When a couple comes to me for counseling, the RELATIONSHIP is the client and our efforts to make this relationship healthy must be collaborative. I do not make decisions for you, instead I help you to identify the central concerns or issues and to work through the range of available options. It is never my job nor my intent to judge who is right or wrong, or to keep score.
The Five Stages of Couples Counseling
Stage 1: Identification of the problem(s) Based on my training and experience, I make certain basic assumptions about what makes a relationship successful. First, I assume that each of the partners in the relationship must have their needs met. Therefore, the first order of business is to identify the source(s) of disharmony in the relationship. From these issues we can uncover what needs are and are not being met by whom and how it happens. Once we have defined those places where needs are not being met each individual must decide what is required to meet those needs.
Stage 2: Definition of the solution(s) In this stage, each partner must do the personal work required to gain an understanding of themselves and what it will take to feel loved and fulfilled in the relationship. This is often the most difficult part of the process and may require individual sessions in order to facilitate the progress in the couples sessions. Again, I do not decide what you need or how to meet your needs. I fully understand that what works for one individual or couple may not work at all for another. Therefore, I can offer alternatives, suggestions and ideas but the decisions are yours to make.
Stage 3: Articulation of the problems and the proposed solutions by both partners with assistance from the counselor The third stage requires that each partner work to make their needs understood both to themselves and their partner as well as what they think it will take to have those needs met. Each partner must clearly understand what the other is saying and asking. The goal is to learn to listen and understand not necessarily to agree or disagree. Once both partners understand the nature of the problems and the reasons for the solutions, Stage 4 can proceed.
Stage 4: Negotiation, wherein both partners develop a workable solution At this point, both partners must assess the information gathered in the previous stages and decide whether or not their partner's need and solutions are acceptable and/or workable. Both partners must be able to accommodate each other's needs while still maintaining/attaining their own. It does no good whatsoever to simply make one partner happy at the expense of the other. Both partners must be willing and able to give and get what they need in a relationship; each partner must negotiate and represent their needs until a mutually workable solution is created.
Stage 5: Resolution Resolution of the exposed issues requires the couple to take their agreement home and put it into daily practice. If no such resolution can be achieved, then the couple must plan for the dissolution of the relationship. Once the plan is laid out, the real work begins and the couple must begin the process of implementing their agreed upon solution(s). Whether staying together or parting, I can help make the process as agreeable and positive as possible.