Making the most out of your counselling

WHEN couples are in strife, feeling disconnected and even at the end of their rope, they may know marriage counselling is an option, but still avoid it because they might be scared of it, unsure about what happens in a marital and relationship counselling office, or anxious about the process of involving a third party in their intimate lives, as broken or desperate as it may be.

Regardless of when you go to a marriage counsellor - at the dying end of a relationship or at the start of problems, many people hold a few key myths or misunderstandings about marriage counselling. Let's clear them up, and then you'll have a better idea of what to expect from marriage counselling.

1. While relationship or marriage counselling is most effective when both partners attend, it's really not absolutely necessary. Something is better than nothing and there is still progress that can be made even if only one of you goes.

2. The goal doesn't have to be saving your marriage. Some relationship therapists and marriage counsellors will serve in a role to help mediate you both through the grieving process of the end of your relationship and improve your communication skills, particularly if you have to co-parent for years to come. Therapists are not invested either way in your relationship - the decision to stay together or split is something they facilitate, not recommend one way or another.

3. You'll be guided, but in the end you're in control and what happens is determined by you. There is no transfer of power when you go to a counsellor. They aren't your boss, a judge or a special expert who will tell you what to and not to do.

4. You'll talk about things that may not seem related to your difficulties. Some assume that, with razor focus, they will analyse their specific issues with a therapist until they are figured out and helped.

5. You will need to reflect, communicate and take responsibility. A counsellor doesn't do all the work. You do.

6. You will have homework. There will be times when your counsellor will give you exercises or couple activities to complete or other tasks to learn from which are designed to enhance the effectiveness of the sessions.

7. You get out of it what you put into it, no matter what. Whether you decide to stay together or split up, the more you invest yourselves into the process of counselling, the more you will benefit from it.

If you would like relationship advice but aren't sure where to go locally, search online for your nearest branch of Relationships Australia and they can answer further questions for you, and make an appointment.

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