Entering into therapy can be an uncertain time. Often couples are unsure what to expect and what will be expected of them in return. If you and your partner are considering seeking some assistance to deal with a particular relationship, here are a couple of key points to keep in mind. Not all therapists have the same training or background, but we believe that the process only works when you are working together to change the current pattern of interaction by reducing the negative and increasing the positive. If you don't think that your therapist is living up to the first few points, you might need to ask what purpose they are serving for you.
Your therapist ought to:
- Make an effort to understand both you and your partner, bringing neutrality and balance; working on behalf of the relationship rather than either partner.
- Help you to understand the difference between the content of your communication (what you talk/argue about) and the process (how you talk/argue), intervening when unhelpful interaction patterns surface in the sessions.
- Help you understand the manner in which you individually experience and express emotion and what changes in these patterns may be necessary to increase the resilience of the relationship.
- Translate accusations made by either partner into the feelings or motivations that underlie them and work to develop them into requests for specific behaviour change.
- Help you to make good decisions about your relationship to help you meet each other’s needs.
- Bring a positive and flexible attitude (maybe even make you laugh now and then?)
You must be willing to:
- Schedule and attend regular therapy sessions. This is likely to mean a weekly commitment in the early stages.
- Work consistently to make a meaningful change in patterns. This will mean setting goals and regularly putting time aside for tasks.
- Be willing and able to show at least a minimal level of empathy towards your partner. Fake it if you have to!
- Take responsibility for your actions.
- Plan to spend quality time together.
- Cease all threats and expressions of contempt and hostility towards your partner. This includes threats to leave the relationship and/or the therapy process.
If you, your partner and your therapist follow these guidelines, then you all stand a decent chance of being able to better understand each other and work towards the relationship that you deserve.