Most couples feel a little anxious starting relationship coaching or marriage therapy. Even if your relationship isn't in crisis it can be unnerving to start a conversation with a stranger (your therapist) about intimate parts of your life.
A tiny bit of foresight is all it takes to soothe some of the anxiety that often accompanies first therapy appointments. Think through the following questions to help you create a plan for before and after your session.
What helps me feel safe? What can I ask the therapist to help create greater safety in the session?
When do I feel most open to trusting other people? What have other people done to earn my trust in the past? What can this therapist do to build trust with me?
What kind of support do I need from my partner before the session? During the session? After the session?
What can I do to take care of my self care before the session to create optimal conditions for connection and openness?
In addition to these pre-session considerations, think about what might help you after sessions. Most folks don't give a lot of thought to the after-care portion of the evening, but this can really help you and your sweetheart make the most of therapy.
I recommend coming up with two or three possible plans with your partner. Hold these as possibilities, not certainties as your feelings may shift during the session. Think about three possible plans for after your therapy appointment:
Energetic Conversation- Some couples feel like continuing conversation right away after sessions. If this is you it can be helpful to plan a sort-of date night in a neutral location after your session to help keep the conversation flowing and keep it special or intentional. Use this map of locations near my office if you would like suggestions for after sessions with me.
Quiet Connection- Some couples leave session wanting to stay connected, but feeling in need of a little reflection. Often a walk in a park or your neighborhood holding hands can help you have some quiet introspection while remaining close. Other couples return home to curl up on the couch and read, still cuddling, but with space for self-reflection.
Personal Space- Other couples need individual space after sessions. They might want to journal, take a jog, or a bath on their own. Personal space for self reflection is a very important part of the process for almost every couple. Think about the activities that allow you space to reconnect and reflect and have ideas ready in advance.
Odds are you and your partner or spouse will need one of, or a combination of these three options at the end of your session. Thinking up ideas ahead of time means you will have greater clarity to the end of your session.
I am including a map of all the locations I mentioned in my previous post (how to prepare for a couples therapy session) below. Feel free to suggest other after care ideas of locations in the comments!