How To Get The Most From Couples Therapy
This page is designed to help you prepare for our sessions so you can get the most from couples therapy. I’ve adapted the information with permission from Dr. Ellyn Bader of The Couples Institute.
Please create your own individual objectives for being in therapy, so that I can help you reach them and you can assess your progress.
Please write your individual answers to these three questions & bring them to our first appointment
- What’s the kind of life you want to build together?
- What’s the kind of partner you aspire to be in order to build the kind of life and relationship you want? (Focus on being your best self).
- What are your individual blocks which prevent you becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be? (Work against being your worst self).
I have many, many tools to help you become a more effective partner. These tools require you to be clear about how you aspire to be, not how you’d like your partner to change.
My goal is to help each of you improve your reactions to your partner without violating your core values or deeply held principles. We do this by increasing your knowledge about yourself, your partner and the “dance” you do together – the pattern of interaction between you. Therapy works as you apply this new knowledge to change your contribution to ineffective patterns of interaction and develop better ones.
My task will be to assist you to develop the attitude, knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the above aims.
TOUGH CHOICES and COMPROMISES
To create the relationship you really desire, there will be some difficult choices and compromises for each of you.
The first choice will be making time
It simply takes time to create a relationship that flourishes. Make time to be together, time to be with family, time to play, have sex, coordinate, nurture, relax, hang out and plan. This time will encroach on other valuable areas, like your personal or professional time.
The second choice is accepting discomfort
Especially two types of discomfort.
a) Emotional discomfort: practice going out on a limb to try new ways of being, thinking or doing things. This rocks the boat of your relationship. Listen and be curious instead of furious; speak up instead of being resentfully compliant or withdrawing. Emotional risk-taking will be required. If you don’t respectfully rock the boat, you’ll probably have a boring and unsatisfying relationship.
b) Energy discomfort: make the effort to stay conscious of sustaining improvement over time, of making a difference over time. Remember to be more respectful, more giving and more appreciative. It takes effort to remember and act. Repeated, daily action is required for real change. We humans learn through repetition and practice, over and over again. There is no short-cut.
The third choice is improving your reaction to problems
This is the most difficult. For example, if one of you is hypersensitive to criticism whilst your partner is hypersensitive to feeling ignored, it will take effort to improve your own sensitivity instead of hoping your partner will stop criticizing or ignoring.
In an interdependent relationship, sustained effort is required from each of you to make an improvement that lasts. It’s like pairs dancing – when one of you changes your steps, your partner will have to change theirs in order for the dance to go smoothly. One person cannot do most of the work and still create an exceptional dance team. Start with changing yourself first, then notice what happens.
A POWERFUL APPROACH TO YOUR COUPLES THERAPY
I ask each of you prepare before each session by:
- Reflecting on your larger objectives for being in therapy, not just the current issues or fights. An example of a larger objective is “I’d like to improve our relationship so we can listen to each other before speaking.”
- Practicing being the partner you aspire to become. Ask yourself: “Would my partner even date me if I keep behaving in these habitual, unskilful ways?”
This reflection takes some effort. Each therapy session is important, so prepare for each session. Very few people would call an important meeting and then say, “Well, I don’t have anything to bring up, does anyone have anything on their agenda?”
Your preparation for counselling will pay high dividends. Make the most out of your time and money investment in each couples session. Come prepared with what you want to achieve.
MAKE or BREAK FACTORS IN GETTING THE MOST FROM COUPLES THERAPY
The three most important qualities for effective communication are respect, openness and persistence.
It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it and what they hear.
Responsibility & Accountability
We are each responsible for how we express ourselves, no matter how others treat us. When you are contributing to the problem, own up to your part and work on changing yourself.
Are you part of a team? Can you accept your limits and your partner’s limits? We are all flawed human beings. No-one is perfect, especially you.
Are you working on yourself, not on your partner?
Can you tolerate and work with discomfort and disagreement? Paradoxically, accepting that healthy conflict produces growth and learning helps you to manage inevitable disagreements more skilfully. This is key to a more harmonious relationship. There are many normal relationship conflicts that couples must discuss.
Trust & Commitment
Trust and commitment are the foundational building blocks of a flourishing relationship. You create trust by doing what you say you will do, when you say you’ll do it. If you can’t fulfill your promise, renegotiate it with your partner. Failing to renegotiate damages trust and commitment.
Businesses and relationships fail for the same three reasons
A failure to:
•Learn from the past
•Adapt to changing conditions
•Predict probable future problems and take action to avoid these.
Effective change requires insight plus action
Action without insight is thoughtless. Insight without action is passivity.