What You Should Know about Couples Counseling

One of the most popular forms of counseling offered by Westmont Family Counseling Ministries is couples counseling, which helps committed couples work on issues in their relationship so that they are happier together. What’s more, it’s usually covered by health insurance. Here’s more about what you should know when considering couples counseling.

Who can benefit from couples counseling?

Couples counseling can benefit any couple – same-sex, heterosexual, married, or unmarried – who wishes to work on relationship problems and find a healthier way of being together. WFCM is proud to serve couples of all kinds.

Just about any couple can find themselves in need of counseling, but it is more often needed by couples who are coping with external factors that put stress on their relationship – for example, military couples coping with PTSD; couples who are parenting, especially parents of children who have special needs, or physical or mental health issues; or blended families.

What does it mean when couples counseling is successful?

Most people think that couples counseling is only successful when it has a positive outcome – that is, when the couple stays together. But it is not the therapist’s job to save the relationship. Rather, it is the therapist’s goal to help the partners see how they have contributed to the problems in the relationship and find new, healthier ways of interacting.

Sometimes, though, couples counseling helps a couple realize that they would be happier apart. This can also be considered a successful outcome, because it gives the partners the information they need to move forward with their lives in a healthy way. Counseling can also help a couple who has reached this point make an amiable split, which is especially important if they have children.

How does couples counseling work?

Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT for short) is a commonly-used therapeutic approach that helps the partners in a couple break negative patterns in their emotional responses to each other, with the goal of establishing a better attachment between them. This is a contrast to some forms of couples therapy that focuses on changing behavior, rather than emotional responses. If emotional responses are more positive, it follows naturally that behavioral patterns improve too.

Typically, a therapist will begin by asking for information about the couple’s history together, and the nature of the problems they’re experiencing. The couple’s cultural background and values will also be discussed.

The therapist will then help the couple create goals for the therapy, and explain the therapeutic process. Sometimes a therapist will assign “homework” for the couple to work on together outside of therapy sessions. It’s important to realize that counseling is hard work and won’t always be comfortable. Partners must be committed to each other and to the process for counseling to be effective.

What factors might prevent couples counseling from being effective?

Often, partners in a relationship come to their first counseling session with a list of complaints about each other, with the expectation that the therapist will validate their complaints and tell their partners to change. These complaints are often reasonable, and worthy of discussion as part of the overall counseling process. But for counseling to work, both partners must be willing to accept their part in the relational problems, and be open to working together and to compromise. In short, partners must be willing to become more self-aware, and also to be emotionally vulnerable.

Individual counseling for one or both partners can often be helpful, especially if substance abuse and/or mental illness play a role in the couple’s issues. But if there is sustained physical or emotional abuse in a couple’s relationship, it is less likely that the couple will be able to stay together in a healthy way.

When should you seek couples counseling?

Counseling is more likely to be successful when the couple seeks help before problems become acute. If a couple waits too long, one partner may give up on the relationship and be much less willing to try, or problems may become so entrenched that the couple is unable to form new patterns of interacting.

Some of the most common reasons couples seek counseling include:

    • Constant fighting or bickering/problems resolving conflicts
    • Disagreements about major life issues such as whether to have children, how to parent, how to spend or save money, and so on
    • Infidelity by one or both partners
    • Issues relating to physical or emotional intimacy
    • Serious problems communicating

About couples counseling at WFCM

Westmont Family Counseling Ministries has helped many, many couples of all descriptions in the 30 years since we opened our doors. We have capable therapists who are experienced in couples therapy, and will work hard to match you with a therapist with whom you’ll feel comfortable. Get in touch today to learn more about our services.

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