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Portrait of a Couples Therapy First Session

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Portrait of a Couples Therapy First Session

Portrait of a Couples Therapy First Session

Unsure what to expect for your very first session in couples therapy? Not to worry…I’ve got you covered!

If you’re a bit nervous about session number one, that’s perfectly normal. And very understandable. After all, it’s not every day that someone asks you and your partner to sit down in front of a perfect stranger and open up about your relationship problems.

That said, my clients are often very relieved once they come in and finish that very first session. Some people even find it enjoyable! (Probably because I’m THAT awesome, lol!)

But if it helps to take away some of your jitters, just think of it as a casual talk about your relationship that will only get as personal as you’re ok with.

Of course, it is couples counseling so you’ll be asked many personal questions during this session.  But remember that you’re in complete control of how much or how little you want to reveal with your answers.

During your first couples therapy session, we’ll aim to cover three main areas…

I. Family Background

First, I’ll ask both you and your partner to share a brief background of your F.O.O. (i.e., your family of origin – basically, the family that you each grew up in).

This means, I’ll want a quick picture of what your family looks like – like long relationships or marriages, number of children, and if members of your family are close, disconnected, or even cut off from each other.

Some questions I may ask:

  • Are your parents currently married or ever married to one another? If they divorced, are they now with new partners?
  • Do you have siblings and if so, what’s the order (oldest, youngest)? Or are you an only child?

II. Relationship History

The second are we’ll cover during this first session of couples counseling is the story of your relationship.  I’ll ask you both to share a brief history with me. 

This relationship history is important and will give me context for the current problems that you’re coming in to tackle.

Some questions I may ask:

  • When and where did you meet?
  • Were you friends for a while or did you move quickly toward being a committed couple?
  • Were you in other relationships when you first met and end those to pursue each other, or were you both single at the time?
  • Did any events happened along the way that really challenged your relationship? Like cheating, breakups, job loss, or major illness?

And of course, I’ll want to know what your F.O.C. (i.e., family of creation) looks like? For example, do you have kids? Fur babies? In-laws who moved in to your home together and never left?

III. Current Problems & Goals

The last thing we’ll cover during your first session is what brought you in for couples therapy.  I’ll ask for both you and your partner’s perspective on why you sought professional help? And why now?

I’ve never met a couple yet in which both people describe their relationship and their issues in the same way as each other. So hearing from you both about this will be important!

For example, if you’re struggling with communication is it because you’re avoiding talking about important issues? Or letting things escalate and get heated too quickly, causing lots of fights? Or some of both?  And what are the issues you seem to fight about the most?  

Ideally, you leave your first session with a better idea of how your both viewing your problems so you can begin thinking about what you’d like to set as goals for couples therapy.

Some common goals for couples counseling are:

Decisions to Make:

  • Before your first session, decide if you and your partner are really ready to begin couples therapy.  Unsure? Check this out: Don’t Begin Couples Therapy Yet! First, Read This. 
  • After your first session, decide whether or not couples therapy with me feels like a good fit for you and your partner.  If so, we’ll decide together how often your appointments should be (weekly or less often) and if standard (50 min) or extended (90 min) sessions are best for you both.


Today is the perfect day to begin your change.

Get your FREE phone consultation to help you figure out if Dr. McDowell’s services are a good fit for you.