Before entering into a counselor’s office, many couples wonder, “What kind of questions do marriage counselors ask?” Often, prior to the initial meeting, anxiety builds as people imagine what the appointment might be like. It can be helpful to be aware of what sorts of questions you might be asked during a marriage counseling appointment so you can feel prepared. Of course, each counselor is different and depending on your treatment needs, the types of questions may vary.
Childhood Information and Personal History
Counselors often ask about your childhood. Although you may think your upbringing doesn’t have much to do with your current marital problems, often counselors like to know about your past. A marriage counselor may ask what type of home you grew up in, what sorts of relationships you witnessed, and what sort of view of marriage you developed as a child. For example, it can be helpful to know if you grew up with parents who constantly fought versus if you were raised by a single mother who entered into frequent, unhealthy relationships. As children, we develop a lot of beliefs about ourselves, the world, and other people based on what we witnessed happening around us.
It can be important for a counselor to know a little bit about each person’s personal history in regards to any history of prior mental health problems or treatment. For example, if one person has been treated for depression or anxiety, it can be helpful for a counselor to keep this in mind. Also, counselors often ask about religious preferences or spiritual beliefs, past abuse, and substance abuse history.
Your History of Past Relationships
Counselors may want to know about prior relationships you had before your current marriage. It can be important to know if you have been previously married or had a string of bad relationships prior to marriage versus if you had never been on a single date before meeting your partner. When couples meet in junior high and never date anyone else, they often have a very different experience when compared to a middle-aged couple where both partners were previously married.
The History of Your Marriage
It is often important to talk about how the two of you met, what your dating experience was like and how you decided to get married. When couples are having difficulty, hearing their version of events can be somewhat revealing to a counselor. When couples can’t remember what it was like before they got married or can’t recall the reasons why they decided to get married, it can be symptomatic of their current state of affairs. Meanwhile, other couples may romanticize how great it was “then” compared to how bad it is “now.” Knowing a couples’ history can help a counselor focus on their strengths. Awareness of what drew a couple together in the first place can be helpful in reigniting the spark in the marriage.
It is important to address current marital problems as well. A counselor will ask about how you handle conflict. For example, do you avoid talking about difficult subjects? Do you have heated arguments? Does one person feel the need to win? Counselors also ask about communication styles. This information can be helpful in determining what strategies will be most useful in working with a couple.
A counselor will ask what made you decide to seek therapy. It is important to talk openly about your concerns and the problems that you are seeing in the marriage. Whether you feel like you have grown apart, don’t want to be married anymore, or just can’t get along, it is important to review this.
Strengths in the Relationship
It is important to also ask about quality time, leisure interests, and what you see as the strengths in your marriage. Just like it is important to know what isn’t going well, it is helpful for a counselor to hear about what strengths you have. For some couples, a strength may be that they both love their children. Or they may remain respectful to one another even when they disagree. Recognizing the strengths can help a counselor build on them.
Goals for Counseling
It is very important for marriage counselors to inquire about what your goals are. Questions such as “What are you hoping to gain from counseling?” or “What are you hoping to learn?” or “Where would you like to see your marriage by the end of counseling?” may be asked. Counselors ask about how you would recognize if your marriage was improving as well. Counselors assist the couple in identifying how treatment can be helpful and how it can assist them in obtaining their goals.