What can I expect from the first couples counselling session?
Although the prospect may seem frightening, couples therapy allows you and your partner to explore issues in a safe space with someone impartial who can give you the guidance needed to overcome them.
If you are considering couples therapy but aren’t sure what to expect – don’t worry, here we touch on how to select a therapist that is right for you, and what to expect in your first session.
Click on a link to jump to that section:
Read what to expect from your first couples therapy session.
Find out how long your couples therapy sessions are likely to last.
Read our tips on choosing the right couples therapist for you.
Find out whether you need to prepare for a couples therapy session.
We answer frequently asked questions on going to your first couples counselling sessions.
What happens in your first couples counselling session?
During your first couples therapy session, both you and your partner will be asked in turn to outline the relationship problems that have brought you along to the session, your goals for counselling, the potential obstacles to these goals and any worries or concerns that you have about the process. During this initial session your therapist will also give you some initial information about what you can expect from couples therapy.
It is crucial to be completely honest in your first session. You may not be used to answering such personal questions, but do not be embarrassed about whatever issues you bring up – it is the job of a therapist to understand you.
How long is a couples therapy session?
Sessions can vary in length depending on the therapist. Many therapists provide sessions that last fifty minutes, such as The British CBT & Counselling Service. Sessions that last just under an hour allow you to make the most out of a session without having too much information to retain.
What to consider when choosing a couples counsellor
Like individual therapists, couples counsellors practice a wide variety of therapeutic styles, and are trained to advise you on what techniques will be best for you. We do, however, recommend finding a therapist who has experience in couples counselling. Some of the common types that your therapist may offer include:
- Emotionally focused: dealing primarily with the underlying emotions behind relationship issues, rather than ‘rational’ or tangible issues.
- Solution focused: primarily for couples with a distinct and singular problem, SFT allows couples to discuss freely one particular issue in practical, solution-focused terms.
- Imago: much of Imago therapy is focused on each partner’s childhood conceptions of love, using emotional discourse to uncover the hidden catalysts behind issues in order to solve them more effectively.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy: while more often associated with individual therapy, CBT is also an effective method of couples counselling that focuses on teaching mechanisms to understand, control, and ultimately overcome negative thoughts.
- Gottman: the Gottman method involves an in-depth pre-session assessment which allows the therapist to tailor a solution program based on the collected data.
- Positive psychology: as the name suggests, positive psychology aims to teach and encourage positive solutions to issues, offering couples the chance to identify what they believe are the best areas of their relationship.
- Eye movement desensitisation: used in a variety of therapeutic environments, EMD uses bilateral stimulation to overcome negative memories and promote positive memory storage.
You may also want to consider whether you want to try online therapy or in-person therapy. While many people have had to choose online therapy due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is often a preferable option for a variety of reasons. The British CBT & Counselling Service offer an online avenue that allows couples who are homebound or in different locations an opportunity to discuss their issues. You may even simply feel more comfortable with this option. Find out more about online therapy here.
Find out more about choosing a couples therapist in our guide Is couples counselling worth it?
Preparing for a couples counselling session
Although, in theory, counselling should be spontaneous, many people have difficulty opening up on their emotions without some preparation. It can often be helpful to make a list of things you either do or do not wish to discuss, and to communicate that list to your therapist beforehand.
You may also want to discuss with your partner what broader issues you want to explore and ensure that you are both comfortable with them. Being honest with each other before a session may put you on a good path for the therapy session ahead.
Be prepared to answer some questions that you may never have been asked before. Your counsellor will explore questions of trust, commitment, and any other issues you are dealing with. While we do not recommend preparing a scripted answer beforehand, thinking about what you may want to discuss can be helpful.
Finding a therapist
If you and your partner are considering counselling, the British CBT and Counselling Service can offer you a wide variety of treatment options to suit your unique needs. Our team of experienced counsellors are qualified to practice many different strategies, with experience dealing with countless different relationship issues. If you wish to find out more, get in touch today.
You can also read more about our couples therapy service here.
Frequently asked questions
Can counselling help a broken relationship?
If you choose to go into therapy with an open mind and willingness to improve your relationship, therapy gives you the opportunity to explore your issues safely and provide tools to overcome them.
Should couples see the same therapist?
If you and your partner’s goal is to solve issues in your relationship, then seeing the same therapist is often the best option. This allows the counsellor to develop a clearer image of the problems in the relationship (and your own issues), therefore creating far more effective strategies for you both.
Will couples therapy save your marriage?
Couples therapy is about giving you and your partner the ability to heal your marriage yourselves. Both of you must enter into the sessions wanting your marriage to succeed.
How many marriages survive after counselling?
Current studies put the success rate of couples therapy at around 70%.
Can couples therapy promote healthy attachment?
Yes, exploring relationship issues with your partner within a therapeutic space is conducive to the promotion of healthy attachment.
Is couples therapy worth it?