"Make The Most of Couple Therapy"

You may be seeking couple therapy for many different reasons: to prepare for a strong marriage, to pursue relationship growth and enrichment, or to deal with mild to serious relationship problems. You want to experience the joys of a truly loving relationship but aren’t sure how to get there or where you got off track. Whatever your need, it is important that you receive the maximum benefit from this investment in your relationship.

Here are some ground rules for success:

  • Ask God to direct your journey

God is all about relationship and hope. Whether you seek to establish, grow, or heal your marriage, invite God to guide and direct your path to a more loving, fulfilling relationship.

  • Have a little faith—trust the process

Couple therapy has helped establish and sustain many marriages but like many things in life, it requires a little faith on your part in order to succeed. Couples who fully commit to and engage in the therapy process—believing that their relationship can change—experience a higher rate of success.

  • Acknowledge your partner’s reality

Healthy couples are open to being influenced by their partner's input and perspective. Each of us feels convinced that the way we see things is the true and right perspective. The truth is that we each see things through the lens of our own unique personality and experience. Your partner needs you to acknowledge their reality--even when you disagree with it. They may even be seeing things you are missing.

  • You change you

Perhaps you have come to therapy hoping to find an ally to help change your partner. However, couple therapy is most fruitful when each partner commits to understanding and changing their own contribution to the problem. Also, not all couples are ready for couple therapy. Sometimes one or both partners need individual therapy to address personal issues affecting the relationship. Often a blend of individual therapy (for one or both partners) and couple therapy is necessary to address problem areas successfully. Your therapist will work with you to assess your particular needs.

  • Create a vision

Work to develop a vision for your marriage. You will not likely reach a goal that is unclear. How does each of you define a fulfilling, happy relationship? How do you define your problem areas and which ones are solvable? Your therapist can collaborate with you to develop a clear vision for your relationship and find a path toward its fulfillment.

  • Fight at home

Toxic, injurious interactions in therapy are counterproductive and help no one! Most therapists will intervene to limit such exchanges in treatment and may even choose to terminate toxic sessions if necessary. Embrace new ways to engage in and resolve conflict.

  • Stop using or tolerating violence

Getting violent anger under control is a priority in any relationship. Domestic Violence (DV) is never acceptable and never solves problems. No one should remain in a dangerous situation. This is especially true when children are involved. Couple DV that takes place in the presence of children may be reportable as child abuse.

  • Know your therapist’s “secrets” policy

In the process of couple therapy you may have individual sessions or phone contact during which you divulge material unknown to your partner. Most therapists have a carefully thought out policy about how they handle such revelations. Ask your therapist how they handle these situations.

  • Risk honesty

Honesty can feel risky but little is accomplished in therapy when one or both partners are unwilling to bring their whole truth to the table. Practicing honest self-disclosure is an important part of developing a satisfying and authentic intimate relationship.

  • Take it home

Practice what you learn in therapy during the week. If your therapist gives you exercises, recommends books, or refers you outside resources, take these recommendations seriously and try them. Tell your therapist what was helpful and what did not work.

  • Notice & celebrate little successes!

Therapy is a place to celebrate successes, find encouragement, and build important momentum needed to institute lasting change. Focus on, verbalize, and celebrate any positive changes--even small ones--you begin to notice in yourself, your partner, and your interactions.

COPYRIGHT JOHN D. DEYO 2008

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