Commonly Asked Questions in Couples Counseling
Why do you work with couples?
I love working with couples because I experience the following needs in my own marriage: 1) I want to feel close to my husband, whether we’re physically together or apart; 2) because he matters to me, I need assurance from him especially when I’m upset; 3) I feel unsettled when we’re emotionally disconnected; and 4) I'm more confident going about in the world when I know my husband has my back. I understand these to be fundamental needs that couples have to feel secure in their relationship. If you desire those qualities in your relationship, I want to help.
What can we expect from couples therapy?
Sessions are generally 60-min long but we can negotiate for a longer time if our schedules allow. The 1st session is an assessment where I gather background information from you and your partner. The 2nd and 3rd sessions I usually meet with partners individually to understand your relationship histories. Starting the 4th session, I bring couples back together again to track your interaction patterns. There may be times I might request to meet individually with one or both of you again if issues come up that impact your ability to feel safe and vulnerable in the relationship. For more information, here’s a detailed roadmap for treatment.
How long do we have to be in couples counseling?
You don't have to do anything! But if you want to make your relationship better, I'd suggest a commitment to at least six months of weekly sessions. In cases where your conflicts are long-standing and your wounds are deep, healing may take longer. The thing is, your current patterns of relating were there before you even met your partner. What is six months, a year or even two years in the context of your life together?
Will you see me individually and also see me and my partner as a couple?
Once I start seeing you for individual counseling, I’m partial to your perspective, which makes me a biased 3rd person looking into your couple relationship. For that reason, I cannot go on to work with both you and your partner but will need to refer you to another colleague for couples counseling.
What if my partner stops coming in? Can I continue to see you individually?
If for whatever reason, couples counseling is terminated and one of you wants to continue individual counseling with me, I can see you individually, provided that both partners are aware of this arrangement. If in the future, both partners want to resume couples counseling, I’ll need to refer you to a different couples therapist for reasons mentioned above.
We can’t find childcare. Can we bring our child into our couple sessions?
It has been done before, but I really don’t recommend it. The type of therapy I do invites all of us to be tuned into what’s happening in the room. A cute child will likely be a distraction. It might also be difficult to open up about certain things when your child is listening.
Does insurance cover couples counseling?
Most insurance plans do not cover couples counseling. However, it’s best that you contact your insurance company directly to learn about your mental health/behavioral health benefits. You can ask specifically about “couples counseling”.
what other insurance options do we have?
At the time of assessment, I try to get an understanding of any mental health symptoms you and/or your partner might be experiencing. If it’s determined that one or both of you meet criteria for a mental health diagnosis, and these symptoms can be alleviated by treating the couple relationship, then I might be able to bill insurance for "conjoint therapy".
Are there any benefits to not using insurance?
You might elect to not use insurance for privacy reasons. Throughout treatment, your insurance company generally needs a mental health diagnosis to determine "medical necessity". When I run up against issues processing claims, insurance companies have required additional clinical information such as a treatment summary. Some of my clients have also expressed concerns about leaving a paper trail when applying for life, health or disability insurance.
If my partner has the mental health diagnosis, does that mean it’s his/her fault that we’re struggling?
No, regardless of whether insurance is billed, I see your relationship as my client; your interactions with each other are what’s feeding into your distress. You’re struggling together and it’s my job to help you get unstuck. Well, I’ll need your active participation as well.
What if one of us flies in from out-of-town or travels a lot?
In cases where it’s difficult for one or both partners to make it to weekly sessions, I offer a more intense option of treatment sometimes known as “marathon therapy”. This is usually TWO back-to-back 75-min sessions with a 30-min break in between. Insurance does not offer the flexibility of longer and more frequent sessions. Hence, this arrangement is only available for private pay clients.
It sounds like we meet for weekly sessions. Can we meet less often than that?
Especially in the 1st stage of treatment, it is important we meet weekly so I get a chance to know you, your histories, and how you relate. When I’ve had irregular sessions with my client couples, we spend part of the time recapping what happened since our last session we end up losing the momentum we’ve gained. Put simply, we get more done in four months of weekly couples therapy than we do eight months of biweekly counseling.
YOU’RE ALL THE WAY IN REDMOND. SHOULDN’T we FIND SOMEONE CLOSER?
Traffic is a bear around here, especially if you’re coming from Seattle! I discourage carbon emission, but I do know that it's important to find a counselor that both you and your partner are comfortable with. Provided that both of you are in the same car, one of the benefits of a longer commute is that it affords you time to work on your relationship before and after our sessions. If I’m not your person after a few sessions, no offense, I’ll be happy to refer you to colleagues who might be a better fit.
Do you offer online couples counseling?
When I haven’t had a chance to get to know someone face-to-face, I find it harder to relate on an emotional level. I want to get a feel for what’s happening in the therapy room, and invite you to experience connection with your partner. For that reason, I find online therapy to be a barrier and I do not offer it to my couples.
Ready to take the next step in your relationship?