Marriage counseling: For two people in a relationship-and perhaps to anyone who's the least bit interested in popular culture-those two words can seem loaded with a foreboding future. The term is often seen as a last resort, a Hail Mary pass toward possible happier times. вЂњIf we grit our teeth and sit on opposite ends of a couch in front of a stranger, maybe things will get better,вЂќ this type of consensus says, but that's not necessarily the case. According to Alysha Jeney, the founder and relationship expert behind Modern Love Counseling, the majority of couples who schedule sessions in her office are doing fine.
вЂњI'd say that about 70% of my couples are actually seeking me out for more 'preventative' and 'enhancement' counseling to boost their already great relationship,вЂќ she notes. вЂњRelationship counseling can help any partnership. It offers a safe space to discuss difficult or uncomfortable topics openly, can help clarify certain assumptions or expectations, and can enhance emotional and sexual intimacy.вЂќ
Jeney refers to the idea that marriage counseling should be used only during difficult person as a вЂњcommon misconception,вЂќ although she understands why the stigma exists. вЂњMany of us didn't learn how to effectively emote, communicate, or work together in an intimate partnership,вЂќ she continues. So when things can get heated-or when we're not sure how to approach a difficult situation-it's easy to feel as if we're failures in our relationships. You can probably thank pop culture for that assessment, too.
вЂњThere is no such thing as a perfect relationship,вЂќ Jeney says. вЂњRegardless of marital status, how often we have sex, or how good we are at communicating, we are all humans with stressors, insecurities, and demands that often get in the way of our ability to show up for each other all the time.вЂќ
So let's say that you want to take a proactive stance toward the health of your relationship, or perhaps you've noticed some cracks that you want to address now. Jeney agrees that making the call to a therapist is still intimidating, so she's providing some insight into what to expect. Here's everything you need to know to go in order to go about finding a marriage therapist-or really, any type of relationship therapist-and how to make the most of your time on the couch. There's no need to grin and bear it, either, since this will likely be a more positive experience than the average consensus has led us to believe.
вЂњThere is no shame in needing some additional tools to learn how to effectively support yourself and your partner for long-term fulfillment,вЂќ Jeney says. вЂњLike anything, this is a learning process that may possibly be the best investment you have ever made for yourself and your relationships. I know it was for me.вЂќ
Step One: Find a Therapist Who Makes You Comfortable@waityouneedthis
вЂњIt's highly important to shop around for the 'right' therapist,вЂќ Jeney says. вЂњEvery therapist is different because every therapist has a certain expertise and a different style.вЂќ
вЂњFirst, the best practice is to ask family members and friends to see if they have any recommendations,вЂќ she continues. вЂњAnother option is to search online for your specific need and try to be as specific as possible. Once you've selected a few options in your area, you can call the therapists directly and ask for a free consultation. A free consult allows you to meet with your potential therapist and ask any questions about their practice, beliefs, and style that can be helpful in making your decision.вЂќ
Step Two: Prepare for the First Sessions@waityouneedthis
вЂњIt's important to mention that every therapist's process is different,вЂќ Jeney says. вЂњIf a couple is working with me, they can anticipate our first session to initially cover the informed consent rules, which cover policies, expectations, legalities, and the ethics of our relationship. Once partners have agreed and signed, we can switch gears and discuss the 'why' of their attendance. We discuss goals and desires, as well as what areas of their relationship they are wanting to enhance or change. I also prompt questions around conflict and conflict resolution, to assess what their communication and conflict style looks like.вЂќ
вЂњMoving forward, couples can expect to meet with me one time separately, where we discuss more individual content, such as family background, history, conflict style, current stressors, and their perceptions of their relationship,вЂќ she continues. вЂњAfter that second session, we meet weekly as the three of us work toward the goals we set in our initial sessions.вЂќ
вЂњClients are welcome to bring content into session to discuss,вЂќ she says. вЂњHowever, as the therapist, I direct the sessions and help couples slow down communication and become more self-aware of their emotions, body language, and covert communication. We'll also discuss certain topics on a more vulnerable level and help create the speed and safety needed to open up to each other more intimately.вЂќ
Step Three: Make the Most of Your Sessions@saasha_burns
Know what you want from this experience. вЂњIt is incredibly helpful for you both, as well as for your therapist, to understand exactly what it is that you're trying to achieve in your counseling,вЂќ she says. вЂњThis helps you all identify expectations, create realistic goals, and allows you and your partner to feel as though you are on the same page, or at least at an understanding.вЂќ
Be vulnerable. вЂњWithout vulnerability, change, and growth are not possible in counseling,вЂќ she says. вЂњIf you're unable to break down your walls, it may be a good indicator that individual therapy can be a helpful resource.вЂќ
Be honest. вЂњYou may be nervous initially to express your needs, feelings, or thoughts, but try to remember that those components are why you are in therapy,вЂќ Jeney continues. вЂњPart of working through things with the therapist's support is to allow yourself to be fully transparent. You may find that it's not as scary as you have chalked it up to be.вЂќ
Be uncomfortable. вЂњChange is uncomfortable, and exposing yourself differently is uncomfortable,вЂќ she says. вЂњNo one feels super confident going outside of their comfort zones initially, but by allowing yourself the space to work through discomfort, you will find a lot of your growth.вЂќ
Be patient. вЂњThe process of change is not only uncomfortable, but it is also slow moving,вЂќ Jeney adds. вЂњBeing patient with the process, yourself, and your partner is a necessity to build on your foundation in a safe way. This will promote healthy growth and change.вЂќ