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Alcohol & Addiction Recovery

Couples Counseling

Dr. Howard C. Samuels, PsyD, LMFT

All couples face some conflicts and challenges, and resolving these issues alone can be difficult. Couples counseling provides a safe environment to work through your relationship problems with the help of an experienced, licensed therapist. According to a survey by MidAmerica Nazarene University, about half of married couples have attended marriage counseling, and about a quarter attended couples counseling before getting engaged or married. If you’re considering joining the millions of couples who have attended relationship counseling, you may be curious about what to expect, how to prepare, and whether or not it will work.

What Is Couples Counseling Like?

It’s normal to feel nervous about your first couples counseling session, especially if you’ve never seen a therapist before. The counselor is there to be a neutral third party and to help the two of you communicate about the struggles in your relationship.

Your first couples counseling session may start with a simple question like, “Why are you here?” Some people don’t know exactly what the problem in the relationship is, so figuring out the purpose of the therapy is their first step.

After discussing the problems or challenges in the relationship that brought you to therapy, some goals will be outlined for you and your partner. Here are some of the most common marriage counseling goals:

  • It’s normal to feel nervous about your first couples counseling session, especially if you’ve never seen a therapist before. The counselor is there to be a neutral third party and to help the two of you communicate about the struggles in your relationship.
  • Your first couples counseling session may start with a simple question like, “Why are you here?” Some people don’t know exactly what the problem in the relationship is, so figuring out the purpose of the therapy is their first step.
  • After discussing the problems or challenges in the relationship that brought you to therapy, some goals will be outlined for you and your partner. Here are some of the most common marriage counseling goals:

In some cases, the therapy sessions will be conducted one-on-one in addition to sessions where both partners are present. This is not the case for every client, but you should be prepared for some one-on-one time if it is considered necessary.

Progress in couples counseling doesn’t just happen in your therapist’s office. The strategies and knowledge you gain during your therapy sessions need to be applied to your daily life, so you will receive “homework assignments” for you and your partner to help reinforce what you’ve learned during the session.

How to Prepare for your First Session

The best thing you can do to prepare for your first session is make sure you and your partner are both committed to and invested in the counseling process. If one person is being dragged into the therapy session against their will, it will be difficult to make progress. Try to listen to your partner’s concerns with an open mind and come up with some shared goals to address during counseling.

Make sure your schedule is cleared for your couples counseling appointment. If possible, leave the rest of the day free after your first meeting to give yourself space to rest and process the session.

Is Couples Counseling Effective?

Research suggests that marriage counseling can be very effective for many couples. A study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that participants were significantly more satisfied with their relationships after going through emotionally-focused therapy, which is one of the most common approaches to couples counseling. A research review published in the same journal reports that couples counseling has a positive impact on 70 percent of couples who receive treatment.

Couples counseling will not save every relationship. In some cases, counseling helps couples come to terms with their irreconcilable differences and end the relationship in a healthy way. In other cases, the partners stay together but do not report significant changes. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though. Countless people have successfully used marriage counseling to improve their communication, strengthen their bond, and learn conflict resolution skills. Just like personal mental health and well-being, all relationships require work, and couples counseling can be a great tool.

Dr. Howard Samuels is a renowned clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist with years of counseling experience. If you’re looking for a couples therapist in the Los Angeles area, contact Dr. Samuels today to take the first step toward restoring your relationship.

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