What to Expect During Your First Couples Therapy Session

Couples therapy is a much more personal interaction than most people realize. Beyond the numerous words and ideas, you must communicate what you wish to hear about from your spouse or partner. You may be missing out on some of the most essential aspects of couples therapy – understanding the feelings trapped in your spouse’s mind and body that no words can express. These feelings are often conveyed via physical sensations and emotions.

As a result, it is now more common for couples to participate in physical exercises and interactions that can help release some of this tension. A couples therapist might guide you both through prolonged eye contact sessions and other body language techniques. This alternative approach to couples therapy has reshaped the base of relationship counseling and aims to create a more effective way of communicating for both partners.

Being aware of this can help you go into your first session more relaxed and with more realistic expectations. In this article, we will explore what you can expect from your first couples therapy session and what you need to do to prepare for it.

What is Couples Counseling?

Couples Therapy Session

Marriage counseling, also known as couples therapy, is a psychotherapy practice that helps couples understand each other and resolve conflicts, as well as improve their relationship. Couples may benefit from marriage counseling by learning how to communicate better, negotiate differences, problem solve, and even quarrel more productively.

Couples therapy can help couples who are experiencing a wide range of relationship issues, including those related to communication, intimacy, finances, parenting, infidelity, and more. In some cases, marriage counseling may be recommended by one person’s doctor or personal couples therapist to address a specific issue.

Marriage counseling is often provided by licensed marriage and family therapists, also known as MFTs. MFTs are trained in the dynamics of relationships and can help couples identify and change unhealthy patterns of behavior. Although these professionals give the same mental health services as a licensed clinical psychologist, there is a distinct emphasis on marriages and romantic relationships in their approach.

Couples therapy typically involves meeting with a therapist regularly, usually once per week. During sessions, each person in the couple will have an opportunity to share their perspective on the issues being discussed. The therapist will then help the couple explore these issues and find ways to resolve them. In some cases, the therapist may also meet with each person in the couple separately.

Marriage counseling can be an effective way to improve a relationship, but it is also important to keep in mind that it takes time and effort. Couples who are willing to commit to the process and work together can expect to see positive results.

What You Can Expect in Your First Session with a Marriage Counseling Therapist

Couples Therapy Session

In many cases, the therapist will want the couple to talk about their experiences and provide a broad picture of their lives. The first session is focused on learning about you as individuals and as a couple, which may be seen as the assessment stage of marriage therapy.

The therapist will also want to know how you communicate with each other and how you have resolved issues in the past. They will be looking for any negative communication patterns, such as criticism, stonewalling, or contempt, that may be adversely affecting your relationship. The therapist may ask several questions to ensure that they truly grasp what the client is telling them and that neither party is being misunderstood.

A therapist might take notes, which is standard practice. This is just for the therapist to keep track of specific information from the session so that she or he may continue to evaluate and decide on the best approach to the couple’s therapy.

The therapist will likely introduce some concepts in the first session that the couple can begin to work on immediately. For example, the therapist may provide education on effective communication skills or conflict resolution strategies. The therapist may also assign homework, such as reading a book on marriage or watching a video on communication, for the couple to do together outside of therapy.

What You Can Expect From an Experienced Therapist

All therapists are different and have their own strategies to help couples in need. However, there are key attributes that every therapist can bring to a couples therapy session.

Creating a Safe Environment

The most important thing a therapist can do is provide a safe setting in which you can express your deepest, most hidden feelings without fear. This can be a difficult task, as many couples come to therapy with years of hurt and mistrust built up between them. To create a safe environment in which you can both feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings, your therapist will likely establish some ground rules at the beginning of therapy.

These may include maintaining confidentiality, refraining from criticism or judgment, and actively listening to each other. Following these guidelines will help create a safe space in which you can openly discuss the issues that are causing problems in your relationship.

Your therapist will also tell you that successful relationships are never about always being in agreement – you’ll always disagree about something. Successful relationships are built on curiosity about what your partner is going through, imagining what it’s like to be in “his or her shoes.” This is only possible in a judgment-free zone created by your therapist.

Reading Your Body Language

It is critical for an experienced therapist to not only be hearing your words but also reading the feelings expressed in your eyes, your face, and the rest of your body. Humans use non-verbal communication through body language around 60% of the time, so you can expect a therapist to pick up on cues you may be giving them without your knowledge. This can lead to further communication and gaining a deeper understanding of what is causing your emotions. In other words, couples therapy can help you to understand why you react the way you do to your partner’s behaviors. It is the therapist’s job to help people understand what these behaviors and expressions mean.

Your therapist should encourage you to be more mindful of your physical sensations and feelings that can’t be expressed in words. They can tell you much more about what you’re really going through. For example, your therapist may ask you to just look at each other for a minute without speaking, look deeply into each other’s eyes, and sense what your partner is feeling.

Understanding Non-verbal Cues

Bessel Van Der Kolk, a psychiatrist, and author who specializes in the study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) emphasizes the role of non-verbal, physical feelings in trauma diagnosis. Kolk’s works investigate the unseen events that take place in the human cognitive system when the Broca’s – or reasonable, speaking part of your brain – shuts down as a result of confronting a traumatic experience or memory, which may be as a result of an abusive relationship or other relationship problems. One may become frantic and be unable to find the right words.

A typical scenario in couples therapy is when couples are made to confront traumatic experiences from their past that have had a significant impact on their marriage or relationship. Oftentimes, they are seen with sad faces, taut chests, shivering arms, and quivering legs. The trauma overpowers them, blocking out everything else about them.

At this point in cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist and partner must be able to distinguish non-verbal signals with considerable accuracy, to understand what the patient is feeling. They must also be able to provide an empathetic and secure environment, to help the traumatized partner feel safe enough to explore their emotions.

Tips to Prepare For Your First Session

Going to your first couples therapy session may be intimidating. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

Prepare to Talk About Your History

Talking about your personal history can feel overwhelming. In couples’ therapy sessions, you will most likely have to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and memories. It is a good idea to think about some of the issues that you would like to talk about and want to resolve. It will also prepare you for conversations when your therapist wants to take a deeper look at how these scenarios have affected your relationship.

Remember to Always Be Honest

If you want to make the most of couples therapy in New York, you must come into the process with an open mind and a willingness to work on the relationship. You should also be prepared to be honest with yourself and your partner about what you’re feeling. Only then can you hope to resolve conflicts and improve communication. Your therapist is there to help your relationship and can keep the conversation going in the right direction.

Don’t Schedule Your First Session on a Busy Day

You never know how you are going to feel after your first session, so make sure you give yourself some time afterward. It is important to be able to process your emotions individually and with your partner.

It’s Okay to be Nervous Going Into Your First Session

Being nervous about your session is completely normal. Your therapist knows that it may be uncomfortable at first and will take the necessary steps to calm your nerves like setting boundaries and facilitating conversations.

Benefits of Couples Therapy Long-Term

Explore Rather than Escape

Couples often go to therapy to deal with a traumatic experience, whether it be a death in the family, an affair, or even just the struggles of day-to-day life. However, many times people try to escape from their emotions or find coping skills rather than face them head-on. This can do more harm than good in the long run, as it can prevent you from truly understanding and resolving the issue at hand. Your therapist will be able to provide you and your partner to continue to explore what is really bothering you for any future conflicts.

To fully discover oneself and have control over one’s own life, Kolk claims that you must feel it and touch the physical existence of your body, rather than merely shoving that feeling down. It is especially crucial in couples therapy not just to search for a method to relieve your emotions, but also to attempt to understand them.

Learn How to Communicate

Learning how to communicate is important in all aspects of your life, but it will make a big difference in your relationship down the line. Your therapist will have been able to provide you with the right techniques to properly communicate with your partner in a way where you are understanding each other’s emotions. This will make future disagreements easier to resolve.

Learn to Express Your Needs

Going to couples counseling will not only give you a good foundation for your relationship but also will allow you to understand what you want individually and what is truly important to you. That is something that will last a lifetime and is crucial for a happy long-term relationship. It is also important to express your needs in the right way. Your therapist will guide you through the process so it can be utilized as you and your relationship continue to grow.

Getting Started with Couples Therapy

While the prospect of couples therapy may be scary, it will also make life a lot better. We can tell you based on our experience working with a lot of marriages at Marriage Couples Counseling in NY that change is possible. Pain may be overcome. Love may grow deeper. Interpersonal relationships can get better.

At Marriage Couples Counseling in New York City, we have worked with a wide range of couples, from those who are thinking about getting married to those who have been married for decades. Do you need help in your relationship? Give Marriage Couples Counseling In New York City a call at (212) 673-4618.

We understand that every couple is unique, and we tailor our approach to each situation. This will lead to relationship satisfaction, trust, better communication, and a fulfilling life!

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  • NAP Details:

    Marriage Couples Counseling & Life Coaching
    160 Bleecker Street, 9C East, New York, NY 10012
    (212) 673 4618