What to Expect from your First Marriage Counseling Session

What to Expect from your First Marriage Counseling Session

Congratulations! You’ve scheduled your first marriage counseling appointment. You’re about to embark on a journey of discovery with your partner unlike nothing you’ve done before. You will be sharing emotionally intimate thoughts and feelings with each other and in the presence of a stranger (yikes!).

Right about now, you may be a bit nervous and possibly even toying with the idea of cancelling. Don’t! It’s usually the fear of the unknown that keeps us frozen in place – essentially stuck. This article will take the fear out of the unknown and tell you what you can expect in your first session.

Counselors are legally required to get various consents from you and from your partner.
The first part of initiating any counseling session is paperwork. These documents are usually completed prior to the first session. Your therapist will let you know.

What kind of paperwork? Aside from basic demographic information, therapists are required to get various consents from you and from your partner – informed consent for treatment, notice of privacy practices, client rights, etc. Ask your therapist about any documents you do not understand.  

Arrive a few minutes early. It’s normal to be nervous. Take a few deep breaths and settle into your surroundings. Your therapist will be out to greet you shortly.

The first session is all about your therapist getting to know each of you as you get to know your therapist.

When it’s time for your session, you and your partner will meet with your therapist in a private office. The first session is all about your therapist getting to know each of you as you get to know your therapist. This process of building a therapeutic rapport is vital to the marriage counseling process.

Some of the questions your therapist asks might be uncomfortable or even unexpected. It’s important to be open and honest in your responses. You may also be surprised at some of your partner’s responses. That’s OK. It’s part of the process. Your therapist will help to guide you through the difficult parts.

Don’t be surprised if the therapist asks you to complete questionnaires or checklists of some sort. Therapists often use various screening tools or questionnaires as part of their therapeutic process. There’s no need to be intimidated or worried. Your therapist is trying to get to know you both better and what your needs might be. These are not tests and there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.

Finally, your therapist may give you and your partner some homework to do. Learning and changing doesn’t happen just in the therapy room. It takes action steps to learn and grow individually and as partners. You and your partner may have the same homework assignments or you may each have something separate to work on. Every couple is different.

Your session will likely end with some discussion of recommendations or plan for follow up. This is also a good time to ask any questions about what to expect going forward.

Written by
Dr. Dawn Ferrara, LMFT