partner needs to change comes naturally. But this isn’t an effective strategy and ultimately doesn’t get you what you want. Focus on setting relationship goals for yourself. When you’re stressed, do you try to control, nag, or whine? Do you avoid and withdraw? These are very common responses, but – very ineffective ones. What hinders you from “taking the high road”? Take an honest look at your behavior towards your partner this week. Which ineffective behaviors did you resort to? Where did you make an all-out effort? Identifying more effective behaviors on your end will make up your goals for therapy. Start with the only place you actually have control over: yourself! And don’t forget: What did your partner do well this week? Complimenting your partner’s efforts is a very effective way to have an influence.
4. Dig deep
Put yourself out there and try to get to the “feelings behind the feelings”. Good communication is emotional communication. Often what we feel on a surface level in a relationship is anger, annoyance, resentment, and judgment for the other. Try to dig deeper and get in touch with what triggered those thoughts and feelings. They’re usually the vulnerable feelings. It is much easier to say that you are “irritated” and “frustrated”, than admitting that you feel disappointed, guilty, ashamed, insecure, or fear being abandoned. Owning up to your deeper feelings takes a lot of courage. Nobody enjoys being vulnerable, especially when you’re feeling emotionally threatened. But defensiveness breeds even more defensiveness. Often both partners have no idea how threatening they seem to the other when they resort to ineffective behaviors, and thus they inadvertently perpetuate the vicious cycle.
A successful outcome of therapy in the least amount of time is something all parties desire. A couple’s willingness to work hard, stretch out of your comfort zone, and stick with it is probably the greatest predictor for a successful therapy outcome, and consequently of the total cost of investing in couples therapy.
This was adapted from Julia Flood’s article which can be seen on her website http://newstarttherapy.com/
If you’re needing help to develop good relationship skills, you may need an experienced relationship counsellor & coach. Call 0421 961 687 or email us to schedule an appointment. International callers should call +61 421 961 687.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.