As a Couples Therapist, What Stands Out in a First Session?
To begin couples therapy, I ask each half of the couple to describe why they reached out, and how I can be helpful. The answer often involves excellent insights about what they wish their partner could do differently. To explore the answer in more depth, I ask each person if they can describe what they are contributing to the problem. If both people can provide even a modest answer to this question, the couple is well positioned to develop a more fulfilling relationship. Even if a few moments to reflect is necessary before answering, the ability to utter something like: “Well, I guess I can be too critical” or “I worry so much about our kids and have trouble prioritizing our time together” demonstrates a spark of ownership and awareness that couples can build upon to break out of negative spirals. The moment one partner begins describing their contribution to the problem, a look of warmth and relief often spreads over the other partner’s face that transforms the energy in the room.
If one or both halves of the couple insist that they do not have a part in the problem, it usually does not bode well for the relationship’s future.