Couples Counseling: What to Expect

how couples counseling helps

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious before you go to counseling, in part because you’re unsure about what is about to happen! In reality, coming to therapy at my office doesn’t need to be a scary prospect. From your first session to all subsequent visits, I am only here to help you become a stronger couple and improve the state of your relationship – I won’t judge or take a side.

The first session in my office will consist of both partners telling me about what they hope to get out of counseling, and the things that are stirring up issues. You can expect a conversation between the three of us, where I will explain in more detail the process of counseling, and I might give you a few steps to take right away to improve your relationship. In future visits, I will help guide communication between the two of you as a couple – you will do most of the talking while I am only there to facilitate the conversation, giving you tools and insights to help communicate in a healthy way.

You can expect neutrality and emotional safety during your therapy sessions. Here’s some more details about what counseling will be like:

  1. Neutrality: Some clients say I’m the referee for their relationship; the only non-biased person. I like to think of myself as the co-pilot, while you two are in the driver seat. In counseling, I will guide the conversation, point out the problem routes and suggest taking alternate routes. I will not be taking sides or teaming up with one partner against the other. I think my clients have plenty of friends and family that do that already, and it isn’t changing anything. Gaining teams against each other keeps you in the same routine and dynamic that has not been working. I will tell you when you may be taking the wrong turn and share what a healthier response will be, but never take a side. I will also help you organize the multiple emotions and thoughts separately and then as a couple.
  2. emotional-safetyComplete Emotional Safety: The goal is to have your counseling sessions emotionally safe (and obviously physically safe). I will strive to establish a place where you can open up about how you feel, stop the critical responses, and create a place where both sides of an issue or disagreement can be understood. I will be active in the counseling sessions to make it feel comfortable, help you or your partner phrase things in a way that is clear, and make it possible for you to understand the relationship on a deeper level while feeling safe to express your fears and other emotions.
  3. Listening: There are two sides to every coin, and the same is true in your listening
    relationship. Sometimes it can be very hard to listen to your partner’s side when you may have a completely different experience. This requires you to trust that the therapist will hear your side, and you will often have to bite your tongue while hearing your partner’s side. As the therapist, I will try to help your partner express him/herself in a non-attacking and critical way. In order to get there, you will have to allow me to spend time with your partner. Don’t worry — I will get to you as well!
  4. EFT: I focus specifically on couples counseling using emotionally focused therapy (EFT). This therapeutic technique is an experiential style, allowing you to change how you two communicate and rewiring the brain to shift the way you react emotionally to certain triggers or issues. This is a short term therapy approach where I will be more active in the therapy sessions. I will often have you turn to your partner to create new experiences, practice what you are learning, and have change begin in the office.

Couples counseling is a great way to reconnect with your partner, open up the lines of communication, and move forward in a positive direction. Don’t be afraid to pay me a visit – I am only here to help! Give me a call today, or book online, and let’s see if I can help you strengthen your relationship.

About Jennine Estes, MFT

Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653