Most couples agree, the most terrifying aspect of engaging in marriage counseling is anxiety about what the counselor may or may not ask you. Indeed, nothing disrupts the flow of counseling more than the absolute anxiety about the line of questioning the professional may dish out to the couple. Tell me about your sex life? How many alcoholic beverages do you drink per day? Is there infidelity in your marriage at this time, and if so tell me about this third person?
So what’s the solution to this? How should you approach marriage counseling?
Relax… Any marriage counselor worth his or her salt is going to work hard to make you feel comfortable in the therapeutic setting. Generally, the therapist will spend a good portion of a session getting to know the couple and their relationship history.
Questioning in this portion of therapy typically entails some queries about the origin of the relationship and the family history of both partners. The therapist may ask about family histories of divorce, addiction, and the like as some of these difficult facets of family life can be passed on from generation to generation.
Counselors will want to know about your marriage’s joys and struggles, too. Where does the couple experience joy? What have been some of the hot button issues through the course of the marriage? Are there children involved in the marriage, and if so, are they aware of issues in the marriage.
Tools and techniques
With some basic history in place, the therapist will help the couple establish tools and techniques that facilitate conversation and aid the couple in working through some of the more dire issues in the relationship. The therapist, typically skilled in cognitive behavioral therapy or a similar discipline, will often “role play” with the couple, teaching them how to engage in appropriate, sustainable dialogue with one another.
Homework for next time
Typically, marriage counselors will provide homework assignments to the couple designed to stoke conversation, intimacy, and self-care. At subsequent sessions, the therapist will ask the couple to share information about their progress with the various assigned tasks.
Occasionally, the therapist will also facilitate a book read with the couple, allowing them to explore the latest research-based techniques that strengthen the marital bond.