I’m New to Counseling and Confused Where to Start! What to Expect in Couples Counseling at MoxiePsychology Legacy.
Discuss, print, enjoy, and share the love.
When looking around for couples counseling (or counseling in general) it’s hard to know where to go, who to choose, and what to expect… It can be really confusing! This is especially the case if you have never done counseling before. To add to the confusion, there are many different types of counselors to choose from.
Today’s post is all about what to expect from couples counseling here at MoxiePsychology Legacy. I also hope to clear up some confusion about the different types of counselors available to you.
Who works in the field of psychology as a counselor?
I often run into a lot of confusion and questions about the different types of mental health care workers; this is why I will explore a few different types of mental health professionals and their core differences.
One main distinguishing aspect of a psychiatrist, in comparison to other mental health providers, is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who primarily prescribes medication for mental health (occasionally they do a little counseling too, but their main focus is on psychiatric medication).
A psychologist has their doctorate in the field of psychology, and they have in-depth and specialized training in psychological assessments (such as IQ assessments, personality assessments, mental health diagnostic assessments, etc.). They may only focus their work on counseling, assessments, or they may do both counseling and assessments.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT):
A licensed marriage and family therapist could have either their doctorate or master’s degree. A licensed marriage and family therapist has specialized training and education in couples, families, and relationships in general. They have usually done hundreds (or possibly even thousands of hours) of relationship specific education, supervision, and clinical work. Marriage and family therapists are also trained in mental health diagnosis.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC):
Licensed professional counselors are mental health professionals with a master’s degree in a mental health area (such as clinical counseling). They have in-depth training in diagnosing and treating individuals with mental health disorders.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW):
Some licensed clinical social workers focus their careers more on the typical social work that we think of, but some dedicate their lives to doing mental health counseling just like a marriage and family therapist, psychologist, or a licensed professional counselor. Both LCSWs and LMFTs have specialized training built into their degrees and licenses in thinking outside of the individual and into that individual’s relationships, family, and greater community.
All licensed mental health providers (or psychological superheroes as I like to think of them!) have devoted many years to their education and training so that they can be well qualified professionals. They have also spent at least a couple of years after their degree, working with clients under a supervisor before being licensed. After the minimum hours under supervision are completed and the required exams are passed, the mental health professional can be fully licensed to practice independently.
So, what type of counselor is Holly L. Harrison?
I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I have been fully licensed in the state of Missouri since 2012 (I began practicing in 2009, under a supervisor, after I graduated with my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy).
One of the reasons I chose the field of marriage and family therapy is because I loved learning about relationships (healthy relationships are such a key component to a thriving and meaningful life, in my opinion). I wanted to eventually help others with my knowledge and specialization, because I believe helping people with their relationships can make such a massive and positive difference in their lives (and in the lives of everyone around them).
General couples counseling process here at MoxiePsychology Legacy:
Today I will share with you my general approach and system with couples because I think more transparency about what we do in the mental health field is a very good thing. So much of what us counselors accomplish is behind closed doors and confidential—this is important (and confidentiality is a very good thing), but inevitably a lack of information gets out to the public about what we do.
Fortunately, with new technologies, more and more counselors are sharing what they do with the public, and I hope this trend continues. Also, on my end, I want to be transparent about what I do so I can work on always making my products and services better for my clients through feedback and dialogue. Knowing what is helping, what couples want more information about, and what is not working are all important to me.
Ultimately (and really what is most important here), I want you to get matched up with services that are the best fit for you; whether that is with me or another of counselor. I want you to feel better!
Key components of my couples counseling approach
There are several key components to my couples counseling style and approach.
First, couples counseling is not one of 100 things that I do; instead, it is the only service I currently offer. The reason I am doing this is so I can put my full energy and focus into creating a massively valuable and life-changing experience from our work together. My goal is to provide clients with an effective and high-quality experience that makes the most out of their time and money. As time goes on, I will add other products and services, but they will all be relationship, communication, leadership, and boundary oriented in nature.
A second component to my work with couples is that I have a general system I use (however, I do adapt it as clinically appropriate). I used this system with couples at my previous practice I owned (Tranquil Waters Counseling and Wellness) (4), and I found it to be very effective, and I have received a lot of good feedback from clients about it. Do keep in mind that every couple is different and there are no guarantees for the outcome of counseling.
A third component to my approach is the whole reason WHY I designed the couples counseling system. I did it to help couples to feel confident in communicating and working through whatever life threw at them (in the past, now, and in the future). I also designed the approach so that couples could regain a sense of happiness, satisfaction, and security in their relationship together.
Why couples like working with me and my general approach
I have had many couples really like my approach and style because they felt they were learning and practicing skills that they could use in hundreds of different situations. I have seen so many couples (happily) surprised that they could learn how to communicate better and finally feel relief from relationship problems and stress.
In my experience, couples usually want to learn empowering tools and skills so that they can manage conflict well on their own, so they don’t have to rely on a therapist forever. Couples also want topic specific feedback on the issues that brought them in to prevent potential pitfalls and missteps.
Couples counseling approach broken down by session
Intake (Session 1):
Get to know the couple. Assess the couple’s main problem areas they would like to work on, their goals, their history, and what their relationship would look like if counseling was a success and exceeded their expectations. Couples are welcomed to ask any questions or voice any concerns they have.
Create goals. Teach how to identify and greatly reduce common harmful communication habits. This is so important because the harmful communication habits, when used frequently, can completely block out all the good stuff underneath! Sort of like clouds blocking out the sun.
With harmful habits starting to be mostly removed (goodbye clouds!), teach couples how to be specific and clear in their communication, how to encourage/nurture more gratitude in their relationship, and teach couples the Speaker-Listener Technique from Fighting for Your Marriage (5). Have the couples practice the Speaker-Listener Technique using an easy topic first (something they are excited about or looking forward to) in order to “learn the ropes.”
The Speaker-Listener Technique is equivalent to the bumpers at a bowling alley. Bumpers help the ball to reach the goal of knocking down the pins, and they ensure that the ball doesn’t totally drop off the lane. The Speaker-Listener Technique guidelines are your conversation bumpers that keep discussions on track. Just like in bowling, as time goes on, you need the bumpers less and less as your skills increase.
Session 4 and On:
Couples start constructively talking to each other, face to face, and on one issue at a time using their new communication skills. They begin working through the primary issues that brought them in. Initially, couples need a lot more of my guidance and support, but as time goes on, and with more practice, couples gain the skills to feel confident working through issues successfully on their own.
It’s really an amazing privilege to be able to witness this journey! I’ve seen couples in sessions go from being unable to constructively discuss issues, to almost needing no help at all from me in working through issues. This is one of the reasons I was drawn to the field—it really is amazing to see the incredible growth that can happen (and seeing how much better couples feel!).
I also of course provide topic-specific feedback and support, as appropriate, based on the issue (blended family challenges, in-law challenges, healthy relationship boundaries, parenting, affairs, trauma, depression, etc.).
Unique aspects of my personality and style
I have always been a very psychologically observant and intuitive person, and I bring that to my work with couples. For example, I have the ability to really hone in on the key problems and specific interactions that are causing the most trouble between couples. Integrated with this ability is my strength in honing in on what relationship changes will make the most positive impact.
My job is to help make this process easier and to structure it for you
Couples often feel pretty overwhelmed when they first come in because they wonder where to start and what changes will help the most. That’s where I come in. Part of my job is to help clarify for the couple what to work on that will help the most, and to help break down the growing process into small and manageable steps.
What should I do as a client to have a great experience and the best chance of achieving my goals?
In working with me at MoxiePsychology Legacy, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your time here:
Live video telehealth option
I see clients in person at my office in Springfield, Missouri. I can also work with clients anywhere in the state of Missouri through my live video telehealth option (6).
Sometimes clients are in a rural area and there just aren’t any counselors nearby. Or, some clients live in a large city like St. Louis or Kansas City, but they would rather avoid the 30 minutes to 1-hour commute one-way to a therapist’s office.
Insurance is something to consider when deciding where to go for counseling. Some counseling practices accept insurance and some do not. Some practices only accept certain types of insurance. If you want to use your insurance, first check to see if the provider is in-network, and if they are not in-network, how much that will cost. Other practices may offer services on a sliding scale. MoxiePsychology Legacy is self-pay only and does not accept insurance.
Counseling with a focus on religious beliefs
When looking for a couples counselor you will need to decide if you want to work with a counselor who is secular, religious focused/based, or no preference. Think about what is the best fit for you and your partner. The Ozarks, in general, is a highly religious area, and so many couples locally prefer to work with a counselor who is biblically minded and brings in Christianity to the couples counseling experience.
My services are specifically designed to be inclusive, secular, and research-based. They would best fit clients who are not looking for Christian-focused couples counseling. I work with clients with various religious and spiritual beliefs. I show respect and understanding for all my clients, and for all of their religious or spiritual backgrounds.
If your religious or spiritual beliefs are an important part of your life and you would like to include aspects of it into your goals, we can definitely do that. I am here to support your religious and spiritual journey in life from your perspective, and not my own.
I am an LGBTQ ally. I had the honor of serving and supporting many LGBTQ clients at my last practice, Tranquil Waters Counseling and Wellness, and I will continue to do the same at MoxiePsychology Legacy.
I offer convenient afternoon and evening hours (Monday through Thursday) so that I can be available when both partners are off work.
Deciding between couples counseling and individual counseling?
I published a helpful blog on this topic at my previous practice. Click HERE (7) to access the post where you can learn about some ideas and guidelines for deciding between couples counseling and individual counseling.
Did I forget to explain something here? Do you have more questions? I always welcome any questions or comments you have. Please comment below, email me, or call me.
Thanks for joining me today
Thank you for being here with me today. I hope this blog helped to clear up some confusion surrounding couples counseling and helped you to feel better informed about the couples counseling process in general. Hopefully you now can feel confident in what to expect from couples counseling here at MoxiePsychology Legacy. Have a wonderful day!
All the best,
Holly L. Harrison
References and Links
(3) Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage: A deluxe revised edition of the classic best seller for enhancing marriage and preventing divorce (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
(5) Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage: A deluxe revised edition of the classic best seller for enhancing marriage and preventing divorce (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Your use of the website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts does not establish a professional therapeutic relationship between yourself and Holly L. Harrison. By using the website and related accounts, you agree to these terms.
The information on this website and the blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. I am not guaranteeing any results.
Please note that the information on this website is not intended to replace or be a substitute for any professional financial, medical, mental health, legal, or other advice.
If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional or medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. If you follow or use the information on the blog, website, newsletter, and social media accounts, you agree that it is at your own risk and you will not hold Holly L. Harrison or MoxiePsychology, LLC liable or responsible for the outcome.
MoxiePsychology Legacy is an outpatient mental health clinic and not equipped for emergency services. If you are in need of emergency mental or medical services, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Holly L. Harrison, MA, LMFT