You’ve scheduled your first couples therapy appointment. Now what? Here are five things (and a bonus) you can do right now!
Believe it or not, the hardest part is done. Yes, just acknowledging that your relationship needs help is an important step on the path to feeling better. Simply making the call and scheduling a session puts you in rare company! Most couples who need help never make the call.
Couples therapy is not going to be easy, but you will learn a lot and you will feel better.
In fact, you’re probably feeling a little better just having scheduled that appointment! In my last post, I discussed the feelings of relief and energy that many couples describe, resulting from simply taking control of their situation.
So what’s next? How do you prepare for that first couples therapy session?
Five ways to prepare for your first couples therapy session
1. Write down your goals for couples therapy
Think about why you picked up the phone or completed that web contact form. What was your motivation? What were the feelings you were experiencing? What types of behaviors do you want to change? You and your partner might consider each making a list.
Often, writing a list removes the emotional edge from an intense issue. Write down everything. Don’t make it perfect. The goal here is to turn your thoughts into tangible words on paper — something you can actually see. You might discover the list is isn’t as scary as the feelings you’re experiencing.
That list should be your personal blueprint for therapy. Take it with you. You can share it with your therapist or keep it to yourself. Therapy is a lot more effective when you understand the problem you’re trying to solve.
2. Couples therapy works best when you focus on the positive
Language matters. There are two ways to define a need: negative and positive. “I don’t want to yell at my partner so much” is a lot different than “I want to speak more calmly with my partner.”
Think of the healthy, loving relationship you’re moving toward, not the unhealthy patterns you’d like to escape. For instance, rather than dreading your partner’s arrival from work each day, make a goal of being excited to see them when they walk through the door.
3. Expect to hear a different story from your partner
Your partner likely experiences your relationship troubles differently than you. Make room for your partner’s experience. Before you walk into that first couples therapy session, put yourself in a mindframe that seeks to understand.
Commit to keeping an open, loving mind. Don’t try to convince the therapist who’s version is right or wrong. Remember, you and your partner are both there because you want your relationship to work.
4. Prepare to share your family history
Most therapists want to delve into family-of-origin relationships and experiences. Don’t be caught off-guard when asked about your parents’ marriage, your relationship with them and how you and your siblings interacted.
What we experience as children often forms a model for how we interact with friends, family and intimate partners as adults.
5. Be vulnerable
You’re probably going to hear things from your partner and therapist that upset you and/or trigger you. Remember that your partner is experiencing the same feelings.
Commit to being open and transparent. Once you and your partner share your truths, the healing can begin.
The therapist is there to keep you on course and safe.
BONUS: Trust the Couples Therapy process
I promised a bonus and here it is: Trust the process.
Please trust the couples therapy process. Give it time. Don’t expect all your relationship problems to be fixed immediately. After all, it took a long time to get where you are.
But here’s the good news, you are beginning the couples therapy process. You have help. You have a partner who cares enough to join you in healing. Be thankful for the chance you have to fix your relationship and feel excited, once again, to see your partner walk through the door.