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The Three Steps of a Couples Therapy Assessment

You’ve scheduled your first assessment appointment… what’s going to happen?

Each assessment appointment is longer than the therapy sessions which follow.  Therapy sessions are “double” sessions, which means they last an hour and forty minutes – double the length of a traditional 50 minute individual therapy session.  Each assessment appointment is currently two hours, as the hour and forty minutes is just not long enough.

In the first assessment session I will start to get to know the two of you. I will ask about your history together, about each of your backgrounds in your family, about where you’re stuck, and what your goals are. The goals part is important, and you might want to spend some extra time thinking about this before each session – what are your goals for your relationship, and what are your goals for therapy?

Then I send each of you home with a big package of questionnaires to fill out. Most of them were developed or adopted by Dr. John Gottman. These are pretty comprehensive, and most couples find the process interesting and eye-opening to review so many different facets of their relationship. The questionnaires can take quite a while to fill out, and you do them on your own, without your partner.

You bring the questionnaires back to our second assessment session, where I meet with each of you for an hour – half of the two hour session. This is a chance for each of us to talk “privately,” but not “secretly.” What this means to me is that your thoughts and feelings are “private” – I’ll ask you about your concerns without you having to worry you might hurt your partner’s feelings by being blunt. But if you tell me a “secret,” for example you have a gambling problem that your partner doesn’t know about, then we’ll have to talk about how to disclose this to your partner, because I don’t find it wise or helpful to keep secrets in a relationship.

After this second assessment appointment I take your questionnaires and everything I’ve learned from you in the first two sessions, and I spend at least an hour reviewing everything and forming a picture of what I see going on in your relationship.  Please be aware that I charge a fee for this time as well as for the sessions.

In the third and final assessment appointment I’ll finish up any questions I still have, and then I’ll review with you what I see going on in your relationship. We’ll look at both the Sound Relationship House as a model, and we’ll look more holistically at any other factors in your lives I believe are important to address. I’ll talk about the strengths in your relationship, the areas that need improvement, and what we would do in therapy to help you meet your relationship goals.

Assuming that we’re all in the same page and have the same goals, then we’ll dive into therapy together if you’d like.  Some couples want to take the assessment information and go home and use it on their own.  If you would like to continue to therapy, we’ll continue meeting in “double” sessions, and ideally we’ll meet at least once per week at first to help you get started making those changes, and building momentum towards meeting the goals you’re seeking in your relationship. First you’ll work through your struggles until you’re beginning to thrive, and then you turn the corner towards the exciting work of building the relationship you’ve dreamed of having.

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