I once worked with a couple for several weeks when one of the partners became quite angry with me for not convincing his spouse to take a sailing trip that he had planned. Her reason for not wanting to go was that he frequently berated her with belittling names. "At least when we're at home, I can get away when I want to," she explained. "But how am I going to get away when we're on a boat in the middle of an ocean?"
Good question. Unfortunately, his response to that was an explosive and abusive one. I would have been doing no one, but especially him, any favors not sharing what I was experiencing there in the room with them."
"May I offer you some feedback?" I asked him. I watched as he shifted in his seat and grabbed the cup of coffee beside him. Then he responded with more of a mutter than anything, "Go ahead."
"You might not like it," I warned. "So I want to be sure you are giving me permission."
I watch him suck a deep breath of air in through his nostrils. "Shoot."
"If how you are in this office today is even an inkling of how you behave outside of this office," I said, "then I wouldn't want to go on this trip either, any more than I'd feel safe driving home with you today."
Its not an easy thing to hear, I know, but what we were able to get to is that the very communication tactics that made him very successful as an attorney were wreaking havoc on his marriage and family life. Because he was willing to be open to this feedback, unpleasant as it might have initially felt, we were quickly able to begin working on turning him into the kind of partner that his wife not only wanted to go on a sailing trip with but whom she actually got excited again about spending the rest of her life beside.
5) Consider asking for homework between sessions and take treatment recommendations seriously.
You see your therapist for a very brief time out of all the hours in your week. Homework that provides a focus and structure for your goals, and expands on the themes you are exploring in therapy can be very beneficial. Homework can come in various forms, from book recommendations, journaling assignments, a planned date with your partner, or a specific commitment to act on something such as exercise or a therapist's recommendation to get a medical or psychiatric evaluation.
Consider that when you don't follow professional recommendations your therapist believes may truly help that you may be undermining your goals, and self-sabotaging the therapy process.
6) Expect that things may feel worse before they feel better.
As the old motto goes, "No pain, no gain." In relationships, ignorance can only be bliss for so long. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your relationships with yourself and those you love blossom and transform out of old, paralyzing paradigms. Put in the honest, dedicated effort, and the short-term pain will be well worth it.
**Please note that where clients have been mentioned, details have been slightly changed so that their information could not be recognizable to anyone who might be reading this.**