Three Things You Can Expect from Your Couple Therapist

You and your partner have decided that you need couple therapy. There are probably so many feelings coursing through you. Seeking therapy for your relationship can be frightening, especially if you do not know what to expect. While you may not be able to anticipate exactly how the first sessions go, there are certain things that you and your partner should be able to expect from any couple therapist. Here are three important ones:

couple therapy infographic

Your therapist won’t take sides

The first thing you and your partner can expect is that your couple therapist will not take sides between you two. When a couple comes to therapy to improve their relationship, it is not two clients joining in the room, but one client. Who is that one client? It is the relationship. Rather than working for two different clients each session, your therapist is working for the relationship itself, and the relationship’s health, healing and growth are your therapist’s guiding goals. 

What this means is that, in some sense, there are no “sides” to take. Rather, there is a wealth of depth and perspective within each moment of the relationship – each argument and each connection – for your therapist to explore with you and your partner in order to bring that health, healing and growth along. Sometimes, your therapist may want to process an argument in the session. Sometimes, your therapist may purposefully encourage you to argue with your partner in session, in order to see your conflict styles and help you to communicate and support each other’s feelings better. However, even in these moments of arguing, neither of you should feel like your therapist is ignoring your voice, telling you that you are wrong or right or taking someone’s side. Rather, your therapist may bounce back and forth between hearing your and your partner’s voices, supporting and gently challenging both of you with the relationship’s health in mind.

Your therapist will take your lead on goals

As stated above, a couple therapist works for the relationship itself. Some couple therapists will meet a new couple completely neutral and open as to whether the relationship’s solution is separation or reconnection. Other couple therapists begin with the perspective that they are helping to provide reconnection specifically, and that separation is a last resort taken after all other options have been exhausted. You have every right to ask your new therapist for their own perspective when you do a consult, or in the first session.

Regardless of the perspective your therapist brings into your couple therapy, they ultimately should follow your lead. You can expect your couple therapist to uplift and respect your goals. Your couple therapist will not judge or deny your goals, nor impose their own ideas of a goal onto you. For example, you and your partner might say, “We want to work toward more peace and quiet in our relationship, ideally never fighting,” or you might say, “We are okay with arguing, but we want to do it without it spiralling so badly.” These are two very different goals, but when your therapist hears either one of them, they will look upon it with curiosity, value it and take it seriously. Your couple therapist is hired by you and is working for your relationship, and that means that your genuine goals matter.

Your therapist will take the role of a professional guide

Even if you know that your therapist won’t take sides, and will respect your genuine goals, there can still be nervousness about how your couple therapist will act in sessions. “What if they just sit and watch us argue for an hour?” “What if they tell us what to do when we didn’t ask to be told?” Rather than be just a listening ear, or an authoritative advice-giver, your couple therapist will take the role of a professional guide leading therapeutic conversations toward your relationship’s improvement. 

As a guide, your therapist will flow between supporting and stepping back, educating and learning, leading and following. If your therapist ever does take a moment to “lead,” it is leadership from beside you, moving toward the goals that you yourself selected in a way that feels supportive and helpful to you. As a professional, your therapist will be gathering meaning from all parts of the session’s flow, asking specific questions and endeavouring to help your relationship to bring itself more clarity, healing and connection.

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