How long relationship counselling takes depends on a number of factors such as:
- your and your partner’s ability to build trusting relationships
- the issue at hand
- the time you have available
- the money you have available to invest
The most important ingredient in relationship (couples) counselling is the quality of the relationship that you will have with your therapist. In order to build a good relationship it is important to develop trust. Depending on your own and your partner’s ability to build a trusting relationship, this can take anything between two to six sessions. It could take longer particularly if you have been let down several times in significant relationship during childhood and adolescence. However don’t let this put you off. Learning to trust your therapist is usually healing in itself for as you learn to trust them you will gradually learn to feel more trusting with others, including your partner. Learning to trust involves feeling increasingly confident that the therapist won’t judge you or take sides and that she/ he is able to maintain a safe environment during conflicts. As a good relationship with your therapist is key to a good outcome it is important to take the time you need to build a good alliance. Lastly, don’t forget to trust your instincts and if after a couples sessions you really feel that you can’t open up to the couples counsellor then you might want to try a different therapist.
The nature of the problem you are planning to address can also determine how long counselling takes as some issues can leave you feel more exposed than others. For example sexual problems, betrayal and affairs can evoke deep shame in either partner. When such issues are expressed in front of a therapist the reality of your situation really hits home. That’s to do with the fact that what you are saying is being witnessed. It is a bit like being in front of a mirror when you can actually see who you are and the environment around you. This combined with a fear of judgement can increase the potential sense of shame. A good therapeutic relationship where couples don’t feel judged is essential if partners need to raise such sensitive and loaded issues. Allowing sufficient time to learn to trust your couples counsellor therefore is key before a partner feels ready to bring the matter out into the open.
Raising an issue in therapy can feel very daunting or risky and if you have not had therapy before then you are even more likely to feel vulnerable. You might fear that the therapist will not believe you, pass judgement or event take sites with your partner particularly if they are the same gender as them. Expressing hurt or disappointment shows your partner how much you care and you might think that this gives them more power in the relationship. Before either party dare to be vulnerable you will need to feel reassured that the therapist will not side with either of you and support you both. Many couples take several sessions to observe how and whether the therapist is able to give each partner equal care and attention.
Last but not least your financial situation will determine how much you can invest in therapy and the number of sessions you will have. If money is a concern then you may want to prioritise the issues you are facing and focus on your top priority. Unsure how to decide what is important to you? Write all the relationship issues you are facing on a piece of paper and turn the sheet upside down. Put the kettle on and brew a good cup of tea. Come back, think back to your list and see which is the first issue that pops into your out of all those you have noted down. The first one you recall is most likely to problem you need to tackle first.
Most couples commit to at least six sessions. This is usually sufficient to develop trust and understand whether or not the therapy is helping you. After six sessions you can ask you therapist for a review. You can then decided if your issue has been resolved or whether more sessions are required. Depending on the outcome of your review you may want to agree another six sessions and review progress then. Alternatively ask your therapist to work with you in an open ended way. This means that the work will continue until you are satisfied that all your concerns have been addressed. You can ask for a review at regular intervals to ensure that you are on track and that your concerns are being addressed.
In my practice the progress of relationship counselling is reviewed regularly to ensure that the therapy is addressing the concerns you have raised. What is more, I have trained as couples counsellor. Relationship counselling is slightly different from one to one as the therapist has to focus on both parties at the same time without taking sites. My training enables me to use communication is such a way that I will involve both of you every step of the way. This starts from the very first session were both partners are actively involved in the process.
Contact me today discuss the problems that are affecting your relationship and start taking the first steps towards living a more fulfilling and enjoyable relationship with each other.
Please click on the following links to find answers to the most frequently asked questions about relationship counselling.