Romantic relationships are complicated, to say the least. Throughout their duration, we encounter a variety of emotions — from profound happiness and elation to unbelievable despair and anger, and everything in between. Despite the widespread belief that healthy relationships never experience conflict, this is all normal.
The key to creating a healthy and happy relationship is learning to navigate the ups and downs effectively, together. Sometimes, we’re able to work out these challenges with our partner, depending on their severity and our own abilities to communicate well.
But more often than not, we can better manage these problems with the help of a professional, unbiased third party—a couples or relationship therapist. This is where Thriveworks couples therapy comes in and makes all the difference.
What Exactly Is Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy, also known as couples counseling or relationship therapy, is a form of counseling that helps couples, married or unmarried, work through their relationship issues. When the couple is married, though, couples therapy might also be referred to as marriage counseling.
Couples therapy is, of course, led by licensed professionals — often licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) — who are experts in their field and equipped to help couples work through their unique challenges. This journey often involves tough yet productive conversations about one’s relationship, and requires both partners to communicate in an honest but respectful manner.
If you’re worried about being completely open with your partner or communicating calmly, don’t be — the job of a couples therapist is to mediate these discussions. They can help you and your partner improve your communication skills so that you’re better able to understand, listen to, and talk with each other.
What’s the Difference Between Couples Therapy and Couples Counseling?
As stated above, couples therapy and couples counseling are two names for the same thing. These phrases are used interchangeably, and there is no difference between them.
Is It Healthy to Go to Couples Therapy?
Yes, it is absolutely healthy to go to couples therapy. It is also best to not wait until a couple is in crisis mode. Many couples don’t start considering therapy until there are clear and irresolvable problems, but going to therapy for regular maintenance can be very helpful.
How Does Couples Counseling Work?
Couples therapy works by helping couples identify and manage their unique challenges. Following an initial assessment of the couple in terms of strengths and needs, the couples therapist would then discuss their therapeutic goals and any possible approaches or ways of working together as therapist and couple.
Often, emotionally focused therapy or EMT is a standard therapeutic modality within couples therapy. EMT focuses on strategies to help identify, express, and share feelings with your partner in a way that they may better understand your needs, wants and desires.
Each partner will typically attend sessions together, whether they meet virtually or in person. In addition to regular couples therapy sessions, they each may also be asked to attend a few individual sessions to supplement their progress. This will allow their counselor to get to know each individual better, assess each of their personal needs, and develop the best plan moving forward.
By addressing both individual needs as well as the relationship’s, a therapist can help you to better express your feelings, discuss issues with your partner, and resolve conflicts.
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What Does Couples Therapy Help With?
Couples therapy is meant to help with any conflict, issue, or disconnect that is occurring between a couple. Some examples of common focuses within couples therapy include:
- Opposing values
- Different visions for the future
- Disagreements in parenting
- Lack of trust
- Financial distress
- Sex issues
If there are areas of your relationship that could be improved, you should consider talking to a couples therapist at Thriveworks and making those improvements with professional assistance.
What Are the Different Types of Couples Counseling?
Here are some of the most common and effective approaches to couples therapy:
- The Gottman Method: The Gottman Method, developed by John and Julie Gottman, focuses on a few key behaviors that are detrimental to couples, which are deemed “the four horsemen” — criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. If your couples counselor utilizes this method, you can expect to share some background on past relationships, discuss areas of contention, talk through triggers, find values you both share, and learn tools for managing present and future conflict.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most common and effective approaches to therapy, not just for couples, but also for individual issues like depression and anxiety. When it comes to CBT for couples, your therapist will help you and your partner identify your relationship issues and talk about them from your individual perspectives. Through CBT, you’ll be able to get to the root of the problem, dispel false beliefs, and develop more effective communication techniques.
- Emotionally-focused therapy: As you can probably guess, emotionally-focused therapy focuses on emotions. Couples therapists who use emotionally-focused therapy help their clients dig deeper and find underlying emotions that hide beneath the surface. Once these emotions are uncovered, the couple can address unmet needs and desires.
- Imago relationship therapy: This approach to couples therapy explores pain and patterns that go beyond one’s current romantic relationship — it looks at a couple’s challenges as an outcome of any neglect from childhood or needs that went unmet. If your couples therapist utilizes imago relationship therapy, they’ll help you and your partner explore your respective childhoods and understand how past experiences may have affected your current view of relationships. Then, they’ll guide you in correcting any unfair behaviors or negative feelings you’ve falsely attributed to your partner.
- Solution-focused therapy (SFT): If there are one or two main problems that you and your partner are hoping to address in couples therapy, SFT is probably a good fit for you. Your couples therapist will help you envision the changes that you want to make in your relationship. They work with you and your partner to develop a plan with actionable steps that’ll help you accomplish your goal(s).
As we mentioned above, the approaches of couples counselors may vary, because many different types of relationship counseling methods can be utilized in sessions. At Thriveworks, our therapists utilize many different therapeutic approaches—these details are often available in their biographies. These decisions are based on the couples’ specific needs in order to lead both individuals to a successful outcome.
What Kind of Therapist Is Best for Couples?
Of course, the best kind of therapist for addressing couples’ issues would be a couples or marriage counselor. However, when it comes to choosing a specific therapist, most of the time, there is no “best” therapist. Instead, what’s most important is that both partners feel comfortable and are able to trust their couples therapist to help them address and manage their concerns.
As you can tell from the list above, there are numerous therapeutic approaches that couples therapists can take—and their methodology and approach will depend on your:
- Personal and shared goals
- Their professional experience and counseling preferences
- The issues at play in your relationship
What Is the Success Rate of Couples Therapy?
Generally speaking, 75% of couples who have done more than one couples therapy session find that strategies and skills work have been helpful. The Gottman’s were able to predict the success of a relationship with 94% accuracy. Because of this, the Gottman Method has become widely popular as a therapy modality for those wanting to increase emotional, social, and sexual intimacy, and the therapy tools and/or plans are tailored directly to the couple’s needs.
It’s reported that emotionally-focused therapy (EFT) also has one of the highest success rates, with 75% of couples reporting that it helped salvage their relationship or at least improved communication and satisfaction.
What Is the Downside of Couples Therapy?
One possible downside of couples therapy is that a couple may not resolve their issues quickly or even at all.
There is no statistically significant evidence that suggests couples counseling can worsen a relationship’s health or existing dynamics. That’s because couples counseling is focused on highlighting the positive, supportive aspects of both partners, while skillfully and empathetically addressing the changes that need to be made.
However, positive change and conflict resolution take a lot of practice of skills work and assigned homework involving communication exercises, spending time with your partner in new ways, and doing many other things differently.
It’s important that both partners are willing to give couples counseling a try—without equal partner engagement, the relationship is likely not to improve for either individual.
How to Encourage Your Partner to Give Couples Counseling a Try
Let’s get this out of the way: There is no “trick” for getting your partner to join you in couple counseling or marriage therapy. However, if your partner feels hesitant and needs encouragement, the following tips can help you encourage your spouse to explore the benefits of couples counseling with you:
- Show signs of change, yourself. Oftentimes, when someone avoids couples counseling, it’s because they don’t think it will be effective in facilitating real change. Counter this worry by helping your partner see that you’re not only willing to change but have already begun the work.
- Stress that you and your partner are in this together. Remind your partner that, while your relationship has difficulties, you want to work with them to improve the relationship together. Show solidarity and openness to doing whatever is necessary for a healthy, happy partnership.
- Explain to your partner that the counselor is a neutral party. Make sure that you stress the neutrality of a counselor to your partner — explain that the counselor is by no means “on your side,” but will work with both of you impartially.
- Prompt them to consider the rewards of couples counseling. If your partner has some resistance to counseling, make couples counseling a shared idea by asking your partner, “Hypothetically, if we were to go to couples counseling, what would you most want to get out of our sessions?” This question may also help your partner to begin thinking about his or her potential gains from couples counseling.
- Talk about “even if.” Your partner may say that they don’t want to go to counseling because there is no hope for the relationship. You can respond to this argument by using the idea that “even if” the relationship has “no hope,” counseling can still help the two of you to part on good terms and may help each of you to learn from the experience so that you don’t make similar mistakes in future relationships.
If you want compassionate, knowledgeable treatment to help you through the conflicts and issues in your relationship, Thriveworks is ready to help. Our expert marriage counselors can help you establish goals, learn and improve your communication and problem-solving skills, and provide a nonjudgmental and supportive space for both of you to feel heard and understood. Go online or call one of our offices to schedule a session and get the help you deserve today.