What is Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy (or “couples counseling”) usually happens between two individuals who are in a romantic relationship. The couple may be married, engaged to be married, or dating; and depending on the need, therapy can last anywhere from one to 24 sessions. The purpose of couple’s therapy is to improve communication, provoke a change in emotions and use them to address recurring, refractory problems within a relationship’s history. Clients learn to acknowledge the personality, values (both spiritual and societal), and perception of their spouses. Divorce rates are determined by a couple’s ability to effective resolve conflicts. Couples seek counseling for many different issues. Some of the most common concerns are infidelity, communication, unmet emotional needs, financial concerns, and differences about child rearing. Every couple goes through periods of rough patches due to ego, jealousy, insecure attachment, anger, etc.
Therapy or counseling usually begins with an assessment which the therapist uses to gain more insight into the couple’s presenting concerns and their willingness to make necessary changes in order to improve the relationship. In addition to the assessment, the therapist asks questions about the couple’s history, which provides information about their communication style and conflict resolution skills. Counselors remain objective and act as mediator between the two individuals, often making recommendations based on their unbiased observation of the couple. Setting relationships back on track requires the therapist to help each individual refocus emotions and perspective about experiences within the relationship.
A primary challenge most couples face is communication and counselors use this to jump start change in the relationship. Communication is a tool used throughout therapy. Along with giving couples the tools to repair their relationship, therapists make sure each individual feels heard and respected, helps identify ineffective communications and interactions and strategies to improve, offers alternative perspectives, and fosters intimacy and secure attachments within the relationship.
Therapists help couples view their relationship from alternative perspectives and tailors treatment to the couple’s unique relationship experiences. One goal of the therapist is to keep couples from placing the blame on one another and take responsibility for their individual actions. Once tools have been introduced by the therapist, the couple should implement learned techniques into the relationship and evaluate their effectiveness. Another goal in couples counseling is to identify and change dysfunctional patterns and behaviors, creating healthier interactions. Many couples have a habit of avoiding emotions, which creates distance between partners, and relationship therapy teaches them to be honest with each other about their feelings. Employing all of these changes strengthens and secures the couple’s attachment.
Seeking help is the first step toward reconciling a broken relationship or working through issues. Like all counseling or therapy, honesty and openness is essential for effective treatment. Being forthcoming about opinions, feelings, and indiscretions opens the lines of communication in a relationship and is the starting point for healing. Although couples seek therapy to fix their issues, sessions will not focus solely on issues—they will highlight the couple’s strengths as well. It is important for therapists to encourage couples to recognize foundations upon which they can rebuild and strengthen their relationships.