Love meeting of the mind and heart fast tracked with therapy

Relationship Advice for Couples Counselling Sessions

Last updated on June 25th, 2019 at 08:19 am

Want to Discover the SECRET to making the most of your relationship counselling? Please read on…

Bring your family back to love.

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.

The circle of life
The circle of life

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.

Winter kisses, warm love.

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.

The Road to Divorce is Dark.

Don't give up on your relationship!
Don’t give up on your relationship!

Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to develop clarity about your relationship goals:

  1. What kind of life do you want to build together and individually?
  2. What kind of partner do you want to become so you can build the kind of life and relationship that is meaningful to you?
  3. What are your individual blocks to becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be?
  4. 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.

Ask yourself the question
Ask yourself the questions

Tip #2: Focus on YOU

Interestingly, relationship counselling works best if you have more goals for yourself than your partner, so:

  1. Focus on changing yourself rather than changing your partner.
  2. Focus on learning something new and letting go of assumptions for your partner’s motives.
  3. Focus on improving your response to a problem.
    Couple legs on holiday
    Holiday togetherness

    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.

Caught up in thoughts ? Not useful for in-depth communiques

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.

Don't get lost keep on track.
Don’t get lost keep on track.

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:

  1. Reflect on your objectives for being in therapy.
  1. 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.

Read the book on happiness

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.

You are not alone, we know it is not easy. Our heart is with you.
You can do it!

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.

Dad and his darling baby.

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.

Love heart glows.

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.

Happy Love
Happy Love

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.

Bring your family back to love.
Bring your family back to love.

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 –

Don’t pull the pin on your relationship!

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.

True intimacy heals. marital coaching help
True intimacy heals. marital coaching helps

If you need help with your relationship, please do not hesitate to call us today at 0434 559 011  for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

You may also email Philipa Thornton at or Chris Paulin at We are here to help your relationship heal.

Big Love to you all xx
Big Love to you all xx

9 thoughts on “Relationship Advice for Couples Counselling Sessions”

  1. I am just wondering whether or not you do relationship counseling as opposed to marriage counseling and also how much would this cost?

    1. Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, at Marriage Works we offer marital therapy and we also offer relationship counselling for couples living together or about to take the next step. I will email you directly to discuss rates and answer your questions. Best wishes Philipa

  2. Hi

    What hours do you work and do you do home visits ( in Maroubra area). Could you also please let me know your rates.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Corinne,
      Thanks for your question.
      I have sent you an email with the day rate and after hours investment.
      The recommended fee for Psychological Services as per the Australian Psychological Society is $241 for 45-60 minutes. The day rate at Marriage Works is under that amount.
      Good on you for enquiring about relationship therapy, as it can really help you grow!
      Warmly Philipa

  3. This is something worth reading! Most of the blog posts or articles focus on the perks of marriage counselling, which seems to be far-fetched at times. But the discussion in the post has been conducted constructively and has offered insights on some of the most useful areas of the counselling. Taking help from a therapist is not as easy as it may sound; it needs courage, and most importantly, clarity about the thought process.

    1. Thanks for your recommendation Enrich Relationships of Victoria Australia. We love common sense, practical tools and advice grounded in experience.
      Indeed therapy is a huge step and not for the faint hearted. You need courage, clear direction, inspiration and hope!
      Thanks to all my clients past and present who have shared the therapy journey. x

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