If you are considering marriage or couples counseling, you might be wondering:
- “Can a marriage counselor really help?”
- “What, exactly, is a marriage counseling session like?”
- “What if we start fighting in front of the therapist?”
I have worked with hundreds of couples in my time as a therapist, and I’ve been in the room for a lot of sessions.
Here are a few things you can expect:
1. You Might Experience Anger
In your first marriage counseling session, don’t be surprised if hot emotions rise to the surface quickly. It’s possible that you’ll experience anger within a few minutes of the start of a session.
Your partner will be sitting next to you, and you’ll probably hear him or her tell the therapist things you feel are inaccurate. You might even feel the need to confront your partner with some anger.
Your partner, too, may feel angry about some of the things you say, and might feel the need to confront you as well.
This is a scary thought for many people. They are worried they’ll be embarrassed in front of the counselor.
I want to set your mind at ease on this point. Therapists see this all the time, which brings me to the next point:
2. Your Marriage Counselor Will Know What to Do
Caring, empathetic therapists know that marriage counseling can be volatile and that emotions often run high right from the start of the first session.
If you’re worried about what might happen if you and your partner will become hostile in front of a marriage counselor, I want you set your mind at ease.
Therapists are trained to handle situations like these. We have the skills to quickly engage with you and your partner in a way that restores a sense of calm and confidence in the room.
I often tell couples, “You can fight at home for free. But you’ve come here so I can help you stop the fighting and rekindle some friendship and tenderness. Let me jump in, because I’m confident I can help.”
3. A Marriage Counselor Can Help Each of You Find Your Voice
When a counselor intervenes to diffuse a brewing conflict, he or she will work to help you both find your voice—not an angry voice that pushes you further apart—but a vulnerable voice that draws you back together. Done right, it will help you restore the sense of connection and belonging in your marriage.
When I work with couples, this is what we work on most during the first few sessions. That way each of you will have a way of talk to each other that invites care and compassion, instead of attacks.
Over time, by practicing new skills learned in the counseling session, most couples quickly learn to speak openly but kindly with each other.
Once that is in place, then we can start solving the long-standing issues and fights in the couple, because now we can do it from a place of understanding and compassion, instead of from a place of anger and conflict.
In short, yes, marriage counseling can help you. The first session can start with a bang, with emotions high and the feelings of conflict and anger threatening to boil over in the first few minutes.
But then the skill and experience of your marriage counselor will begin to change things. You’ll find new ways to communicate, and that will lay the groundwork for the deeper work you’ll need to do with your partner as your counseling moves forward.
If the time is right for you and your partner to begin couples counseling, we’re ready to help.