When I ask adults what they hope to gain through counseling, they may describe specific problems they wish to solve. But more often they will acknowledge that what they really seek is something more easily expressed than attained: to feel better about their relationships, their lives, and themselves.
With this as goal, their sessions will usually focus on recognizing and removing the obstacles that stand in their way. They may look outward, aiming to improve adverse situations, to explore new opportunities, or to change self-limiting behaviors. They may also look inward in search of other, more elusive roadblocks: powerful feelings too painful to experience; old memories too troubling to revisit; self-judgments too shameful to acknowledge. Through these endeavors they hopefully will experience a fundamental truth about counseling: that through self-knowledge comes healing.
Partners may seek counseling because they are experiencing discord, disconnection, or the uneasy feeling that they are no longer “on the same page.” More often than not they have found themselves in a cycle of criticism, conflict, withdrawal, and silence – one that repeats again and again without resolution.
During their work with me, they will seek to identify the factors perpetuating their cycles. They may find themselves expressing thoughts, feelings and needs that have long gone unseen or undisclosed. They may explore how their experiences in earlier relationships have shaped their beliefs and behaviors in this one. And hopefully they they will look beneath the anger and defensiveness that so often undermine relationships and find the openness, vulnerability, and empathy that strengthen them.