Congratulations, you or you and your partner have taken steps towards relationship therapy!
If you’re feeling anxious about the first session, relax and res assured – anxiety is normal. After all, sharing personal details about your relationship is never easy. You may also be anticipating stress, if not pain, if old wounds are opened up and examined. Maybe you feel an element of defensiveness, as therapy will likely surface things that you find difficult to admit and discuss. There’s also the fear of the unknown: what if relationship therapy just makes things worse? For all your good intentions, therapy might point to Splitsville as the best option…
To help you get a better handle on the process, below are 6 things you and your partner can expect from relationship therapy. Knowing what to expect can help you manage the stress of seeking help. It can also help you and your partner better profit from the experience.
1. You can have relationship therapy separately at first, or purely on your own.
A lot of people seem to think that relationship therapy only works with both partners in the room at the same time, and this certainly doesn’t have to be the case. Many people decide to come on their own and their partner may join them in subsequent sessions, for other people they come on their own for the duration of therapy to work on their relationship issues.
Obviously your therapist can only work with whoever is attending sessions, so though it can be easier for some couples to have sessions separately (with the same therapist or different ones), it is advisable that for the best chance of successful therapy both of you attend together eventually, much as with family therapy.
2. You won’t be asked to immediately jump into the muck.
Most of the stress associated with relationship therapy when there are two of you is the thought that you have to ready yourself for battle. You know your partner has a list of complaints and hurts, and you believe the best thing to do is to be mentally (and at times physically!) prepared to receive these hits. If you’re feeling emotional pain yourself, you may even plan to hit back as hard as you get.
The idea that therapy is a battlefield is a misconception. In fact, the first order of business is to make you more comfortable, and less combative. Likely the nitty-gritty of your concerns won’t even be discussed during the first session; rapport building and initial assessments will be made first. If you want relationship therapy to really help you, spend your pre-session anxious energy carefully discerning what you want to achieve. This will help you better articulate your needs during the therapy itself.
3. You’ll feel uncomfortable.
Is the process of relationship therapy a pleasant experience? The straight answer is: it can be, but not always.
Great therapists know how to balance the positive and the negative, and certainly there’ll be moments when both of you will feel really good. Some therapists also know how to discuss things in a light, humorous way, allowing parties to save face while confronted with harsh realities. But expect moments when you’ll be asked to face your problems straight on.
There’ll be uncomfortable questions. Painful realisations. For instance you may discover that your careless words and/or actions have contributed to your partner’s depression. You may be asked to think about which is more important to you: your partner or your other priorities such as your friends or career. You may well be invited to look back at your childhood to find the roots of particular tendencies in order to move forward.
All these processes require a lot of openness, honesty and trust, but in the end most people see the value in having greater awareness and understanding of their situation.
4. The therapist will let you decide what to do.
Relationship therapists don’t generally dole out advice. And even if they did, applying your therapist’s recommendations remains your choice. At the end of the day it’s your life and you need to take personal responsibility for what will happen with your relationship.
The decision to stay together or break up, for example, is a decision only you two as a couple can make. The best thing a relationship therapist can do is ensure that any decision you make is an informed one. At the end of the day, you two are the ones who will live with the consequences of your choices. It’s up to you how you want to move forward.
5. It may take several sessions to help you with your concern.
A common question among those seeking relationship therapy is “how long does couples therapy take?” And this is a valid question, as therapy costs time, money, and emotional vulnerability. You want to make sure you’re making the right (or even most cost-effective) decision for your relationship.
The answer is: it depends, and the only way to know is to sit with your therapist during the assessment stage. Sometimes just one session can result in significant progress, progress that doesn’t require follow-up sessions. At times therapy takes several sessions. In fact, it’s not unusual for an initial estimate to change depending on how the process is progressing. You and the therapist can also decide to see you individually first before conducting conjoint therapy.
6. Therapists’ approaches vary.
You may have been referred to your therapist by friends who went through the same process. But this doesn’t mean that how your therapist handled your friends’ session will be the same as how he or she would handle yours. Sometimes, yes, there may be overlaps, especially if your therapist subscribes to a particular school of thought. But therapeutic plans are typically custom-fitted to the clients, so do expect variations.
For best results, just be open to the process and give every suggestion a fighting chance. If you feel strongly about a therapeutic approach (for instance, some people favour therapy that incorporates their religious beliefs), seek a therapist compatible with your needs and preferences. Different relationship therapists approach their profession differently and there is nothing wrong with making initial inquiries regarding therapeutic style.
If you’d like to inquire about relationship therapy options provided by P-Therapy, check out the P-Therapists’ profiles and contact them personally, make a booking on the site or email us at [email protected] The initial consultation is free. You can speak to up to three therapists of your choice in order to make the decision for you.
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