What is the most effective way for therapists to organize their marriage/family sessions?
During family or couples counseling, the therapist has to attain control over these particular sessions, so all parties feel emotionally safe.
Being in private practice for approximately 12 years, I have learned the most effective / less contentious techniques to adhere to marriage/family sessions. The first thing I do to all persons in the dynamic is I explain my process. I, begin martial and family session by seeing each member individually at first. I decided to do this for several reasons; to build rapport with each person in the dynamic and so they can each learn how I operate. Also, in the beginning of my career, I felt it was extremely unproductive to bring people together prematurely, as sessions were more volatile and contentious. Individually, I begin with an intake process where I am assessing about the persons medically, psychologically and socially. The intake takes an hour and it is basically me asking structured questions in order to get some background and history. After the intake session, I begin the process of working individually with the intent to bring people together when therapeutically ready. Once, I feel individuals are ready for their mutual session, prior to individually I educate each of them so they know what to expect within the mutual/family and how I run these sessions so there’s no surprises on each part.
Mutual sessions start off with explicit rules and boundaries for the session to keep people from interrupting and maintaining emotional control during the session. I also let them know that if the session gets emotionally escalated, I stop the process to attempt to gain emotional control. If I cannot attain control, I then stop the session and reschedule the appointment and reiterate that the mutual sessions have to have low emotional intensity in order to gain results and positive outcomes. During the first mutual session, I go over with consent from both parties, what each person’s individual goals and concerns are with each other. The goal for the mutual sessions is for people come together in collaboration to strengthen their relationships and unions.
Many times, I see family/martially individually while having mutual sessions so work is being on an individual and marital/family dynamic. I have found much success with the structural dynamic of treating sessions that have two or more persons, which is a more complex and complicated dynamic.