Before your first couples therapy session, you can expect to fill out paperwork. In the first session, there will be an intake assessment, ranging between 1-2 hours or spread over more than one session. Unless otherwise specified by the therapist, both parties in the relationship will attend. Some counselors complete the initial session with the couple and then have each individual come in separately.
How to Prepare for Couples Counseling
To prepare for couples counseling, be ready to answer lots of questions. The more detail the counselor has to work with, the better they can assess how they can help. It is important that the counselor discusses the different intersections of each person’s identity to better understand their experience and how they should adapt any marital and couples counseling interventions.
Expect your counselor to explore these types of intersections of identity:
Preference for monogamy/non-monogamy
It’s also likely that your counselor will ask about you and your partner’s sex life, which is one facet of your relationship. Ultimately, they should let you make decisions about what, when, and why sexual issues are addressed in counseling, but be prepared to discuss it during intake.
Individual Sessions Within Couples & Marriage Counseling
There are circumstances when marital and couple counseling will combine individual or family counseling sessions beyond the initial intake. This may be initiated by you or the counselor. When and why may vary depending on the couple, the problem being addressed, and the therapeutic orientation of the counselor.
Participating in separate counseling sessions can help the counselor see other perspectives or gain momentum if progress is “stuck.” Individual sessions as part of couple counseling are usually a short-term arrangement and should not overshadow the goals of the couple counseling sessions.
Before individual sessions are arranged, the counselor will have a conversation with the couple to ensure they’re comfortable. The counselor will also discuss their limits of confidentiality. They will not give the other partner a report of what was said by their partner; however, they generally reserve the right to talk openly about anything relevant in future couple sessions.
Marital and couples counseling can be a helpful and worthwhile investment for couples who want to improve their relationship. Remember that what works for one couple may or may not work for you, and making progress in counseling depends greatly not just on the therapy process but also on your level of commitment to make changes and improvements long term.