Often, people ask what they can do to prepare for their first session and/or to speed their progress. These thoughts are offered for those who would like to get started ASAP. (Please Note: If you will be coming in with your partner/spouse, let them make their own decision whether or not to take these steps. For now, just focus on doing your own work.)
#1: Clarify your goals
You know, if you have no goal, you’ll hit it every time. Maximize the time and money spent in therapy by taking time to construct two to three goals you’d like to accomplish. Ask yourself this question and then write your answer(s) down in the form of goals:
“At the end of my time in therapy, what do I hope will be different in my life or relationship?”
In other words, how exactly will you know that things have improved?
Once you’ve written two to three answers, check to see if you’ve included any “general” goals, such as “I want to be happier.” If so, you will need to turn these into more specific, target behaviors. Ask yourself: “Once I/we have reached my goal(s), what will I, my partner, and/or both of us, be DOING differently?”
Work with your answers until you can describe the changes you want in very specific, positive, behavioral terms. Couple goals might go from “we’ll get along better” to “we will smile, kiss and hug on a regular basis”, or “we’ll go out on dates at least once a month” or “we’ll be able to discuss our differences calmly, and end with an agreed upon plan to prevent future upsets”, etc.”
Individual goals might go from “I’ll feel better” to “I’ll look forward to going to work again”, or “I’ll be able to say “no” when I want”, or “I’ll set and keep appropriate boundaries between myself and others”, or “I’ll be in a committed love relationship that I feel good about.”
If you like, bring your goals with you to your appointment!
#2: Those coming in specifically for couples counseling should read “Couples Counseling: What to Expect“
This will give you an idea of what to expect in your first several sessions of joint couples therapy.
Couples and individuals coming to therapy with concerns regarding a primary committed love relationship are urged to begin reading one or both of these two outstanding books. The amount of time spent in therapy can often be dramatically shortened by your willingness to read.
• Hold Me Tight: 7 Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Written by Dr. Sue Johnson, this is the book describing Emotionally Focused Therapy, (EFT), the most heavily researched couples therapy out there and the one with the greatest positive results. Available in hard cover and audio.
(By the way, please purchase 2 copies of each book. Saves on the “I-couldn’t-read-it-because-my-partner-hasn’t-finished-it-yet” syndrome.)
• Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples 20th Anniversary Edition by Dr. Harville Hendrix. This NY Times best-selling book is the key Imago book. Available in paper and audio.
#4: Attend an Imago Weekend Workshop for Couples
There is not a more powerful, cost-effective way to speed any couple’s progress than to attend an Imago Weekend Workshop for Couples (also known as the Getting the Love You Want Workshop).)Ms. Reichlin deso not take credit for this workshop, that goes to Dr. Harville Hendrix, who designed it. But for the past 16 years, she has repeatedly seen this weekend catapult couples 3 to 6 months down the road in just two-and-a-half days’ time. It’s ability to rescue, re-vitalize and/or add new intimacy and passion to just about any marriage or relationship has truly been amazing to witness.
I look forward to meeting you soon . . . Barbara R