Many people experience a large amount of anxiety when they consider going to marriage counseling, especially if they have never attended a session. However, with the knowledge of how to prepare for marriage counseling, the experience can be empowering and even refreshing.  For preparation, follow these five simple steps before attending your first session.

1)  Identify your Goals for Marriage Counseling

MarriageWhat is your desired outcome for counseling? What are the specific goals you want to achieve? Through this step, you can identify what you truly want out of your marriage, what changes you feel are necessary, and what contributions you and your partner are each bringing to the solution. Knowing these goals for yourself and sharing your expected outcomes with the therapist offers a starting point for the direction of your work. From that, your counselor is able to develop a road map designed specifically to navigate you and your spouse to a healthier, more balanced relationship.

2)  Clarify your Expectations

When entering therapy, it is important you consider what you expect of your therapist. Is his or her role one of a teacher? A guide? A referee? Your view of the therapist’s role influences your willingness to allow them to drive the therapeutic experience. Your counselor can offer you a new experience, new insights, and new ways of thinking – be sure to take advantage of it!  For some, therapists serve as the navigator to rescue the marriage. For others, therapists are simply the referee to a never-ending argument. Whatever your expectations of the therapist, be sure to share them in your early sessions in order to build the foundation of your work.

3)  Research your Marriage Counselor

It is always beneficial to research your therapist prior to setting up your first appointment. Identify what his or her areas of specialty are, what techniques are frequently used, and what theories your counselor employs. This is a significant element to your preparations, as it offers you insight into the direction your therapy will likely take. When choosing a therapist, take into consideration how you feel their approach fits with your situation, the amount of experience and education the counselor possesses, and your comfort level upon meeting them. Focus on the aforementioned factors before incorporating distance, price, and referrals from those around you.

4)  Define your Strengths

Most individuals can readily identify the weak points of their partner and even of themselves. However, one of the most beneficial preparations you can make is pinpointing the strengths within your partner, yourself, and your marriage as a whole. This awareness shapes an optimistic attitude that encourages change within your relationship.

5)  Prepare to be Open

In order for your therapy to be the most beneficial, openness and honesty are vital components to the therapeutic process. Neither your marriage nor your therapy can progress in a positive nature if you withhold information or bend the truth in order to protect yourself or your partner. Honesty and openness are the stepping stones to true progress and growth. They build an atmosphere of authenticity, vulnerability, and courage into your relationship and marital therapy.