Is Couples Counseling a Quick Fix?

clock2401.Is couples counseling a “quick fix” or a long-term commitment?

Counseling doesn’t need to be a long process, especially if you feel you’re starting out with a very solid foundation and only need some clarifications and goal-setting. For some people who are a “higher conflict” couple or have deeper issues to contend with, the process could take a bit longer.

I think there is still a myth that therapy takes years. I hear many people say that they are too busy and are unable to commit the time. Yet, most clients are seeking counseling for discrete, circumstantial issues and it doesn’t take years of therapy to get to the bottom of problems. They don’t need to talk endlessly about how they feel or about childhood memories. I agree that problems take time to create, and take time to fix. However if therapy is taking years, either the client isn’t doing their homework or the therapist isn’t doing their job.

2.Should couples have a pre-determined plan for their first session, or should they attend counseling with an open mind?

I would say there is value in both. When clients come into my office and they have a pre-determined plan for their first session, I always ask some focusing questions, such as:
“What is the worst part about it?”
“How does that worst part make me feel?”
“When else have I felt this way?”
“What am I trying achieve?”
“What scares me about this?”
“How will this affect my life in the long term?”
“What would be an ideal outcome?”
“What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?”

By answering these questions, I discover that sometimes the pre-determined plan isn’t really the issue. These questions help to make internalized, unconscious, unacceptable feelings conscious and concrete. This allows the couple to find relief from their conflicting logical and emotional reactions, which helps the session and relationship to move forward.

3.Should couples, young and old, only seek counseling if there is a severe problem in their relationship?

My belief is that if you think you might need counseling, you probably do! Relationship counseling is under-utilized. Counselors should be consulted sooner, rather than later! Studies show that the average couple doesn’t seek professional help until six to seven years have passed since the relationship started to go downhill. Sometimes a couple is on the verge of divorce before they begin working with me, and they always wish that they had started counseling sooner. Going to see a mental health professional even when you experience occasional signs has value because if left unaddressed, they grow in frequency and intensity over time.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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