Sharmen Kimbrough from the Marriage Recovery Center explains what can you expect from counseling, and for the road of healing ahead.
Entering the counseling process with realistic expectations is vital for a successful journey. Understand that it’s a gradual process that requires effort, honesty, and a commitment to change. Embrace the fact that both you and your partner have the power to choose your own paths, and that counseling is a tool to help you make informed decisions.
What Can You Expect from Counseling?
Counseling, especially for couples in crisis, can be a lifeline when relationships are on the brink of collapse. If you’ve found yourself in the midst of a turbulent period in your marriage or partnership, you might be seeking a quick fix to restore harmony.
However, it’s important to understand that the counseling process isn’t a magic bullet that can instantly mend your relationship. In this article, we’ll explore what you can realistically expect from counseling, dispelling any illusions of a swift and effortless solution.
Facing Reality: Being Real and Raw
The first thing you should expect when entering counseling is the necessity of being real and raw. Your counselor is not interested in sugar-coated stories or facades.
To help you navigate your relationship’s challenges, they need to see the true extent of the issues you’re facing. Whether it’s anger, betrayal, resentment, or any other relationship strain, open and honest communication is the key. Your counselor has encountered numerous couples grappling with similar difficulties, so there’s no need to be embarrassed or shy about your problems.
Expect that laying it all out on the table, no matter how ugly it may look, is the starting point for making progress. You are not alone in your struggles, and your counselor is there to help you untangle the mess and guide you towards a better direction.
Patience is a Virtue: The Time Factor
One of the most important aspects of counseling is understanding that it’s a process that takes time. The journey towards healing and rebuilding a relationship doesn’t solely occur during counseling sessions. A significant part of the process is the time and effort you invest in implementing the strategies and tools provided by your counselor.
Counseling equips you with the knowledge and skills to make meaningful changes, but it’s up to you and your partner to put in the work outside of the counseling room. The counselor can guide you, but it’s your commitment and consistency that will ultimately determine the success of the counseling process.
The Power of Choice: You Can’t Change Your Partner
It’s important to acknowledge that counseling is not about making your partner change. Instead, it’s about helping both of you understand what’s happening within your relationship and empowering you to make choices that lead to positive change.
Both you and your partner are individuals with your own thoughts, dreams, fears, and aspirations. Each of you has the right to choose how you want to live and what changes you’re willing to make. Expect that your counselor will work with you to facilitate this understanding and guide you towards more constructive interactions. Remember, you cannot force your partner to change; it’s a decision they must make for themselves.
No Quick Fixes: Managing Expectations
If you’ve turned to counseling as a last resort, hoping for a quick and easy solution, it’s crucial to recalibrate your expectations. There is no “easy button” when it comes to mending a strained relationship. Your counselor can provide you with valuable insights, tools, and techniques, but these will only be effective if you’re willing to implement them consistently.
Don’t view counseling as a mere checkbox to satisfy your partner’s demands. Approach it with the mindset of making real, lasting changes in your relationship. Expect that the process will take time and dedication, and the effort you invest will determine the outcomes.
Unlearning and Relearning: Changing Learned Behaviors
It’s essential to recognize that many of the behaviors and reactions you bring into your relationship are learned habits. Your feelings, responses, and actions are all influenced by your past experiences. Expect that a significant part of the counseling process will involve unlearning destructive habits and relearning healthier ones.
If you’re a determined individual, you might find it easier to discipline yourself to make these changes outside of counseling sessions. However, most people benefit from the accountability and guidance offered during counseling. Your counselor will monitor your progress, provide feedback, and help you stay on track with implementing positive changes.
Financial Investment: Counseling Costs
Counseling does come with a financial cost, and it’s an investment you should be prepared for. However, it’s essential to understand that the value you gain from counseling is directly related to how you use the tools and knowledge provided.
If you apply what you’ve learned to your relationship, it can be worth every penny. On the other hand, if you don’t act on the insights gained, the cost might feel like a wasted expense.
Counseling is an opportunity to gain the skills and insights needed to improve your relationship. It’s an investment in your future happiness, but it’s up to you to make the most of it.
Independence: You and Your Partner Alone
Ultimately, counseling is a temporary stage in your journey. Your counselor won’t be with you at home, guiding your every move. It’s you and your partner who will need to navigate the complexities of your relationship independently. You should expect to rely on your own thinking, wisdom, and discernment to determine how to make this work.
Your counselor is there to provide you with the tools and strategies to facilitate change, but the real work happens in your daily interactions. Use the counseling experience as a foundation to help you move forward, but remember that the responsibility for the relationship rests with you and your partner.
Uncertain Outcomes: Restoration or Separation
While the goal of counseling is often the restoration of a relationship, it’s essential to acknowledge that this might not always be the outcome. In some cases, the damage and hurt within a relationship may be irreparable. There may be too much trauma or harm for your partner to continue the journey with you.
Counseling is a tool to help you understand your relationship better, heal from past wounds, and make necessary changes. However, it doesn’t guarantee that your relationship will reconcile. Sometimes, the consequences of past actions may be too significant to overcome.
It’s important to be prepared for the possibility that counseling might lead to the realization that separation or divorce is the best course of action. This doesn’t mean that your faith or belief in a higher power is insufficient; it’s a reflection of the complexities of life and relationships in this imperfect world.
While counseling can be a transformative experience, it’s important to remember that the true change happens when you and your partner take the lessons learned and apply them in your daily lives. The ultimate goal is the restoration of your relationship, but be prepared for the possibility that it might not be the outcome. Regardless of the result, counseling can provide clarity, healing, and a path forward in your relationship or individual journey.
Also read: Can interventions change a narcissist?
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.