Anyone who has successfully utilized couple’s counseling to repair a broken relationship knows that the experience is rarely a one-and-done thing. In other words, couples do not spend one hour with a counselor and suddenly solve all their problems. A typical therapy regimen includes multiple sessions spread out over a period of time.
It can seem like couple’s counseling doesn’t really work. When people have that impression, they may think that repeat sessions are just a way for the counselor to make more money. But that is really not the case. Not only does couple’s counseling usually require multiple sessions, but participants may not see results right away. It can take weeks, or even months, to start reaping the fruits of one’s counseling labors.
In a nutshell, here’s why couple’s counseling is rarely a one-and-done experience:
1. Problems Are Deeply Rooted
It generally takes a long time for a relationship to be so troubled that couples are motivated to seek counseling. Your average couple doesn’t sign up for therapy when things seem to be going fine. As such, couple’s counseling usually isn’t proactive. It tends to be reactionary. By the time couples seek counseling, their problems are deeply rooted.
The deeper the roots, the harder problems are to address. Marital problems are like weeds in a garden. If you don’t pull them out by the roots entirely, they will keep growing back. But how do you know the depth of the roots if you don’t dig? In the counseling environment, you need multiple sessions to dig deeply enough.
2. Participation May Vary
We have been offering couple’s counseling long enough to know that participation among parties can vary. Rarely do we have situations where both parties participate at the same level. One is almost always more willing than the other. We expect it, but it can take multiple sessions to get both parties on the same page.
3. Viewpoints Are Different
Hand-in-hand with varying levels of participation are different viewpoints. It is very common for two parties in a couple’s counseling situation to see their problems from different angles. Because their viewpoints are different, their perceptions of the root causes are also different. Again, it takes time to get them on the same page.
The thing to remember is that problems cannot be solved if couples don’t work at them together. And it is much more difficult for that to happen if they have different viewpoints and approach solutions with different levels of commitment.
4. Counseling Evolves over Time
Tying all of this together is the reality that couple’s counseling evolves over time. Think of it like raising children. As a parent, you modify the way you interact with your child as the child grows, learns, and develops. You treat your child one way at two years old and a completely different way at 10 years old. Your parenting evolves along with your child’s development.
Couple’s counseling evolves with each session. The direction and pace of evolution depends on how participants react. Regardless, this evolution takes time. Counselors need multiple sessions to help couples go from one step to the next. As the steps are taken, counseling is adjusted in order to accommodate the current level of growth.
It would be wonderful if counselors could spend just 60 minutes with couples, say a few magic words, and instantly solve their problems. But that is not the way it works. In fact, counselors cannot solve any problems at all. All they can do is help couples figure out their problems and come up with appropriate solutions. And that takes time.