It can feel like a big leap to schedule marriage counselling. Whether you reached out and set up the appointment or you’re following the lead, you are stepping into something new and unknown. Naturally, you’ll feel some anxiety of uncertainty. If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll feel curiosity and even excitement. As it turns out, anxiety and excitement are just different ‘flavours’ of the same general ‘activation’ in our nervous system. We ‘switch on’ to prepare for what we find important. This switched-on feeling can trend towards fearful dread or pleasurable excitement, depending on many factors. One of many contributing pieces is how known or unknown the event is. It is well established that if we can help reduce uncertainty and gain a sense of known control, events trend more towards hope and excitement. Name it to tame it; it is often called. So let’s use today’s article to do some of that by sharing what to expect from marriage counselling. Here is a list of some items taking the surprise and mystery out of couples’ work:
You’re Going To Meet With A Therapist
This one probably didn’t knock you out of your chair. Appointments tend to be 50 or 75 minutes and are conducted in the office or via web counselling. You’ll connect with a professional whose job is to support you in reaching your goals.
The Therapist Doesn’t Take Sides
The work isn’t about being right. This may even feel a bit disappointing. The thing is, ‘being right’ implies there is some bigger and better truth that could defeat your partner. In reality, this isn’t generally how relationships work. Instead, both partners have a valid emotional experience that needs to be expressed and understood. The therapist facilitates this so that you can both team up against the issue instead of against each other.
It Isn’t A Communications Skills Course
People reach out to us asking for ‘tools’ and ‘communication skills.’ Sure, you’ll learn some of these, but they’re the less important part. The issue with tools and skills is that as soon as you’re both triggered, using them is nearly impossible. If willpower worked, you’d have already solved things. Instead, what you’re learning to do is notice and escape negative cycles of interaction. This is about learning how to ground and anchor each other when you are both triggered and distressed. Rather than leaving with an education, you leave with an increased ability to transform emotions and be present with each other through challenging moments.
It Works In Phases
The first many sessions are spent simply reflecting back to you the cycles you are trapped in. “But we KNOW the arguments we have already! We don’t need you to tell us that again.” Trust me. You’re missing the subtle messages, cues and emotional chains that result in the same thing happening again and again. Our job is to kindly and calmly help you to notice with crisp awareness the order micro-events are occurring so that you can step outside of them. When you understand the cycle, we move to the second phase of entraining familiar habits of how to de-escalate with safety and appreciation. Who knew there was a peaceful way out of arguments?!
It Takes Patience
It took years to entrain your patterns. Heck, it took your whole lives, given that these cycles are just repeating habits of interaction you started learning in childhood. You cannot cure this with one or two-hour-long chats. Couples who are serious about transforming their relationships are asked to commit to several months of therapy, understanding that resolving old hurt and resentment means weathering through difficult emotions. The last thing you want is to stir up big emotions without giving yourself the gift of a peaceful resolution. Closing If taking some of the mystery out of marriage counselling grabs your interest, please be welcome to reach out to any of our team for a free chat. The first steps can be daunting, but a great deal of the anxiety is simply a normal reaction to the unknown. Take the next step in your couples journey by reading our latest post on Couples Series Part V: How to prepare for couples therapy? If you missed the previous post in our Couples Series, it’s not too late to catch up! Click here to read Couple Series Part III: Does Couples Therapy Work and stay up to date with our discussion.
Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with 17 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.