One of the first questions every couples therapist and couples counselor must face is how to conduct the first session.
Is it better to meet with both partners separately at the beginning or should one talk directly with both partners together?
Everyone has to find their individual approach here, as both options have their benefits.
Conducting the first couples therapy session together has several benefits:
- The therapist or counselor immediately gets an impression of the couple’s communication patterns and interaction. Who takes the initiative in the conversation? Who is more reserved?
- Certain patterns and behaviors in their communication are immediately recognizable.
- Both clients start from the same point and can build a shared. connection with their therapist Each partner has the chance to explain their personal point of view.
Conducting the couples therapy intake session separately has the following advantages:
- In case of severe problems, some clients often feel safer if they can describe their point of view and fears to a neutral person in the beginning. In this situation, many people dare to speak freely and honestly about what is bothering and concerning them. This is especially true if there has been abuse or violence between the partners.
- For the couples therapist or couples counselor, it can be easier to manage and obtain the information of each partner individually.
- Especially introverted and reserved clients find it easier to open up and talk about their history and past relationships.
- Problems that the partner may not know about yet, but which have a significant impact on the relationship, come up more quickly (for example depression, anxiety or substance abuse).
What are the disadvantages of conducting the first couples therapy session separately?
- It is more time consuming
- It may give one of the clients the feeling that the therapist has taken sides and it may encourage the sharing of secrets between one partner and the therapist.
- Not everyone has the same level of information
- The biggest advantage of conducting the first session together is eliminated: The opportunity to experience both partners interacting with each other. How do they respond to any discrepancies?
Which option is best for the first couples therapy session?
As mentioned, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the question of conducting the first session separately or together. Every couples therapist and couples counselor has to find their own approach that works best for them. Apart from the mentioned options, there is also the possibility to combine the two to get all the advantages and at the same time avoid the disadvantages.
You could offer a mix of both. The first hour is spent talking with both partners together. The second hour is split up to talk with each client individually.
Another option is an assessment questionnaire that both clients fill out separately and send to you before their first session. The easiest way to share these assessments is using CleverMemo. You can add a due date and reminders and ask your clients to share their answers directly in their coaching stream with you.
The Couples Therapy Toolkit includes an intake form and a detailed assessment questionnaire that makes sure you have all the information that you need right from the start. It also includes invaluable exercises and tools that allow you to support clients on their way to live in the most perfect relationship they could ever dream up!
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