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First Couples Therapy Session: What to Expect?

If you and your partner have hit a roadblock in your relationship, taking that first step toward couples therapy marks a pivotal point in the journey you take together.

It’s not uncommon to have concerns about your couples therapy first appointment. You might have a lot of questions, fears, or stigma. You and your partner will likely feel differently about what level of help you need in your relationship or what assistance therapy could offer. One partner might feel skeptical, while another is anxious or hopeful.

Understanding what to expect from your first couples therapy session can help allay some of these feelings and prepare you both for a pleasant and successful session.

first couples therapy session

Preparation for Your First Couples Therapy Session

When you prepare for an approaching therapy session, it’s important that you have an open mind.

  1. Firstly, be prepared logistically. If you are nervous or worried, go to the therapist’s office just to test how the drive works so that you feel comfortable with the traffic patterns and parking.
  2. Secondly, arrive early. This isn’t something that you barely make time for but rather something that is very important to the success of your relationship.
  3. Thirdly, you might need to bring certain documents like Insurance details if your insurance is covering the therapy cost.
  4. Finally, you should set realistic expectations. No relationship issues are going to be solved in your first session, but it’s a great place to start. If you walk in with an open mind and readiness to do anything that is asked of you, you will be much more prepared. 

What Happens During the Session?

So what happens once you walk through the doors?

Introduction to the therapy process

With your couples therapy, in the first season, you will start out by meeting together rather than individually. Most sessions are done together, but as you progress, you might have one or two individual sessions as well.

  • When you meet together, your therapist will help you with issues within the relationship, build goals, and progress toward them.
  • When you meet individually, your therapist might get some background or history on you as an individual and then apply that information to the relationship issues you are trying to overcome together in couples’ sessions. 

However, in the first therapy session, you will discuss the history of your relationship and set goals with your therapist.

Common topics and questions

One of the first things you will face during your initial couples therapy session is quite boring: paperwork. You might have to complete some small paperwork, such as consent forms or confidentiality agreements and cancellation policies.

After that, the majority of the time is left for your therapist to get to know you both, to gather some information about your lives and the Dynamics of your relationship.

A therapist will ask you about things like:

  • Parenting conflicts
  • Intimacy issues
  • Communication issues
  • Distress
  • Goals you want to work together to achieve

Questions might include:

  • “How did you meet?”
  • “What attracted you to one another?”
  • “What issues feel perpetually unresolved in your relationship?”
  • “When did these issues begin to manifest?”
  • “When conflict escalates, how do you respond?”
  • “How do you de-escalate a fight and repair your relationship after?”

Engagement with the therapist

When you go to the first session of couples therapy, you might think that your job is to prove that you are not to blame or to show that the other party did something wrong.

But it’s a common misconception that therapy works by letting the therapist tell you who wins or loses.

The role of the therapist is not to act as the referee and make a call one way or the other but rather to facilitate dialogue in a safe space. Your goal in a therapy session is to talk to one another. Over time, things can hinder proper communication and interfere with intimacy. However, a therapist is there to observe your interactions and communication with one another and, in some cases, interact with you by helping the conversation move forward to a place of resolution.

Remember that therapy is meant to promote healing and to bring you together, not to separate you. So you shouldn’t be fearful that going to your first couples therapy session will result in a therapist telling you that you are both incompatible or you should get a divorce. 

No therapist is there to express individual views on divorce or compatibility. Instead, their job is to walk you through the issues you were facing in your relationship by teaching things like:

  • Coping mechanisms
  • Improved communication
  • Ways to handle differences
first couples therapy session

Tips for a Successful Session

With your first couples therapy session, there are a few things you can do that will make things go a little smoother.

Prepare a relationship timeline

The first tip for first couples therapy session appointments involves preparing a relationship timeline. Your timeline should involve the goals that you want to achieve during the course of your therapy sessions.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all of your goals in mind or you don’t know what that timeline should be before you walk through the door; your therapist can help you with that during the first session.

Leave blame at the door

With your couples therapy, first appointment sessions can be hard because you and your partner will arrive hoping to get a resolution quickly. However, when struggles and challenges in a relationship build with time, it can lead to uncomfortable feelings that manifest as blame or anger.

The goal of your first session of couples therapy shouldn’t be to place blame on the other party but rather to identify the issues and work through them.

Prepare to be uncomfortable

Things may be uncomfortable at first. It can be difficult to be vulnerable, but vulnerability is what allows you to talk through feelings of:

  • Insecurity
  • Embarrassment
  • Pain 

You might think about withholding information, especially at your first session, because you’re unsure whether or not you can trust your therapist. However, building a trusting relationship can take time. It’s important to be open-minded and honest, understanding that things will be uncomfortable at some points. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not working. In fact, that means the opposite.

Follow through

Tips for a successful first couples therapy session include focusing on long-term achievement. You must follow through with instructions from your therapist, which might include homework or setting a regular schedule for additional sessions. You won’t be able to resolve all of your relationship’s hiccups in one session, so be sure to follow all of the advice you are given.

Summing Up

Overall, with your couples therapy first appointment jitters out of the way, you’ll be in a better position to get the most out of your time with the therapist. It’s important that you and your partner view therapy as a positive step toward improving your relationship. There are several tips for first couples therapy session success like being open toward the idea, having goals in mind, and communicating effectively. 

No matter your goals, it’s important to remain committed to the therapy process in order to reap the true benefits. No matter how uncomfortable a single session might be, remember that real progress comes from committing to your couples therapy first season and doing all that is asked of you throughout your treatment.

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