In my first session with Pete and Diane I asked about previous couples counseling experiences. I like to learn what worked previously and what wasn’t helpful. Pete said they had one session, and not only didn’t find it helpful, they found it upsetting. He said that they began to argue with each other during the session–not too dissimilar from what happens at home–and the therapist said, “This isn’t the Jerry Springer Show.” Pete and Diane were insulted and never returned to the therapist.
I felt fortunate that they were willing to give couples counseling another chance. It appears Pete and Diane escalated in that first session. In my view, the role of the couples counselor is to prevent a couple from escalating. If a couple escalates, they are no longer hearing each other and move to forcing their points of view or attacking each other. The role of the couples therapist is to prevent this from happening, allowing a couple to have a respectful dialogue about an issue. In this way, the couple can potentially work through or resolve an issue.
In their previous experience, not only did the counselor not prevent the escalation, she criticized the couple for escalating. Fortunately Pete and Diane persevered and looked for a counseling method that would be more beneficial.