What to Expect in Couples Counseling

What are the four phases couples counseling?

1. Build Rapport – First, we will highlight the strengths in the relationship in order to establish a positive environment. We want to use the positives of the relationship as a building ground and reference point for areas of struggle.

2. Define a Timeline – We will identify areas of concern and develop a timeline for the
counseling sessions. Most couples will generally participate in counseling for three to Smiling Couplesix months depending on the state of the relationship.

3. Working Phase – In general, couples will be more hopeful and successful in the first few weeks as we focus heavily on the positives and seek to identify core issues. The few weeks after that will seem more difficult as we work to refine the couple’s styles of conflict and repair to establish rules or guidelines that work for each individual as well as the couple unit. Relapse will be natural during this stage as the couple will be establishing new habits and routines.

4. Management Phase – After the working phase, therapy sessions will start to seem much lighter. The appointments become more of a check-in to evaluate progress toward goals. The therapist becomes less involved, and the clients do more of the directing as they bring up victories and struggles from the past week. Sessions will start to phase out, going to bi-weekly, then once a month, then only as needed.

When this therapy cycle is complete, you will find yourself enjoying your partner more, feeling appreciated by your partner in specific ways unique to you, and feel that you have a good handle on how to manage conflict effectively as it arises.

How do you measure the health of the relationship?

Friendship – How knowledgeable are you about each other’s likes/dislikes? How comfortable do you feel around each other? What are your general opinions of each other? Do you have regular shared experiences (dates, dinners, projects, etc.)?

Personal Responsibility – Does each person accept responsibility for their part in creating
conflict? Does the couple validate each other’s viewpoints and accept each other’s influence?

Fondness – Is there a sense of togetherness among the couple? Does the couple feel like a team? Are their inside jokes known only to the couple?

Commitment – Is there a commitment from both parties to work towards reconciliation when there is a disconnect? Does each person hold a long-term perspective in regards to the relationship? Does each person desire to work towards building and maintaining a healthy relationship?

What are the signs a couple no longer needs counseling?

  • The couple deals with conflict effectively rather than avoiding fights.
  • The couple has healthy conversations about perpetual issues on their own.
  • The couple functions as a team rather than two individuals (“we” language).
  • The couple begins to feel like they don’t need therapy anymore.

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