4 Tactics to End a Session

How to End a Marriage Mentoring Session


Here’s the situation – you’ve met with a couple, perhaps for the first time. Maybe you’ve met with a small group of couples. What should you do to close down the session?

I used to not put much thought into this. I would just say goodbye and see you next time. As I got more experience, I found that I could be much more effective with a few simple techniques.

Recognize and Encourage

This is especially important when they are first meeting with you. It took me a while to understand what people are experiencing when they first meet with you or meet in a small group.

I regularly ask people how they feel about meeting. I often ask what their biggest fears are about meeting.

Here’s some common responses:

  • Unsure about being honest and transparent
  • Mixed feelings about coming – both fearful and hopeful
  • Afraid that this isn’t going to help
  • In the early sessions, they are trying to figure out if they want to continue
  • Defensive about their relationship and their behaviors

Your ability to recognize how they are feeling and to encourage them can help them to commit to the process.

I say things like:

“I know that many people find it difficult to be open with people that are basically strangers. Thanks for being willing to take a risk. This will get easier.”

“You did a great job expressing your feelings today.”

“Many couples that we meet with find it hard to seek help for issues. I don’t know if that’s you or not. I’ve always seen seeking help as a sign of strength.”

Recognize their fears and thank them for being open and willing to share.

Summarize the Goals and the Issues

Summarizing the goals and the issues can help people to feel that you have heard them and that there is hope of being able to improve their relationship.

I always ask about what brought here. What do you want to achieve? Most people want to improve their relationship. At least, they will agree to that goal.

When it comes to couples, remember that there are two people and they may have very different perspectives. The issues may be different for each of them.

If you meet with them individually as a couple, it’s easy to hear from both of them. You can ask if their partner agrees or if they have a different perspective.

In a group setting, one partner may be quiet and you won’t know what they are thinking or feeling. You can ask them, but they may not respond.

Here’s some examples:

“When I asked you what you wanted to achieve, you both said that you want to have a better relationship. Is it OK if we keep that as an overriding goal?”

“I heard some different perspectives today. Brad, you mentioned that you aren’t sure if you think this is valuable. Amy, you want to improve your communication and conflict management. Would you both be up to working on these issues?”

“We talked today about how each of you feel about your relationship. Amy, you think that Brad doesn’t invest in the relationship and that makes you feel alone. Brad, your perspective is that Amy is always complaining and you’d like for her to stop. What I am hearing is that you both want to have a better relationship with each other, but you’re not quite sure how to do it. It sounds like we can work on these issues a bit more. How does that sound?”

Provide Hope

Hope is a key component to change and improvement. Remember when I said that people are trying to figure out if they should return? That is a natural question. Is this going to help?

After I’ve summarized their goals and issues, I usually end with a statement that addresses how we’ll be able to help.

“You’ve mentioned that communication is a key issue. We are going to go into that in some detail. I think that you’ll find the tools that we have to be very helpful.”

“I know that you mentioned that you are angry and that you have some resentment. We will get into that in more detail. I’ve found that to get into some of those issues, it’s helpful to first learn some communication tools. I think you’ll find that helpful. I promise that we’ll talk about resentment.”

“The process that we use is very deliberate. It’s something that we have found to be helpful in rebuilding relationship connection. Of course, I want to listen to you and help you to achieve your goals.”

Establish Action Steps

My wife and I usually take the last few minutes of a session and focus on practical steps that a couple can take to improve their relationship.

This is usually an outflow of the discussion that we’ve had and the issues that are raised. Our online curriculum does have exercises in it that you can leverage.

It may be as simple as the couple taking some time to talk during the week. We will ask them to set up a specific time to talk.

It may be something that will take more reflection. For example, being aware of what happens during an argument and thinking through their pattern of conflict.

It could be a simple question such as, “What is one small thing that you could do that will build your connection this week?”

One small group facilitator that I know ends their session by having the couples talk individually about what they are going to do that week. This facilitator couple has them set aside specific time to talk to one another about what worked during the week and what they want to improve.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Recognize and Encourage – Validate their fears. Thank each person for being vulnerable.
  • Summarize the Goals and Issues – Summarize their goals and their stated issues. It helps people to hear that you understand them.
  • Provide Hope – Provide a simple statement that reassures them that this will help them.
  • Establish Action Steps – Determine if there are some actions that each individual could do that would help to build their connection.