What to Expect When You Start Couples Therapy

It can be frightening to pursue couples therapy because it feels as though you failed. However, some of the healthiest couples pursue therapy to maintain their relationship rather than to repair it. Still, the unknown sometimes keeps us from acting even when we need help, so here are a few things you can expect when you start couples therapy.

Before You Go

Do your research to find a therapist you believe will best fit your style and needs. Feel free to call and interview prospective therapists to get a feel for their approach to therapy to make sure you’re comfortable with their style. Look online for their biographies and description of how they work. If you have close confidants, you may see if they have recommendations to consider. Finally, give it a few sessions before deciding whether you are compatible with your therapist.

Baseline: Getting to Know You

During the first session together, you can expect to answer questions about yourselves and generally allow the therapist time to get a feel for your dynamic. It should feel comfortable for the most part, and you should also come prepared with any questions you may have. This may take more than one session depending on how things go.

Some sessions will be together, some may be individual.

You may not always meet together with your therapist. There may be times that you will meet individually, which would allow them to get to know you personally. Also, if the relationship is toxic, it will allow you an opportunity to speak and be heard without fearing reprisal from your partner.

Identification: Determining the Core Issues

During the first session, you may also begin to discuss the issues you are having. The therapist will try to ascertain the cause of any stresses or main problems so that he or she knows how to proceed. Honesty helps this process move more quickly, and roots may continue to be unearthed as you dig deeper. Additionally, your therapist will likely begin helping you specifically identify issues rather than paint with a broad brush. Lean into this process; it’s important.

Goals: Working Towards the Future

Based on this initial conversation, you will set goals for your relationship. If you don’t know what your goals are, don’t sweat it. Your therapist is trained to help you set those goals, and once they have a better idea of what’s happening, they can help you thoughtfully develop them. To help you achieve your goals, your therapist will likely present helpful tips as well as assign homework for you to complete.

Acquiring New Tools

Your therapist may give you new tools in the very first meeting to utilize in your interactions with your partner to start you on a healthier path. Whether they are tips and tricks for listening or ways to de-escalate stressful situations, it’s your job to put them into practice. Commit to the process completely and give the tools a chance to succeed.


Your therapist may give you homework during the first meeting and over time. Therapy sessions help, but the work is done in the day-to-day. Some of this homework will be done together, and some will be individual assignments. Again, commit completely to this process and give your relationship the best chance to improve.

Final Thoughts

Your relationship with the therapist should be healthy as well. You should feel heard, safe, and understood, but it should be within appropriate boundaries. You also should feel free to be completely honest about your goals, even if they seem to differ from your partner’s. It should be the perfect space to practice being vulnerable with your partner under the helpful guidance of a trained therapist.