Great Questions to Ask in Couples Counseling
Couples counseling can be intense and scary. Many people wait too long to get help because of the unknowns they have and the uncertainty they feel toward counseling. Knowing the right questions to ask and what to expect can make a world of difference.
I have many couples who walk into my office feeling anxious because they believe they are going to have to talk about hard things. They don’t want to fight anymore. When they walk in, they are already on edge. You may be feeling the same thing. Let’s explore questions that might help you have a better understanding of how therapy will go. We will discuss great questions to ask in couples counseling to help you feel more secure and confident your counselor can help you.
Questions Couples Ask Me In Therapy
- How long will therapy last?
- What is the process like?
- Will you be neutral?
- Will there be work given to do outside of therapy?
- Can you help us?
- What methods do you use?
- Does therapy work?
- Can we find happiness again?
- Is the focus of couples counseling only going to be on one person?
- Should we talk about our issues at home?
- Is it worth it to keep trying or are we too far gone?
- Will I ever stop feeling worried that my spouse might betray me again?
How long will therapy last?
It is difficult to tell you how long marriage counseling or couples counseling will last. The answer is usually, “It depends.” The reason that we cannot determine how long therapy will last is that you are unique and your relationship is unique. You bring similar problems that other couples bring, but that does not mean you will work through them at the same rate. However, we do have a process for how we work through your concerns. We will talk about that in the next question. Most couples counselors have a plan that includes a certain amount of sessions, usually 6 to 10 sessions. But depending on the severity of your relationship concerns, the process could be longer or shorter.
In couples counseling, we like to ensure our clients that we will keep them informed and up to date on the process. We like to start by focusing on the first 4 to 6 sessions and then reassessing to see where we are at. If we need more sessions, we will talk about that with you and determine how many you want to do before reassessing. It is important to us that we continually take time to reassess and make sure we are making progress on our preferred goals.
What is the process of couples counseling like?
The process of couples counseling starts with an intake. We need to know who you are first. We need to know the specific concerns, your history, and what strengths and tools you already have. It’s important to get a good understanding of the obstacles that could be hindering progress. Your goals and your motivations are important to understand so we know how to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
After the intake, we will set a list of goals and work on a plan to reach those goals with you. Each additional session will be focused on the detailed plan. Reassessing if we are on track or if our plan is working is a regular task to keep us moving forward.
Different methods of helping you meet your goals and overcome your problems will be used throughout each session. Skill building, practicing skills, reframing thoughts and perspectives, setting boundaries, and helping you process trauma or hurt can all be part of the sessions you attend. As we continually check the progress of our plan and goals, we will continually be able to see how much more work is needed. As we complete each goal, we will give you more freedom to use the skills you have learned in order to mature in the process of taking over the process for yourself. The final session is a discharge session that reviews your goals and your skills. We will reinforce what you have learned and encourage you in your ability to take the reigns from there.
Will you be neutral?
This question gets us every time. There are two sides to this concern. Neutrality is important, but neutrality is hard to express when you are working on an individual part of the marriage or relationship system you are in. Remember, couples are 2 in 1. We can be neutral to the system, but it’s important to work on the individual parts of the system. Mentally a couples therapist is very neutral. We focus on saving the marriage or the relationship! That does not mean we won’t do the hard part of focusing intensely on changing individual problems that a spouse or partner has that could be disrupting the health of the system as a whole.
We acknowledge that both partners play a role in the relationship. Thus, both partners are probably playing out unhealthy roles. Actions on both parts may need to be changed. However, it would be wrong and naive to think that both people are just as problematic. It is our experience that one or the other partner performs worse in the relationship at different points through the couple’s time together. Are you the one that is causing more of the problem in the system at this point? Could be! Self-reflection is critical. Just know though that we are non-judgemental! We do not condemn you. We all have struggles that we need to work on.
Will there be work to do outside of therapy?
Many couples ask if therapy will involve work outside of the sessions. The short answer: we provide “homework.” In your session, a lot of mental and emotional work is being done through processing, learning new skills, and reframing perspectives. However, implementation of new skills and changing the behaviors and habits that have been part of your negative pattern are important too. It is not usually possible to change all of that in a 45 to 50-minute therapy session.
Practicing skills, journaling about what you felt or thought when negative events happen, and trying out new behaviors can be great ways to build positive momentum toward your relationship goals. You will practice some in the session and certainly be prompted to try new behaviors, but continuing this process outside of the session is pivotal to cementing new, healthy behaviors. There are many ways that couples counselors help you to change your dynamics within and outside of the therapy session.
Can you help us with the issues we have?
This question is very common. All clients wonder if counseling can really help them. We believe in the counseling PROCESS. It is definitely a process. One session could do wonders. Or it could stir up lots of negative emotions. We just always know how the process is going to play out. Do expect to get help! Especially if you are invested in change and growth individually and relationally. However, don’t expect it always to be easy.
Change takes time. So use that time wisely by learning the process for healing and growth. Then implement the process to help you as a couple move towards a healthier relationship. Couples Counselors have been trained in healthy relationship dynamics and know what it takes to have a healthy connection. Lean on them and do what they encourage. They are human and can make mistakes. If you don’t feel like something they are asking you to do is correct, process that with them to see what their reasoning is. Therapy at the very least can help you get more insight and perspective that you otherwise do not have. Seeing outside of your own perspective always helps!
What methods do you use?
We use a lot of different methods to help the couples that come see us. We use Gottman Therapy resources, Emotionally Focused Therapy resources, Systems Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Intensive Family Intervention resources, Imago Therapy, and more. We blend these great perspectives and methods with Christian and Biblical principles about marriage. Our foundation is for everything to line up with a Biblical view of marriage.
There are many different ways that counselors work. We teach skills and process your concerns. We use the therapies and theories above to help us when we see how they might fit into the therapy process when something you are struggling with fits with a certain therapy. Feel free to read up on the different theories above as they will help you when you come to counseling understand what your couples counselor is thinking.
Does therapy work?
The answer to this question is similar to the answer to the question “Can you help us?” Again the simple answer is “Yes!” It works. We have seen many couples and individuals get healthier and meet their goals. Therapy again is a process and may take time depending on the severity of the concerns a couple is bringing to the office. If you stick with it and work hard to meet your goals, you will see great results!
It seems that hard work and self-reflection are correlated with good outcomes in therapy. Don’t let yourself quit on something you really want. A healthy, loving, and connected marriage is worth every ounce of effort you put into it!
Can we find happiness again?
Happiness is an interesting concept. Some people say happiness is a choice. Finding happiness in your relationship is possible, but maybe shouldn’t be the goal. Happiness seems to happen when everything is going well. How often does everything go right? I encourage you to focus on Joy. One can be joyful and enjoy life without being happy.
However, if you are looking for happiness, I believe you can find many new MOMENTS of happiness as you go through the process of healing. As you grow you will see things from a different perspective and learn to focus on the good and not so much on the bad. You will look to what you can control and not get so caught up in what you can’t. You will learn to forgive and set healthy boundaries. These things will help you find an ability to see things from a positive perspective while learning to laugh and enjoy one another again.
Is the focus of couples counseling only on one person or both people?
Marriage counselors and couples counselors work to stay neutral in the therapy room. We let the couple know that the client in a couples counseling session is the couple’s relationship. The focus is always on trying to help the relationship between the two spouses or partners to move towards a healthier bond. So the therapist stands neutral because the focus is not necessarily on the individuals.
However, because we are focused on healing the relationship and making it as healthy as possible, a focus on the individual’s contributions is necessary. To have a healthy relationship, the two individuals involved in that relationship must work on themselves and what they bring to the relationship. So, although the therapist strives to be neutral, there are times in the counseling session when the focus may be on one of the individual’s behaviors that might be hurting the relationship. This focus may feel one-sided. Please remember that the individuals in the relationship bear responsibility for the contribution they bring to the relationship. These behaviors must be shifted to transform the relationship into a more positive, affirming, and loving one.
Should we talk about our issues at home?
When couples come to counseling, they usually do not communicate well or feel hurt and resentful of each other. For those couples, communicating about your issues at home may be difficult and cause more harm. There are some couples that come in and have already done a lot of work on their relationships, so they would be encouraged to continue that work in and outside of sessions.
Couples are welcome to try to talk about things at home, but it is important to not increase harm to the relationship. In counseling, you will be taught how to communicate, how to create boundaries in your relationship, and how to resolve your differences to give you the ability to talk about your issues at home. As you learn in session to talk through tough emotions and deep hurt, you will be more equipped to do this outside of the session. Your therapist will help provide activities outside of the session to grow your ability to talk about your issues when not with your therapist.
This does not mean you cannot enjoy affection and a conversation at home. Please feel free to talk and relate around things that don’t cause more hurt and fighting. Show lots of love and gentle displays of affection.
Is it worth it to keep trying to stay together or are we too far gone?
We believe it is always worth it to work to stay together. We are not able to guarantee you it will work out. No one can tell you if it is best for you to stay. You will have to determine that for yourself. However, talking to a couples counselor can help you have a better perspective on your situation. They can assess your relationship more deeply and professionally to give you a thorough understanding of what is happening.
It is our belief that it is more likely that if you as an individual in your relationship are willing to take the risk to work through the pain and heal, your relationship can be better than before. However, many may not want to work so long and hard on their relationship for only the possibility of a better relationship. Yet, those who do will likely feel grateful they stuck it out.
In the case of affairs or abuse, we do not believe that it is always beneficial to stay together because we can’t predict the offending partner’s acceptance of their responsibility and willingness to change. No one should be subjected to abuse or betrayal. However, this is still a choice. We believe that if you stay and give your partner a chance and set healthy boundaries, there is a great possibility to build a better, healthier relationship. It is not a guarantee, but at the very least, it would be beneficial to take the first step to get the perspective of a trained therapist.
Will I ever stop feeling worried that my spouse might betray me again?
It is hard for us to answer this question. There are many factors that affect this outcome. Is your partner truly remorseful, repentant, and actively participating in your healing process? Are you willing to forgive and be a part of the process of trusting them again? Are healthy boundaries created to make sure that the type of relationship that you had before does not continue?
It’s important to change your relationship and the habitual behaviors that brought you all to this point. Both people play a role in the system of the current relationship. However, the choice to betray is exactly that, a choice! We do not blame the victim for the betrayal. We ask the victim to assess how they played a role in the relationship that wasn’t healthy in the first place. We ask the betrayer to own the responsibility for the choice to not love their spouse in the moments they were betraying them.
These are only a handful of all the questions that get asked at the beginning of couples counseling. The point is that we want your questions to be answered. We want you to feel comfortable with your therapist. You deserve to understand what counseling is about. It’s important that you continue to ask questions that will help you learn how to have a healthy relationship. Don’t give up! If you have any further questions, please email or call us! We want to help. The best step you can take is to set up a session with a Couple Counselor.