When do you know you are ready for couples counseling?

You are having marriage issues. You constantly argue and fight with your spouse. It just seems like a loveless relationship and you are starting to question why you would willingly submit yourself to this distress. The solution seems obvious; we need to go to couples counseling. Before you jump to this conclusion of seeking couples counseling, I wanted to address a few things that will let you know if this is the appropriate next step.

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So, what is couples counseling? As the name implies, this is counseling addressed at working through intimate partner relationship issues. The purpose of couples counseling is to help partners work through their challenges and build a healthy relationship together.This is not exclusive to just married couples as it could be beneficial for any romantic pairing from dating to engagement. Premarital counseling can be a vital asset for a couple to better understand each other and prepare them for a lifelong successful relationship. It can provide a solid foundation and set realistic expectations for a marriage to thrive. The reality is that people change as the years go by and some additional support can be really helpful in learning how to evolve and grow together.

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Let’s define what couples counseling is NOT. Contrary to popular belief, couples therapy is not trying to convince your therapist why you are more right while your partner is wrong.I jokingly say that the last thing I need is to have a Jerry Springer show in my office! I can see why the hurt partner would want to feel vindicated and place the responsibility of change on their partner but it is rarely helpful. As a therapist, I see the couple as one unit and team so I treat them as such. There are two unique people in the room but my role is not to take sides while ganging up on the other partner. The reality is that there is responsibility for change on both parties and that is the more important thing to discuss. If the pain for an individual is too great to get to a place of talking about moving forward, then I would recommend seeking individual therapy first to sort those things out.

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Couples therapy is for people who want healthier and happier marriages/relationships. It is a place to identify common goals for their relationship and work toward achieving them. Couples therapy allows an emotionally safe place to share vulnerabilities, fears, and hopes so that both people can get on the same page. It is finding new ways of being and communicating. Through the process, there may be new insights and discoveries about past hurts that have disguised themselves as problems within the relationship. Sometimes we can figure out the core needs and issues that are not being addressed properly in the relationship and begin doing something about it. I wished couples did NOT use couples counseling as a last stop but sometimes the pain and the gravity of the situation is what it took to motivate them to get the needed support. I really respect couples who are not in crisis but appreciate the “tune up” in couples therapy to make their relationship go from good to great!

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After reading this blog entry, you may want to take some time to evaluate if couples counseling is the next step for you. There are times when each partner is seeking individual therapy while coming together with another therapist to do couples therapy as well. If you are still unclear, I would usually recommend seeking individual counseling first to get more clarification about your concerns and then collaboratively decide to see whether couples counseling should be included at this time.

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