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What is Couples Counseling?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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Mary McMahon
By 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.

Discussion Comments
By oasis11 — On May 11, 2011

@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.

By latte31 — On May 09, 2011

@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.

By mutsy — On May 08, 2011

@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.

By subway11 — On May 06, 2011

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.

By anon114540 — On Sep 29, 2010

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.,


Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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