So…what happens in couple’s counseling? Is there something wrong with me/us?
Going to counseling is brave. No matter how you slice it, divulging our personal lives to a stranger can feel scary.
We see problems as a function of circumstances, not a personal failure. Going to therapy doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that you’re crazy (horrible stereotype!) Couple’s counseling, specifically, will explore how issues have come between you and your partner(s). Issues are not anybody’s “fault”, but rather a new challenge that you and your partner(s) must tackle.
We will explore your background, how the issues began, what behaviors are occurring, and where to go from here. We are on your team!
Counselor credentials are so confusing! Where should I start?
Agreed! Credentials can be really confusing for most people. Here’s a general overview of various therapy licenses/credentials:
- A Registered Psychotherapist (NLC) is a psychotherapist authorized by law to practice psychotherapy in their state but is not licensed by the state. This is often a title held by people working towards licensure.
- A Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) and a Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) must have at least a high school diploma/GED, complete training/supervision hours, and some may need to pass a national exam.
- A Licensed Social Worker (LSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) must hold a graduate degree, pass an examination in social work, and LCSWs need to have practiced as a social worker for at least two years.
- A Psychologist Candidate, a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate (MFT-C), and a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate (LPC-C) must hold a graduate degree and complete required training/supervision hours.
- A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) must hold a graduate degree in marriage and family counseling, have at least one year of supervised practice, and pass an exam in marriage and family therapy.
- A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) must hold a graduate degree in professional counseling, have at least one year of supervised practice, and pass an exam in professional counseling.
- A Licensed Psychologist must hold a doctorate degree in psychology, have one year of post-degree supervision, and pass an exam in psychology.
If you’re still feeling confused about all of this, that’s okay! You have the right to ask a therapist at any time about their license, credentials, education, experience, etc.
Can we go to couple’s counseling even if my partner and I are not having issues?
Of course! Often times partners function well, but may come to counseling to create or improve a certain facet of their relationship. For example, you may want to argue less about family finances. Or you may want to “spice things up” in the bedroom. Or maybe you just had a child, and are nervous about how this will change your relationship.
Couples don’t need to come in with a laundry list of issues. Couple’s counseling can help build upon an already great relationship.
What if my partner and I aren’t in a committed relationship?
This answer has two parts:
- If you and your partner agree to be non-monogamous (i.e. seeing other people while also seeing your partner) then couple’s counseling can still benefit you. Often couple’s counseling gets a “pro-marriage” or “pro-monogamy” reputation, but if you and your partner enjoy non-monogamy, then that’s great! We only work to change what you deem is necessary!
- If you and your partner disagree about being non-monogamous (ex: one person wants to see other people while the other wants exclusivity) then couple’s counseling can help guide conversations about exclusivity. Some questions we could explore include: What does exclusivity mean to each person? What may fuel the desire to be exclusive or not? Can this arrangement work or will this cause conflict?
Often couples come in committed, but may have reservations or qualms about exclusivity or non-monogamy. You and your therapist can certainly explore this in couple’s counseling.
My partner and I are considering divorce – can therapy be helpful at this point?
We believe that therapy can be helpful at any point in a relationship. From newlyweds, to new parents, to partners ready to pursue separation, and everything in between. We are not “pro-marriage” or “pro-staying together”; we focus on what you and your partner want to focus on.
Going through a divorce or break-up can create strong feelings of grief, sadness, and confusion. We aim to help each person communicate their needs, express feelings, and reduce conflict.
What if my partner and I have a history of domestic violence?
Good question! This answer has two parts, as well.
- If there is active and ongoing domestic violence in a relationship, then seeing a couple’s therapist may actually pose serious risks. Strong emotions can arise in therapy and partners must be able to regulate their emotions for problems to be worked through productively and safely. In order to delve into the emotional work of couple’s therapy, partners must feel physically safe with their partner. For more information about domestic violence and where to find help, visit https://www.thehotline.org.
- If domestic violence is not currently happening, then couple’s therapy can still be a great option. We are not in the business of judging or shaming people for their pasts. Rather, we work to understand the history and circumstances that may have led to domestic violence.
Can I come for couple’s counseling without my partner(s)?
While it may seem like couple’s counseling requires all partners to be present at every session, this is actually not the case. We often see individuals in a relationship on a 1:1 basis as well. Individual breakout sessions often help us to better understand you as an individual, so that we can better understand you in the context of your relationship.
- A note, though: for ethical and legal reasons, we never agree to keep secrets from your partner(s) when secrets pose threats to the relationship. If you disclose a secret in a 1:1 session, we will explore how we can support you in discussing it with your partner. Furthermore, if this secret is regarding safety (ex: your partner is abusing your child) then we are required to report to the authorities to keep everybody safe.
How will we know if our therapist is a good match for us? Can we get a second opinion?
Finding a therapist that is a good match for you is important and may not happen on the first try. You’re spending your money and time – you should see somebody who you can trust! A few questions to ask yourself:
Do they have the expertise in what I want to work on? Does it seem like they really want to get to know me? Does their schedule and fee work for me? Do they ask me for clarification on things I talk about? Do I feel comfortable asking them questions?
It is always okay to get a second opinion if you have concerns about the match between you and your therapist. It can be awkward at first, but you have the right to ask your therapist for referrals. A good therapist will want you to receive the best care!
How will my partner and I know when we’re ready to end therapy?
It can be hard to gauge when you and your partner(s) are ready to end therapy. It can also induce feelings of grief or sadness. Typical signs that therapy may be coming to a close can include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling like you have nothing else to work on
- Increased small talk during sessions
- You are able to navigate your initial concern with minimal stress
Your therapist should be able to give you a general overview of how they think therapy is progressing. However, we realize that needs change over time, and your treatment can change, too. Ending therapy will focus on progress, strengths, and feelings about the future.
Okay I’m interested. How do I get started with couple’s counseling at Through the Door?
Yay! Even if you’re not totally convinced, we welcome you to come in and talk to us. We’ll explore what your goals are and create a plan to help you reach those goals. Give us a call at 720-330-0750 and we’ll verify insurance and get you scheduled. You can also view our biographies and schedule online at our website: http://throughthedoorcounseling.com. We look forward to speaking to you soon!