While couples counseling can be an incredibly powerful tool for improving communication, it's not always effective, and there may be times when couples counseling is not working.
Here are some signs to look for that may indicate that counseling is not having a positive impact on your relationship.
Lack of Progress: One of the most obvious signs that couples counseling is not working is a lack of progress toward your goals. If you and your partner have identified specific goals for your relationship (such as improved communication, greater intimacy, or more effective conflict resolution), and you're not making measurable progress toward those goals, this is a strong indication that counseling is not having a positive impact.
The therapist, yourself, and your partner will decide on the amount of time it takes to make progress. You may all be on the same page and you may not. It's important to be realistic with the timeline you create for seeing progress and being open about what you are able to commit to with your partner.
Continued Conflict: Another sign that couples counseling is not working is if you and your partner are continuing to experience significant conflict. While it's normal to have some disagreements if you're finding that your conflicts are escalating rather than improving, this can be a sign that counseling is not helping.
Lack of Engagement: If you or your partner are disengaged or disinterested in the counseling process, this can be a sign that counseling is not working. Both partners need to be fully committed to the process in order for counseling to be effective, and if one or both of you are not fully engaged, this can be a major barrier to progress.
No Improvement in Communication: Improving communication is often one of the primary goals of couples counseling. If you're not seeing any improvement in your ability to communicate effectively with your partner, this is a sign that counseling is not working. You may feel like your partner is not listening to you, or that you're not able to express yourself in a way that feels heard and understood.
Feeling Worse: Finally, if you're feeling worse or more disconnected from your partner after attending counseling sessions, this is a sign that counseling is not working. While it's normal to experience some discomfort or difficult emotions during the counseling process, if you're feeling more disconnected, resentful, or frustrated with your partner, this is a sign that counseling is not having a positive impact on your relationship.
Please keep in mind that it is very normal that when you start couples counseling that sometimes the relationship feels like it gets worse before it gets better. Committing to couples counseling means choosing to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of your relationship. It means confronting pain, hurt, resentments, and potentially a long history of issues between you and your partner. Give some time to assess if couples counseling is working or not.