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spiral2grow Marriage and Family Therapy, a leading provider of relationship therapy in NYC, help couples build successful relationship. spiral2grow, located in midtown Manhattan at 260 Madison #8023, New York, NY 10016, offers proven marriage counseling and couples therapy for individuals and couples, while providing workshops for marriage improvement and enhancement.
How to Prepare for Marriage/Couples Counseling to Make it Effective?
Frequent arguments, anger escalation, power struggle, infidelity, financial difficulties, in-laws issues are only few examples of negative dynamics that many couples face in their relationships. If couples find themselves stuck in vicious cycles or find it difficult to solve, it would be wise to seek guidance of a professional counselor who specialize in relationship counseling.
A therapist can provide an un-biased and professional perspective on the marital challenges; guiding couples making positive change toward better relationship. Unfortunately, too many couples mistakenly believe that counseling is a quick fix while the counselor is going to “correct” the problem in the relationship, mainly the issues of the other spouse so that they can live happily ever after. Obviously this is one example a misconception that many couples have about therapy. So, if you are planning on investing time, money and energy on couples therapy, it would be wise to have the right perspective and prepare yourself for the counseling process. If you are interested in planning marriage or couples counseling and to set the right expectation, the following are few guidelines that will help you create an effective therapy process that will lead to successful results.
It is important to have a vision of the life you want and the relationship you aspire for. A vision involves identifying and imagining something you really want. A vision includes the passion that provides the driving force to create a sustained effort to bring it to reality. Know which kind of relationship you want to have as well as the kind of partner you want to be. Many times couples have competing visions that create division. Try to establish unity and common vision that would help you and your partner refocus on the same goals, purpose and vision.
A vision creates a bigger picture which must always be in front of you. Think about what it is that you hope to get from your marriage therapy even before you start the counseling. Define the skills you want to learn and the problem you want to solve. Remember that you want to improve your relationship and be happy, so move away from small issues, unimportant argument or misunderstanding. Focus on big matters, vicious cycles and unhealthy dynamics that hinder your relationship; focus on promoting flexibility and happy relationship rather than being right or defending principles that makes you rigid. Remember that normally there is a tension between short-term gratification and the long-term goal of creating a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Reactive behaviors are driven by emotionality, impulsivity and short term desires. Proactive attitude allows us to move away from being victimized and passive toward responsibility and compassion. It is one of the building block of self reflection and personal growth. Understand that the therapist is not responsible for fixing your relationship but rather than guiding and empowering you to make the necessary changes. Regardless what other people or your partner do with their lives decide to take charge of your life to make your life more fulfilling.
Proactively leads to responsibility. Responsibility equals “Response Ability.” That means you are responsible for everything you say and do, and you are in charge of yourself, your relationship and your life and ultimately your happiness. The expression “taking responsibility” is somewhat misleading. The reality is that if we want it or not we always respond to external stimulations. We actually have no choice but to respond, even if we do nothing. The main point is to recognize that you are the one that needs to take care of yourself as no one can do it for you. The more you improve your response to the problem (how you think about it, how you feel about it and what you do about it) the more successful you will have in your relationship. The key is self-responsibility, not selfishness.
Therapy is about change, which can be scary and difficult. However, if you and your partner are each open to making changes, you will have greater opportunities and better chance of succeeding in counseling. Compromise and good will is important element in order to create change and make the marriage better. If you are willing to be creative and open to new ideas, including any suggestions the therapist gives, you will find the counseling sessions to be more productive.
Changing anything including adapting new ways of thinking or doing things brings emotional discomfort. The change puts you in unfamiliar and uncomfortable zone and pushes your limit. This is only natural. At first when thinking about change or staring taking actions, there might be an emotional risk. Experiencing internal change and building new skills requires tolerating strong emotions, which is not easy. But the fact is that you will never be able to encounter different worlds if you always stay safe in your comfort zone. The more you push yourself into this uncomfortable territories, you expand your freedom and personal growth.
Creating change is not easy and builds commotional pressure. The discomfort of change requires courage to face it. It also takes courage to love and build relationship. Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable and exposed and often feeling out of control than love. Deep love gives you exciting, exhilarating, uplifting, and joyous to your heart, but you won’t get to experience the gifts of love without courage. Uncomfortable feelings let you know you are not prepared. If you view these feeling in that way, it becomes a signal to you that you need to continually work on yourself be better. So, have the courage to face the difficult feelings and act and toward love and better relationship.
Everyone has something they would like to change in their partner. Clearly, the greatest improvement in a couples’ relationship come when both people change and grow. To establish such positive environment, partners need to create an environment that is conducive to change. This is why thinking in terms of influencing your partner rather than controlling your partner is so critical. No one wants to be controlled as it only brings resistance. Be soft with your partner when asking them to change. Explain to them what you will do to help them make the change you want. When both partners focus on themselves and make positive changes that have meaning to the other, it serves as reinforcement and is a catalyst for additional positive changes.
While criticism can be destructive, constructive criticism can be a relationship-building and enhancing. For example, if your partner spend less time with you and you would you like spend more quality time with your partner, you better say it. If you would like your partner to be more expressive, you better tell him that. The key point is to be able to express your need constructively, respectfully and gently. It is important to be specific and clear about the desired behavior that you would like to see rather than attacking the character of the person or assuming the intention of your partner.
Communication is the basis for healthy relationship, and inability to communicate in constructive ways creates the majority of the problems in a relationship. Communication means that you are able to express and share things about your thoughts, feelings and needs. It also means that you carefully listen to your partner and understand them. By learning to communicate your positions clearly, respectfully and assertively, you can turn problems, conflict and challenges into constructive discussion that provides the spring board to improve your relationship. Communication is a habit that requires constant practice and conscious effort. A therapist can guide you toward healthy ways of communication that alleviates misunderstandings and brings harmony.
Be supportive and offer reassurance and encouragement to your partner. Try to understand their resistance and even more importantly be empathetic and non-judgmental. Knowing why they are or are not willing to change will help you understand what motivates them. Deeply understand and accept their concerns and encourage them to do their best. If you are not clear about your partner position, ask constructive questions. Questions will help clarify things and uncover reasons beneath causes and situations.
When you focus on making yourself the best person you can be, you make yourself as well as your marriage stronger. The greatest gift you can give to yourself and your partner is your own personal development. Don’t wait for circumstances or other people to change, take the initiative and change what you can. By being your best, you also serve as a role model to your family and enable them to be their best person. So, when you strive to be your best self everyone wins. You will be a better partner, a better parent and a better citizen.
You are probably familiar with Rick Hanson “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” Unfortunately the brain has evolved to focus on the negatives rather than the positive. It is mainly true in romantic relationship when you focus on what wrong with your partner and what is wrong in the relationship. As such, you rarely take the time to appreciate what you have in the relationship or praise your partners for what you do like. The problem is that you expect things to be good: to receive the good without having to do anything to make them good. It’s easy to lose sight of the areas in which relationship function effectively. So, make an effort to be positive and appreciative to what you have. Also, don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills and more positive energy.
Lao Tzu wrote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The idea of small step approach is a philosophy for life that help us reach major goals by breaking tasks into small and manageable steps. If you are able to be creative and find new ways to interact in your relationship, you will be able to transform your dynamics and improve your life. In the same manner, building mini healthy habits not only creates good habits, but also uproot bad habits. So, remember, small steady steps bring incremental change that lead to big results.
It is important to realize that successful counseling does not happen overnight and your problems will not be fixed immediately. It simply takes effort to sustain improvement over time – staying conscious of making a modification over time – being aware to be more giving, more appreciative, more respectful etc. It takes effort to think, pay attention and act. So, remain consistent with the counseling treatment to make the most efficient progress.
The main goal of the counseling process is increasing your knowledge about yourself, your partner and the patterns of interaction between you. It is about finding new more effective ways to build motivation and act in a mature way that is conducive to attain your relationship goals. Psychotherapy becomes effective as you apply new knowledge to break ineffective patterns and develop better ones.