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When you have pain or illness that won’t get better on its own, you know you can turn to your doctor to help you get better. But if your marriage or relationship could use a shot in the arm, where can you go? Couples’ counseling.
What is couples’ counseling?
Couples’ counseling, which is also often called couples’ therapy or marriage counseling, is a type of psychotherapy that helps couples of all kinds recognize and resolve conflicts to improve their relationships.
When you’re in a relationship, it’s difficult to view your relationships, yourself and how you may be contributing to relationship problems objectively; most people tend to be more aware of how their partner contributes to problems in the relationship. In cases where you and your partner can’t seem to resolve issues and conflicts on your own, a third party’s perspective and guidance can help you both discuss your thoughts and feelings.
Couples use therapy to address specific relationship issues such as:
- Financial problems
- Substance abuse
- Communication issues
- Sexual difficulties
- Conflicts about having children or blending families
Who conducts couples’ counseling?
This type of therapy is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. They have graduate and postgraduate degrees and many decide to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
What happens during couples’ therapy?
The purpose of couples’ therapy is to help both partners gain a better understanding of themselves and their partner, to decide if they need and want to make changes and help them do so if that’s what they want. Studies show that couples’ counseling with a trained and licensed professional is successful 70 to 80 percent of the time.
The goal of couples’ counseling is to give partners problem-solving tools. In the first few sessions, the therapist likely will interview both of you together and possibly separately. During this assessment, the therapist will ask you both about the problems, how you see them, the history of your relationship and your individual histories to gain a deeper understanding of you as a couple and as individuals.
After this initial assessment, most therapists will discuss their impression of the situation with both of you. From there, you can decide whether to accept the therapist’s recommendations, whether to enter therapy and what kind of therapy to pursue.
If you do decide to move forward with therapy, the therapist may act as a mediator to help clear up misunderstandings in communication. The therapist may also help you both consider alternate ways of handling issues. During therapy, the therapist’s understanding of your issues may offer you both a new perspective that can change feelings and behavior.
Can couples’ therapy be used when there aren’t problems in the relationship?
While many couples seek therapy to help improve their troubled relationship, that’s not the only thing it’s for. Some couples pursue this type of counseling to help strengthen their bond and to gain a better understanding of each other.
Couples therapy can also help couples planning to get married – premarital counseling can help them achieve a deeper understanding of each other and resolve any differences before marriage.