Three stages of counseling

I went to see my personal counselor last week. It had been two months since we had seen each other, and we had lots to catch up on in the hour allotted. As poor as our marriage counselor was, the opposite has been true of "John".

As I mentioned previously, our marriage counselor required that we see separate personal counselors in addition to our joint sessions with her. She felt (correctly) that we needed to work on our own issues with a personal counselor if we were to be successful in marriage counseling. She is the one who recommended John, and I couldn't be happier with the choice.

I began meeting with John last January. Our first session was largely a meet-and-greet session where I gave him the Cliffs Notes version of what was going on and how we got here. Things were very raw and I had lots of information, thoughts, feelings and emotions that I was only beginning to try to process. Our marriage counseling lasted roughly four months, and my first round with John was about the same.

In the first stage, we spent a lot of time discussing what had come up in the previous marriage counseling session. John was my only confidant during this period, and he was of great help. Things were coming hard and fast in those first few months, and I was a mental and emotional mess. It helped tremendously to have someone who not only cared for my well being, but who was also not involved in the relationship like friends and family would be. For my part I could be more open, and he could ask difficult questions that people I knew might not be able to.

We talked about the things I knew that were wrong, as well as the issues and information that were revelations to me. In trying to explain what was said and how I felt, it not only lifted some of the weight I was carrying, but it also helped me to understand things a little better. Just the act of baring my soul to him was helpful, but he did not just sit back and ask "and how does that make you feel". He had insights and tools to help me not only understand what I was feeling, but how to go about making things better.

He also helped me to better communicate with J. In the past I had walled up my feelings, but now it was difficult to keep them in check. There was so much I wanted to say, but I was having difficulty in explaining it so she could understand. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed to come out wrong. John helped me to get closer to the root of what I wanted to say, helping me tame the tempest of emotion behind the words. J and I never did come to a meeting of the minds, and I don't think I will ever understand what she was feeling, but I feel I was able to be open to her like I never had been before.

In between putting out the fires that were brought up in our joint sessions, we worked on my own stuff as well. We discussed and attacked the issues that I had, that caused me to be depressed and put a strain on our marriage. Many of the issues were baggage I had been carrying around for years, but didn't have the tools to fix on my own.

Our counseling stopped in April for a couple of reasons. The practical reason was my new job made it difficult to schedule any sessions during the week. Also, J and I were in a state of limbo. We had stopped seeing our marriage counselor, and J did not think further counseling was helpful at this point. At that point I felt like I needed some resolution on the marriage before I could go any farther in my own counseling.

When John and I met again in September, divorce was now the reality. It was a whole new round of emotion now that the marriage was ending. It wasn't only my present that had changed, but also the future I had believed in. We still discussed the relationship, but without the focus of repair. It was about getting at the underlying issues, and what I'd like to do differently next time. I had a hard time dealing with the fact that I would not be able to correct my mistakes with J - with J. Still am really.

We met for a couple of months until my delivery job in November interrupted things again. In the intervening two months, I'd moved out, the house had been sold, and I felt like I have turned a bit of a corner on my way to recovery. Our one session last week was packed with catching up on all that had gone on, but felt the focus has changing already. I am looking forward to digging into more things, rather than putting out so many emotional fires.

Somewhat unintentionally, my counseling has been broken up into three distinct phases. The first one was about breaking down walls, identifying personal issues, and working on relationship skills in order to save the marriage. The second was some more emotional triage, searching for understanding, and starting to come to terms with failure and the future. The third stage is just beginning, and I am anxious to dive in. I am a bit stronger these days, but still have plenty to work on. I expect more difficult questions and hope for more revelation and progress.

In between these three stages, I shared more with friends and grew in a different way, outside the classroom. Counseling has been very helpful - I don't know where I would have been without it. I plan to continue with it on some level, but thankfully these days it isn't the only place I am finding answers.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

What’s great about confiding to a counselor is that you can expect unbiased assessment. You will be able to see your partner’s faults as well as yours, and solicit logical advice that is rarely given by emotional friends and family. I hope you succeed in finding the answers that you seek.

Tyler Goodwin

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