Couples Series Part V: How to Prepare for Couples Therapy

Dec 2, 2022

You’ve taken the big step of contacting a counsellor or agreeing to join your partner who did the legwork. The day is fast approaching, and the big question is, how to prepare for couples therapy?


Fortunately, the lion’s share of the guidance will come from your therapist. Depending on the style of the couples’ work, you may be asked to complete some questionnaires before the session. These might have you rate the intensity and frequency of interactions and feelings, generally giving your therapist a sense of patterns to help guide the counselling.


Beyond that, here are a few small things you can do before showing up that make a big difference:


1. Identify and Address Your Issues


Before your first session, take time to identify and address the issues in your relationship. Discuss these concerns openly with your partner and write down key points to bring to therapy. This preparation ensures you stay focused on the main problems and gives your therapist a clear starting point. If discussing these issues feels difficult, let your therapist know; this is important for them to understand.


2. Clarify Your Therapy Goals


Clarifying your goals for therapy is essential. Think about what you want to achieve—better communication, rebuilding trust, or resolving conflicts. Discuss these goals with your partner to ensure you’re both on the same page. Having clear, shared objectives guides your therapist and keeps you both motivated throughout the process.


3. Make Sure Both Partners Are Ready


Couples therapy requires full commitment from both partners. Have an honest conversation to ensure that you’re both ready to engage in the process. It’s common for one partner to be more enthusiastic about therapy while the other might have reservations. Address these concerns beforehand, as mutual readiness is essential for the therapy’s success.


4. Clear Your Schedule and Minimize Distractions


Clear your schedule and minimize distractions to give therapy your full attention. Schedule sessions at times when you can be fully present and create a quiet, comfortable environment. This commitment allows you to focus entirely on the session and your partner.


5. Prepare to Share Personal Details


Be prepared to share personal details during therapy, as your therapist needs to understand your history and experiences. Open and honest communication is the key to successful therapy. This transparency helps your therapist tailor their approach to your unique situation, providing more targeted and meaningful support.


6. Acknowledge the Need for Personal Boundaries


Respecting personal boundaries is important in therapy. Discuss with your partner which topics might be sensitive or need careful handling. Establishing these boundaries creates a safe and respectful environment, builds trust, and makes it easier to address relationship issues. This mutual respect is crucial for productive and comfortable sessions.


7. Commit to Being on Time


One partner being late can send a message that this work is low priority, even though that is rarely what was intended. Being late often starts the work on a very inflammatory note, limiting what we can do in the session.


8. Do Your Best to Minimize Stress Prior to the Session


Let’s be honest. This is easier said than done. Life can be unbelievably demanding. If you can, however, see if you can scratch anything from your schedule on the day off and take some extra time to relax and ground yourself. The more centred you are when coming to the office, the more grounded your work may be.


9. Connect With Your Partner


When possible, take a bit of time to connect. This may be as simple as a hug or some eye contact. Perhaps you may find one agreed goal for the session, as modest as I’d like that we both understand the other person 5% more after today. Anything that helps to shift from it is us versus each other to it is us versus this negative pattern.


10. Learn About Couples Therapy


This could be as formal as reading Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight or as casual as YouTubing it. Some newer options might include listening to Esther Perel’s podcast Where Should We Begin? or watching the TV show Couples Therapy—both of which follow real-life cases of couple’s work.


11. Let Go of Control and Perfectionism


This one contrasts with the other five. What I’m suggesting here is that after you’ve put in some respectfully committed work towards the process, let go of all of that. Recognize that emotions are messy, and that’s OK. You won’t be able to control how it goes completely, and that’s kind of the point. Couples therapy teaches you both to ebb and flows with the chaos of each other’s emotions, cultivating flexibility and patience. This begins by recognizing the limits of what can be controlled in yourself and others.



Congratulations on leaning into the challenges of your relationship. I can say that after over a decade of practice, individuals and couples do not grow or evolve by avoiding difficult feelings. We are here to help you transform what feels like dead branches into new growth.


Our process of helping you to realize and change your negative interaction patterns can be assisted when you come to the office prepared and engaged. I hope that the above helps you in some small way.


Join us for the next installment of our Couple Series Part VI: Couples Therapy vs Marriage Counselling and decide which option is right for you and your partner!


Missed our previous blog post in the Couples Series?


Click here to catch up on Couple Series Part IV: What to expect from marriage counselling?

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.

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