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What is Couples Counseling?

Couples counseling is a therapeutic journey where partners work together to strengthen their relationship. Guided by a trained therapist, they explore communication, resolve conflicts, and rekindle intimacy. It's a brave step towards mutual understanding and growth. Ready to unlock a deeper connection? Discover how couples counseling can transform your relationship. What might you uncover about each other in the process? Continue reading to find out.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Couples counseling is a form of relationship counseling which is addressed specifically at people who are involved in romantic relationships. Both married and unmarried couples may seek couples counseling, and there are a number of approaches to couples counseling. Many communities have listings of counseling services which may include couples counselors, and people seeking counseling can also ask for referrals from doctors, regular therapists, and clergymembers.

The goal of couples counseling is to understand the relationship dynamic of the couple, and to identify areas of strain and frustration which add stress to the partnership. In a series of counseling sessions which often include private as well as group sessions, the couple can explore their perception of the relationship, their expectations of each other, and the situations which may be causing them to feel alienated from each other. The counselor acts as a mediator and facilitator to keep discussions on track and to guide the conversation to specific points.

Couples counseling addresses the problems in romantic relationships.
Couples counseling addresses the problems in romantic relationships.

Every relationship is different, and everyone has different expectations from romantic relationships, so it should come as no surprise to learn that couples counseling can be quite diverse. A devout Christian couple, for example, might have very specific needs and desires which an unmarried atheist couple might not relate to, but relationship counseling is available to both couples, sometimes even from the same therapist. In all cases, confidentiality is an important part of couples counseling, and the counseling is also usually non-judgmental, with the goal being a frank discussion of emotions in a supportive environment.

Couples counseling can help partners communicate more openly and honestly.
Couples counseling can help partners communicate more openly and honestly.

When choosing a therapist, the couple should do some research. For example, many religious couples may be able to receive couples counseling from a member of the clergy, and this may be the most appropriate form of relationship counseling, since the counselor understands the mindset of the couple and the specific issues they face. Other people may be better-suited to meeting with a psychologist, therapist, licensed counselor, or psychotherapist. Many therapists are happy to provide basic information about their approach to counseling and their experience, and this information can be used to select the best match. Sometimes, it takes a few tries to find the right fit, and couples should remember that couples counseling can take weeks or months of work, and it is rarely finished in one session.

Counseling can help couples to be affectionate again.
Counseling can help couples to be affectionate again.

Couples counseling requires work from both parties. While one person may initiate the counseling sessions, without cooperation from everyone involved, the counseling will not be very productive. It can also require a lot of effort, and while this effort can be rewarding, it can be very frustrating while counseling is in progress. Committing to finishing a set series before deciding to give up on couples counseling is a very good idea, as couples often find that once they reach the mutually-agreed finishing point, they want to continue with the counseling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary goal of couples counseling?

Individuals often have differing expectations about a relationship.
Individuals often have differing expectations about a relationship.

The primary goal of couples counseling is to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen the relationship between partners. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, couples counseling helps partners learn more about each other and acquire healthy problem-solving skills. The process is typically guided by a licensed therapist who specializes in relationship dynamics and can offer strategies tailored to the couple's unique challenges.

How effective is couples counseling in saving relationships?

A couples counselor might have ideas on how a couple can spend more time together.
A couples counselor might have ideas on how a couple can spend more time together.

Couples counseling has been shown to be effective for many couples. Research indicates that approximately 70% of couples who undergo counseling report improved relationship satisfaction, as noted by the American Psychological Association. The success of counseling often depends on factors such as the therapist's expertise, the couple's commitment to change, and the timing of intervention – early counseling can prevent the deepening of issues.

What are common issues addressed in couples counseling?

Common issues addressed in couples counseling include communication problems, infidelity, financial disagreements, sexual dissatisfaction, and differences in parenting styles. The Gottman Institute, a leader in relationship research, also identifies emotional distance and incompatible goals or values as frequent topics. Counselors help couples navigate these challenges by fostering understanding and developing actionable plans to manage and resolve conflicts.

Can couples counseling be beneficial for healthy relationships?

Yes, couples counseling can be beneficial for healthy relationships. It's not solely a remedy for troubled partnerships; it can also serve as a proactive measure to maintain and enhance a healthy relationship. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy suggests that counseling can help partners navigate life transitions, reinforce positive behaviors, and ensure ongoing communication and connection, which are vital for long-term relationship health.

How long does couples counseling typically last?

The duration of couples counseling varies depending on the couple's specific needs and goals. On average, couples may attend sessions for about 12 to 20 weeks, as reported by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. However, some couples might see improvements in fewer sessions, while others may require longer-term therapy to address more deep-seated issues.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

oasis11

@Latte31 - I agree with that. I think that focusing on what brought both of you together is important. Maybe recreating a first date or another milestone event that you both shared might bring back the same happy feelings that you felt earlier.

Relationships do require work and do not flourish on their own. I had a friend that went to couples counseling with her husband but for some reason they could not click with the therapist and they tried things on their own and realized that they didn’t need a therapist after all.

latte31

@Mutsy -I agree and I have to say that couples counseling therapy might work if the couple seems to disagree on everything and needs a third party to settle the disputes.

A lot of times the disputes revolve around respect and since the therapist is not in the relationship he or she is in a better position to point out what went wrong in a given situation and what can be done in the future to fix it.

If the issues involve trust or lack of trust for that matter than I don’t know if a relationship counselor can really help in that area because that might be a game changer.

mutsy

@Subway11 -I agree and I do think that a Pastor might be a good idea because of their objective nature. In fact many religions require premarital counseling in order to get married in the church. This is to ensure that there is a level of compatibility and both parties are committed to one another.

I know that sometimes my church will sponsor couples marriage counseling retreats that allow the married couple to focus on one another and make their relationship a priority.

I think that this becomes a problem the busier the couple gets. For example, many couples devote less time to their relationship once they have kids because children require a lot of attention.

You can still have a great relationship while having children you will just have to make the relationship a priority and set aside some time to reconnect with your partner.

I think that this is the key to keeping a healthy relationship because everyone wants to feel special.

subway11

Anon114540 - I think that counseling for couples is beneficial if both parties want to salvage the relationship.

I say that because sometimes one party is willing to go, while the other party is not. In fact the other person might even be considering breaking off the relationship but has not done so yet.

If both parties are willing then you could look to a Pastor of a church or an objective couples counseling therapist that will remind both parties why they are together.

If the therapy is one sided then you should look for a therapist that will have a more balanced approach and reveal the good with the bad. It is not easy to open up about your problems like that but the faster you do the quicker you heal.

anon114540

Thank you all who are part of this site and providing information to us. This is very valuable and educational information. Best wishes, Ajapa B.,

India

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    • Couples counseling addresses the problems in romantic relationships.
      By: imtmphoto
      Couples counseling addresses the problems in romantic relationships.
    • Couples counseling can help partners communicate more openly and honestly.
      By: Martinan
      Couples counseling can help partners communicate more openly and honestly.
    • Counseling can help couples to be affectionate again.
      By: berc
      Counseling can help couples to be affectionate again.
    • Individuals often have differing expectations about a relationship.
      By: Sandor Kacso
      Individuals often have differing expectations about a relationship.
    • A couples counselor might have ideas on how a couple can spend more time together.
      By: puhhha
      A couples counselor might have ideas on how a couple can spend more time together.