What is Couples Counseling?
Couples counseling allows partners to talk with each other about difficult issues in a setting where they will be understood and supported by expert therapists. Counselor helps them learn why they have frustrating and hurtful arguments, and develop better ways of communication. Couples learn to understand, trust and respect each other more, and to be able to work together as a unit.
Does Couples Counseling Work?
Yes it does. Dr. David Reid evaluated the effectiveness of counseling with couples that have come in for help. He found that couples experienced improvement in their relationship satisfaction after therapy and continued to experience a high relationship satisfaction two years after completing the therapy.
South Asian couples SACC has seen were pleasantly surprised as the therapy helped them more than they expected. They find that as long as couples commit to working on their issues in therapy they do well. Because it is in interest of the counselor to see that the therapy works as it is a part of their professional commitment, couples have found SACC to be very involved and committed to seeing that they improve.
Is it confidential?
Seeking counseling is a very personal matter and therapists take your privacy very seriously. Therapists are regulated by professional board of ethics and other statutory bodies. Like SACC is governed by Health Professions Act (1996) of Ontario. This means they have a legal responsibility not to disclose any information about the counseling session to third parties without your permission. This is the same law under which your family physician practices. Therapists do however have a legal responsibility to disclose client information without prior consent in certain cases to protect clients and others (eg. child abuse). Therapists will discuss confidentiality with you prior to commencing counseling.
Couples of South Asian background are particularly concerned about confidentiality as there is an unfortunate and poorly informed stigma associated with seeking help. Many Indeed, couples have conveyed that they wished they had come much earlier in their marriage, to gain the benefits. Couples seeking counseling are demonstrating a desire to enhance their relationship in ways that benefit their health and that of their family.
I don’t know if I am one of ‘those couples’ that need couples therapy.
All couples have problems that they cannot effectively resolve. Couples that seek counseling for their marriage are not abnormal. Most couples that could benefit from counseling do not seek it out. There is a misconception that there are some couples that need counseling and others that do not. Relationships are hard no matter who the people are. A lot of couples that have come in for help said they were very similar in terms of their values and personality, but they still fight a lot and cannot resolve their arguments. Others found that they were very different people and thought it was impossible to make it work until they gave counseling a try.
What if my partner is not open to coming in?
Couples counseling works only when both partners come in together. Sometimes one partner is not open to coming in. From our experience this may be due to several misconceptions the resistant partner holds about counseling which they have not fully shared with their spouse. For instance there is a fear that we may take one partner’s side over the other, or that we may make judgments about that partner.
Couples in this situation have found the following helped. Encouraging the resistant partner to read the information on this website, calling the counselor/therapist and talking with counselor/therapist, or coming in for an information meeting where they can ask the counselor about the program without having to disclose anything about themselves. All conversations with us are strictly confidential. Many people find their partner may not agree to counseling right away, but after giving them some time and discussing the idea with them, they eventually agreed.
I am concerned you will make us fight more or separate.
We never tell couples to separate. Our bias is to help them stay together and be happy. South Asian couples found that they fought less at home after each session as they learned to replace the frustration and fear that lead to fighting with more harmonious ways of relating with each other.
Does this mean you will be the judge of our relationship?
Contrary to what most people assume, therapist does not tell the couple which partner is right and which partner is wrong. We help couples understand themselves and their partner better and guide them on how they communicate better and handle conflicts more effectively. Counseling is NOT about imposing stereotypical South Asian or Western values on the client. South Asian couples we see hold a diversity of values and beliefs.
We have been to a couples’ counselor before and it did not help.
Different counselors have different approaches to therapy. From our experience couples try different counselors before finding one that benefited them.
How long is the counseling?
Each appointment is about an hour-long or depending on the therapist. Usually a counseling program can be designed according to the needs of the couple any where from minimum of seven weeks to as needed. If you do not feel you have reached the goals you want for your relationship therapist could continue to work with you.
When should I seek counseling?
You might consider counseling if you are experiencing one or more of the following in your relationship:
- Frequent arguments
- Lack of cooperation
- Poor communication
- Lack of intimacy
- Not feeling understood or valued
- Problems related to in-laws/extended family
Is it ever too early or too late to come in for help?
It never is too early or too late in your marriage to seek our help. South Asian couples have come in for counseling as early as their first year of marriage and others as far as 30 years into their marriage. All couples experienced significant improvement in their relationship regardless of how long they have been having marital difficulties.
What if we are not married?
Therapists also see couples that are not married but are in a serious long-term relationship.
I am still not sure if I want to talk with a stranger about my marital problems.
You can go in for an information meeting to ask therapists questions about what counseling is and how it works and you do not need to tell us anything about yourselves. Coming in for counseling is a big deal, and can be anxiety provoking. Therapists do make every effort to make the therapy as comfortable as possible.
Do these therapists provide individual counseling?
Therapists also provide individual therapy. One partner may choose to start counseling on their own if the other partner is hesitant at that moment. He or she can join in sessions later on in the care of the therapist.
How can I find a therapist?
- Ask your physician for referrals
- Look in the local yellow pages
- Visit your local medical school/college or counseling center at the local university as they have counseling available at sliding scale (pay only as much you can or discounted rates).