Despite the negative consequences of divorce, many couples don’t ever attempt marriage counseling prior to divorcing. Often, the fear about not knowing what to expect makes people shy away from attempting therapy. It can be helpful to know what to expect from therapy prior to scheduling an appointment.
It is important to find a therapist that both you and your spouse will feel comfortable talking to. If you don’t feel like you can tell the truth and share personal information openly, therapy is not likely to help. Although the therapist will likely challenge some of your beliefs and assign some work for you to try, it is important to feel respected by the therapist.
It is also important that both of you feel like the therapist is not taking sides. It is not the job of the therapist to point out who is right and who is wrong. Instead, the therapist may point out observations based on your interactions but without placing blame or judgement. It’s important that both people feel like they have been heard and their feelings have been validated during a therapy session.
Goal setting is an important part of therapy. The therapist should assist you in identifying the goals, but ultimately, the goals should be whatever it is that you want to work on. The therapist should also ensure that each person is willing to work on a goal and not just pointing fingers at the other person. Goals are usually set within the first couple of sessions. It can be helpful if each person has a good understanding of what they hope to gain from treatment.
Therapy does not need to dive into all your traumas from the past. Many therapists use an approach where they assist people in focusing on solutions for the present problems without requiring you to repeatedly discuss your childhood or past issues. Although therapy may feel somewhat uncomfortable at times, it shouldn’t feel intensely painful.
A good therapist will assign you homework assignments and things to practice on between sessions. This will be where the bulk of your work will happen. Simply showing up for an hour a week is not likely to change your problems, but making changes throughout the week is what creates real change. Therapy sessions shouldn’t involve simply venting or complaining about your partner each week. Instead, it should focus on your goals, action steps, and progress.