What to expect?

Question Mark

Format of the sessions

The first session in couple counselling is usually done with both partners present, so that I get an impression of the interaction between both of you and so that we can all agree on a common goal. Sometimes it is useful to follow up with two individual sessions with each partner alone (or two half hour sessions) to give both of you the opportunity to speak openly without worrying about your partner’s reaction to what is said. However, generally couple counselling yields the best results when done together. This allows to identify issues as they come up in order to learn how to deal better with the emotions triggered by the relationship problems and find more efficient ways to solve them. 

Your  Expectations???

I want the counsellor to help my partner see that I am right and s/he is wrong.   

Once my partner realizes that s/he is wrong and I am right we will have a good relationship again.

We need one session to sort out our problems

Reality Check: 

Both partners usually contribute to the problem

It is usually the circular interaction that needs to be improved. Both partners have a subjective reality that makes sense from their point of view   

One session is not enough to repair a relationship; long lasting change takes time.


Video recording

If you agree, I will  video the session. This allows to play back some key moments during the couple counselling session so that you can see yourself interacting with your partner. Watching oneself sometimes help to realize that one’s behaviour during conflict is less than ideal. Video recording also helps me to review the session and pick up subtle non-verbal behaviour that I may not have detected during the session. The video recordings are strictly confidential.                                            


Initial conflict resolution

Time: Four to eight sessions (average six), sometimes including a session with each partner individually.  

Goal: To move from conflict to dialogue about the issue

Effectiveness: Effective short term, but may lead to relapse

Content: Analysing the anatomy of the conflict  

Recognizing two subjective realities  

Taking responsibility for one’s own contribution 

Dimishing painful emotions                                                    

Improving communication                                                                                               

Practical solutions 

Taking care of oneself, even if your needs remain unfulfilled 


Long lasting change

Time: Eight to twelve sessions

Goals: To build a sound and lasting relationship in all areas 

To improve and deepen the relationship

Effectiveness: Highly effective if both partners are committed to the process


  • History of the relationship 
  • Relationship style in each partner’s family of origin                        
  • Expressing one’s deepest fears and hopes to each other
  • Validating each other’s fears and hopes 
  • Expressing and responding to each other’s attachment needs  
  • Power relations: accepting influence                                                                      
  • Honouring each other’s life dreams                                                                   
  • Learning to take control of emotions                                                                
  • Overcoming resistance  
  • Suppoting each other to overcome past traumatic events (e.g. sexual abuse)                    
  • Relapse prevention 


Working on single issues:                                                        

Couples may choose to work on these particular issues:

  • Sexuality issues 
  • Financial issues
  • Parenting issues  
  • Family – work balance                      
  • Recovery from an affair                        
  • Managing stress                 
  • Dealing with strong emotions, e.g. anger