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Couples Counselling, What to do If Your Partner is Reluctant to Attend Counselling with you?


It can be an overwhelming experience in a relationship where perhaps there is a disconnect, or more conflict is occuring. Working with a therapist can help to build understanding and create new ways to work together as a couple. Often having a third party in the room who is non biased can help to explore what might be occurring in your relationship. 


So what happens when one partner is reluctant or not open to the idea of counselling? This can be so frustrating and even helpless for a relationship in a difficult spot. First off, this can be a completely normal and valid response.


One of the best tools is to really meet your partner where they are at. Everyone has their own process for change and counselling can be an overwhelming experience. One of the best ways to approach this is with understanding and empathy. It can be a powerful tool to understand where your partner is coming from. What are their fears or concerns around the counselling process? Are they worried about opening up to a stranger, a therapist taking sides? What does that mean for the relationship itself, are we doomed? These and many more are all examples of very valid concerns. 


One of the best approaches is to talk openly about the concerns, it is meant to be a collaborative process. It can also be beneficial to speak about counselling from a positive perspective, what might you gain as a couple from this experience? Counseling is not about finger pointing, blame or criticism. It is about gaining perspective, working through conflict with different patterns of communication and building tools to better understand what might be going on within the relationship.


If speaking with a therapist is too big of a step for your partner, that is perfectly ok! You may wish to attend counselling first or even request a consultation. It is important to find the right fit! Another strategy is working together by reading through books. Being reluctant to couples counselling is very common and by working to understand, educate, and validate can help to foster hope in the relationship as well as the counselling process. 


My recommendations for books are,


Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love and Love Sense, both by Sue Johnson, Ph.DI often recommend this resource as a primer or in conjunction with my work with couples. 


John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. 

Many counsellors who offer couples counseling are trained in the Gottman method which can provide very valuable tools for couples.


Photo Credit,



Carrie-Lee, MACP is a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association and specializes in the areas of stress management, personal growth, as well as many others. For more information on Carrie-Lee and her work,  click here to link to her full bio page.