What Should I Expect from Couple’s Counseling

Couples counseling in Pensacola FL

A Safe Place

During your couple’s counseling in Pensacola, or anywhere else, you can expect to find a safe place to find relief, hope and a positive direction/path forward. I love working with couples. Just making the appointment and showing up for the first session takes a lot of courage, regardless of the motivation for coming. I respect that because it shows me you are coming in with some measure of hope that things can be different; be better. If you are willing to learn and work with me, I promise you things will get better.

To Be Heard; To Have A Voice

You may be a wife who is frustrated because your husband isn’t listening to your words, or to the unspoken emotional cries of your heart.  Or, you may be a husband who talks to himself a lot but can’t seem to find the words or the energy to honestly express to your wife what you are thinking.  In either case, or in both cases, I can help.  I’ll loan you some words and help you express yourself as you are gaining the understanding and courage to speak with your own voice.  It may be that you have been shut down for a long time and given up hope that things can be better, that you will ever be heard and understood.  That it will matter.  It does matter.  You matter.  Your role in the marriage is critically important.  Improvement is just ahead.

To Gain Perspective

You will have a chance to discover how to let go of the past by learning from it and charting a new and healthy course into your future together.  You will learn how to put failure and disappointment in perspective, and how important forgiveness and grace is for your better days ahead.  When a spouse takes a position protecting and defending his/her actions, words, or point of view, and the partner is holding the opposite position just as stubbornly, you need the help of an interested but objective guide, counselor, and coach to help you.  The goal is perspective; the path of progress will offer opportunities for you both to gain understanding, give grace, practice forgiveness, and embrace the hope and reality of a much better marriage and a brighter future together.

To Gain Clarity

When couples are in crisis through hurts, confusion, and doubt, the fog and emotional gumbo that results makes it hard to have clarity.  Together we will sort out the details of the presenting problem that brings you to the appointment.  Both you and your spouse will be heard as we press toward the underlying cause of your distress.  As we process the expectations and disappointments on both sides, we will be able to expose the values and thinking that lie at the root of your difficulties.  This is a critical part of the process.  Are the values you embraced when you became a couple the same ones you live by today?  Or have they changed?  If they have changed, are they still grounded in truth?  What is your basis for truth?  Is it timeless or does it fluctuate based on your emotions?  If your values, your truth/belief system is intact, but the circumstances and experiences of your lives together have resulted in patterns of behavior that have become the norm, yet don’t support your values, then, clarifying this will be extremely valuable.  The learnings from our work toward clarity will form the basis for the improvement you dare to hope is possible, and that you are now willing to work toward.

To Gain Communication Skills

The most common presenting problem in couple’s counseling is communication: not talking, not listening, distracted participation, harsh tone of voice, indifference, angry words, silence.  Poor communication has many faces.  Behind every one is a deeper, more profound issue.  Couples who once communicated openly and freely don’t suddenly decide to change all at once.  We will explore when and why the change became noticeable, what preceded it, how its been handled, and what patterns have become the unacceptable norm.  We will focus on whatever we discover to be the root of the problem.  Sometimes it is a slow and gradual cooling and distancing because of the competing pressures of life.  Sometimes it has a much more defined point of origin and is the result of unresolved conflict and hurts.  The point is, we cannot NOT communicate.  While the words may be few, we are speaking loudly through our body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, physical and emotional availability, etc.  We will sort out what it is that you and your spouse are not saying with words, what you are communicating with your actions, and what it is that you actually want to say and needs to be heard.

Other Couples Counseling Expectation

We will build a foundation for effective communication built on a healthy respect for each other and a mutual desire to see improvement.  The goal is to gain the ability to calmly express what you are thinking and feeling without fear of being ignored or attacked for having expressed yourself.  This means not only learning to express yourself but learning to listen to what your spouse is saying.  As we make progress toward this goal, we will have in mind a new capacity to communicate that is

  • OPEN: I will make myself vulnerable to you, expressing my fears and desires, my questions and longings.
  • HONEST: I will say what I need to without confusing you with mixed messages.  I will own my feelings and make them clear.
  • DIRECT: I will not make you read my mind or wonder what I mean by my words.  I will get to the heart of the matter.
  • APPROPRIATE: I will always keep in mind the “us” of our relationship.  I will not attack you, nor try to discount or diminish you.
  • HOW TO RESOLVE CONFLICT.  Using the skills you are gaining in our focus on communication will help you and your spouse navigate the inevitable times of conflict.  In fact, it may be a serious unresolved conflict that brings you in.  We will face the issue, dissect it, take whatever actions are necessary to resolve it, create whatever boundaries are necessary not to repeat it, embrace whatever remedies are required to repair it, and move forward with the resolve not to have to repeat that particular fight any time soon, or ever again.

Know Something New is Coming

Most couples have the same two or three fights over, and over again, sometimes over decades of marriage.  Think about whatever it is that is the current subject of your conflict.  Is it totally new, or is it the latest version of the same fight you’ve been having for months, or years?  The good news is – the two of you working together can totally defang this problem.  And, as I have said to many clients, “Now you can fight about something new!”  Then we smile, or even laugh together, knowing we are celebrating a significant victory in this particular area.

Guidelines for Disagreements

Depending on how often conflict is a problem, we may go on to build in some “Guidelines for Disagreements” that take into account everything you have already experienced and learned in our sessions.  This is in the form of “Do’s and Don’ts” which are extremely practical and helpful.

You Will Make A Point to Agree

Finally, in the two or three (or five) clearly defined areas of recurrent stress, we may go so far as to formally negotiate a series of “WE AGREE” statements.  With input from both you and your spouse, you will use your own language to define, ahead of time, how you will approach each subject.  For example, if money is one of your frequent battlefields, you will agree –in writing—as to the boundaries you will live by in regard to earning, spending, giving, saving, investing, goals, both short-term and long-term, etc.  Your words, your ideas, your boundaries—the point is that you agree.  Not just words on a page, but for the sake of harmony and joy in your marriage, for the sake of your family, you agree to work together to make this arena of money satisfying, not stressful.

Or, your issue may be sex, or intimacy, or parenting, or in-laws, or hobbies, etc.  The process will be similar, and the outcome will be positive, based on your mutual commitment to the work required.  You really can get better.  You know you want to.  I can help you get there.

Are You Ready for Couples Counseling in Pensacola?

A counselor and a coach…  With me, you get both through a process I call “Therapeutic Coaching.”  With an Ed.D. in Psychology and Counseling I am a trained Cognitive-Behavioral therapist.  Along with decades of counseling experience I have 30+ years’ experience in leadership development and coaching.  I am able to bring together the best of both worlds to help you and your spouse get better.  What this means to you is an interactive, practical, insightful, results-oriented process where the goal is not just insight, but a clearly defined and followed action plan for improvement.

I’d like to meet you and hear about your marriage, because I love helping couples and marriages get better!  Call me or email me for an appointment.