What to Expect
Arizona Couples Clinic- Laura Hudson, L.C.S.W.
Your therapist should have specific, documented training in relationship therapy. A well trained relationship counselor should be able to name at least one recent training they have attended and one theorist or researcher that informs their work. In my work I incorporate a lot of the research of Scott Stanley, Howard Markman and John Gottman. I also sometimes use techniques from the work of Harville Hendrix. Some of the books written for the general population by these and other authors are listed on the Resources page.
Your counselor should be sensitive to both of you. Neither person should feel like the therapist is "taking sides". If your marriage is troubled you both are likely hurting and needing something more. Part of what therapy does is help each person see the other's point of view.
While your counselor may ask about the current problems that brought you to therapy, your sessions should not be focused entirely on all the problems of your relationship. Your counselor should also not allow you to engage in rehashing old arguments the entire session. I do not let arguments go on any longer than I need to to get an idea of what a typical fight looks like between a couple. Once I have that information I block unproductive fights and then guide couples to learn more productive forms of communication that they can use at home.
Your therapist should be committed to helping you repair your marriage. Some therapists believe that maintaining a client's "self determination" means never challenging their decisions. I have found, however, that when couples come to me contemplating a divorce, they almost always choose help and hope over "permission" to divorce. If a therapist is recommending separation or divorce you may want to seek another opinion.
Some divorces are justified. There are simply some things no one should have to put up with: cruelty, abuse, chronic substance that the partner won't work on, chronic irresponsibility and chronic affairs. I call these the "hard" reasons to get divorced.
The "soft" reasons: "I'm not happy." "We don't communicate." "We've grown apart." "She's changed." can also seems like compelling reasons to part when you're feeling hopeless about the future of your marriage. But people can often work through soft reasons. I try to help couples take the approach that part of the marriage commitment is to work through soft problems and also find acceptance of one another.
Most counselors complete some kind of assessment during the first session. Depending on the orientation of your therapist and on the specific requirements of the agency responsible for payment, this can range from one simple question about the presenting issue or a more extensive gathering of history form both of you. I have each person complete a one page check off list of concerns just prior to the session and then get more information from the couple during the session.
The waiting room may or may not have a receptionist. It will be soundproofed or reasonably distanced from therapy rooms. Unlike a typical doctors office, most therapists are usually right on time.
Copyright ©2004 Laura D. Hudson. L.C.S.W. All rights reserved.