Want to Discover the SECRET to making the most of your relationship counselling? Please read on…
This valuable relationship therapy advice is adapted from an article written by renowned relationship experts, Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson of The Couples Institute, USA.
Most of the people who come to Marriage Works have very little, if any, knowledge of the couple therapy process, as they have never sought assistance for their relationship problems.
You are not alone!
Let us guide you with some insights and a few important tips on how you can get the most from our work together and how you can prepare for and maximise the value and benefits that you will get from our counselling sessions.
Goals and Objectives of Couples Therapy
The primary aim of Couples Therapy is to increase your knowledge about yourself, your partner, and the patterns of interaction between the two of you. Therapy becomes effective when you apply this new knowledge to break ineffective patterns and develop better ones.
The key tasks of Couples Therapy are to increase your clarity about:
- The kind of life you want to build together
- The kind of partner you aspire to be in order to build the kind of life and relationship you want to create
- Your individual blocks to becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be
- The skills and knowledge necessary to do the above tasks
Tips on How You Can Make the Most of Your Couples Therapy
Tip # 1: Determine Your Goals and Objectives
Take some time to think about your goals and what you want to achieve in coming to counselling.
Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to develop clarity about your relationship goals:
- What kind of life do you want to build together and individually?
- What kind of partner do you want to become so you can build the kind of life and relationship that is meaningful to you?
- What are your individual blocks to becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be?
- What skills and knowledge do you need to be able to do the above tasks?
You will notice that these questions are about zeroing in on what you need and value.
Tip #2: Focus on YOU
Interestingly, relationship counselling works best if you have more goals for yourself than your partner, so:
- Focus on changing yourself rather than changing your partner.
- Focus on learning something new and letting go of assumptions for your partner’s motives.
- Focus on improving your response to a problem.
How to Maximise the Value from Your Couples Therapy Sessions
In order to get the most from your Couples Therapy sessions, it is helpful to be aware of unproductive patterns so you know what to avoid when you go to your therapy sessions.
A common yet unproductive pattern in Couples Therapy is focusing on the problem that you have at the moment. This is a reactive (and mostly ineffective) approach to resolving issues.
The second unproductive pattern is when both of you come to the session saying, “I don’t know what to talk about, do you?” Although this blank slate approach may open some interesting doors, it is a hit or miss process.
The third common unproductive pattern is discussing your fights – whether it be the fight that you are in at the moment or the one that you had since your last session. Talking about these fights or arguments without considering a broader context of what you would like to learn from the experience is often an exercise in spinning your wheels.
Over time, repeating these unproductive patterns will only lead to the plaintive question, “Are we getting anywhere?”
A more powerful approach to Couples Therapy is for each person to do the following before each session:
- Reflect on your objectives for being in therapy.
- Think about your next step that supports or relates to your larger objectives for attaining the kind of relationship that you wish to create, or the partner that you aspire to become.
These reflections will require some effort, but keep in mind that your preparation will eventually pay high dividends.
Important Concepts for Couples Therapy and Relationships
The following concepts will help you identify areas of focus in our work and/or stimulate discussion between you and your partner between meetings. As you review these regularly, you will discover that your reflections and associations will begin to change. We recommend that you revisit these concepts often, as these will help keep you focused during our work.
Attitude is Key
When working towards improving your relationship, your attitude towards change is more important than the action you need to take. It is relatively easy to determine what to do and how to do it. The real challenge is getting yourself to actually do it.
Learning how to think differently about a problem is often more effective than thinking about what action you need to take.
The fact is, your partner is limited in his or her ability to respond to you and vice versa. Accepting this fact is a huge step towards maturity.
There is a definite possibility that you have flawed assumptions about your partner’s motives and that he or she also has flawed assumptions about yours. The problem is, most of the time, we refuse to believe that those assumptions are flawed.
Focus on Changing Yourself Rather Than Changing Your Partner
Couples Therapy works best if you set more goals for yourself than for your partner. While it is human nature to want to change one’s partner instead of adjusting our expectations, having this mindset often leads to problems among couples, especially when things do not turn out as they expected or hoped.
The most difficult challenge in Couples Therapy is learning to accept that you need to improve how you respond to a problem (how you think or feel and what you do about it). Very few people want to focus on improving their response. It’s more common to build a strong case for why the other should do the improving. However, keep in mind that you can’t change your partner and your partner can’t change you. But YOU can change you.
If this sounds like you and you want to get help, please call us today at 0411 144 646.
Focus on Learning About Yourself and Your Reactions
Try to learn more about yourself by understanding what annoys you or pushes your buttons and how you handle it.
Notes on how to make the most of your couple therapy by Dr. Ellyn Bader:
This article is designed to help you get the most benefit from our work together. The first three sections discuss how you can prepare for and maximise the value of our sessions. The fourth section summarises some brief concepts about relationships and productive couples therapy.
Your job is to create your own individual objectives for being in therapy, and our job is to help you reach them. At Marriage Works, we have many tools to help you become a more effective partner, and these tools work best when you are clear about who you aspire to be. Our goal is to help both of you make better adjustments and responses to each other without violating your core values or deeply held principles.
Trade-offs and Tough Choices
If you want to create sustained improvement in your relationship, you need:
- A vision of the life you want to build together and individually
- The appropriate attitudes and skills to work as a team
- The motivation to persist
- Time to review progress
To create the relationship you really desire, there will be some difficult trade-offs and tough choices for each of you.
The first trade-off will be time.
It simply takes time to create a relationship that flourishes: time to be together, time to be with family, time to play, coordinate, nurture, relax, hang out, and plan. This time will encroach on some other valuable areas – your personal or professional time.
The second compromise is comfort. That means emotional comfort, like going out on a limb to try novel ways of things, listening and being curious instead of butting in, speaking up instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing. At the beginning, there will be emotional risks in taking action, but you will never explore different worlds if you always keep sight of the shoreline. In addition, few people are emotionally comfortable being confronted with how they don’t live their values or being confronted with the consequences of their actions.
The other comfort that will be challenged is energy comfort. It simply takes effort to sustain improvement over time – staying conscious of making a difference over time – remembering to be more respectful, more giving, more appreciative, etc. It takes effort to remember and act.
The other effort is can be more difficult for some people –
that is improving reaction to problems. For example, if one person is hypersensitive to criticism, and his or her partner is hypersensitive to feeling ignored, it will take a lot of effort to improve their sensitivity instead of hoping the partner will stop ignoring or criticising.
In all these areas, there is generally a conflict between short-term gratification and the long-term goal of creating a satisfying relationship. The blunt reality is that, in an interdependent relationship, effort is required on the part of each person to make a sustained improvement. It is like pairs figure skating – one person cannot do most of the work and still create an exceptional team.