Key Takeaways Key Takeaways
  • Couples therapy is not just for relationship crises. It can help with various challenges, including communication issues, life transitions, and major conflicts.

  • Choosing the right therapist is crucial for successful therapy. Look for someone who resonates with your needs and values, and consider factors like qualifications, expertise, and compatibility.

  • There are different types of therapists, such as LMFTs, LCSWs, and LPCCs, each with unique approaches to couple’s therapy. Understanding these differences can help you make an informed choice.

What to Expect with Couple’s Therapy

Couples therapy is essential for fixing relationships, but people think you only need it when something is wrong. There are many reasons why people seek out couples therapy; these include but are not limited to navigating communication issues between partners, life transitions like marriage, parenthood, and retirement, as well as crisis points like dealing with infidelity, addiction, or major marital conflicts.

Relationships are beautiful, complex, and sometimes challenging journeys. When couples face obstacles, seeking professional help through couples therapy can be crucial to healing and strengthening their bond.

Understanding your initial motivation to seek therapy is the first step in the journey to couple’s therapy. Once you’ve read the advice columns, listened to the podcasts, and talked to your partner, then you are ready. Ready to let someone else into your relationship: a therapist. But knowing where to start is challenging. What to ask them and what to expect from couples therapy can be daunting.

How Do You Find a Therapist For Couple’s Counseling?

Despite today’s culture of social media oversharing, frank discussions about couples therapy or therapist recommendations are still rare, even among friends and family. Finding the right therapist is one of the most important things to success and maximizing value with your therapist. You want to look for someone who resonates with you and your partner’s needs and values.

Some initial ways to seek out a couple’s therapist include asking your primary care physician and checking with your insurance plan to see if there are any in-network therapists or psychologists. While the internet can be a helpful way to find a therapist for couple’s counseling, it is important to be sure you are looking at a trusted website when searching. The best ones will provide a biography of the therapist that includes their professional license, areas of expertise, and educational accreditation.

Companies like LifeStance will also be able to filter the mental health practitioners according to your location and specific situation and connect you with that therapist directly. It is important to find a therapist who has experience with your relationship challenges.

Once you have found some potential therapist candidates, it is always best to schedule initial consultation sessions to determine if you fit. There is no point in finding someone who is not a good fit for your specific needs, as it only ends up wasting your time and money.

Psychiatrist, Psychologist, or Therapist for Couples Therapy?

Once you start searching for a therapist to help you and your partner, you will find a myriad of titles and descriptions. One of the main differentiators between a psychiatrist and a psychologist or a therapist, is that a psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor, who can diagnose mental health issues and prescribe psychiatric medication to alleviate symptoms. A clinical psychologist works more often with individuals with severe mental illness, but some also work with couples and families. Clinical psychologists also undergo a longer education program than therapists, and their training is more focused on assessing individuals for mental disorders. However, there are overlaps between psychologists and therapists.

Types of Therapists and Their Approaches to Couple’s Therapy

Therapists are the most common type of mental health professional to specialize in couple’s counseling. Therapists come from a variety of backgrounds and have different philosophies when treating a couple for a relationship issue.

Therapists can refer to either a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). There are many similarities, as they all require a master’s degree, are state certified to provide mental health care, and can assist couples in overcoming issues and developing deeper relationships.

Generally, a LMFT focuses on relational mental health care by helping couples and families manage challenges through communication, behavior therapy, and guidance.

A LCSW tends to view couple’s counseling through the lens of resources both internal and external. For example, a LCSW might create a plan to make sure the couple has the emotional and communication skills to reach their relationship goal while also helping the couple better manage external stressors or resources.

A LPCC looks at the relationship through the lens of each partner, encouraging emotional development, behavioral change, and mental wellness for each individual as the path to healing the relationship. A LPCC might also be more likely to suggest separate individual therapy sessions in addition to sessions with both partners.

Finding a therapist you can agree on with your partner is a bit like speed dating. There are many qualified therapists, but finding the right one for your situation means taking the time to get to know them. Meeting them in person or over video is essential to making sure the therapist is a good personality and professional fit for you and your partner. You must be comfortable sharing intimate details of your relationship with the therapist and are willing to respect and follow their treatment plan and guidance.

The Initial Session

Once you have chosen a therapist, the first session sets the tone and helps both parties understand whether the relationship between therapist and patient will be successful. Expect the following:

  • Getting to Know Each Other: The therapist will aim to understand your history as an individual and as a couple.
  • Assessment: Questions will revolve around your challenges and what led you to therapy.
  • Trust-Building: This session is an opportunity to assess whether you feel comfortable with the therapist.

What to Ask a Therapist?

Some questions to ask at your first session might include:

  • How long have you practiced couple’s therapy? What is your general approach?
  • Can you describe how you’ve helped some other couples in our situation?
  • How much do your sessions cost?
  • Do you have a plan or timeline for helping us with our situation?
  • What types of therapy do you use?

What Will a Therapist Ask You During Couples Therapy?

Seeing a therapist for the first time, especially with a partner, can create anxiety. It might be helpful to speak to your partner beforehand to discuss what you would each like to get out of the therapy sessions. At the initial session, the therapist will ask each partner questions about their family and relationship history and what events or incidents convinced the couple that therapy was needed at that time.

During this initial session, you will determine whether the therapist is the mental health professional you and your partner can trust to help you rebuild your relationship.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Sessions?

Active participation is enormous. The more honest you are in sharing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns openly, the better the results of the sessions. Committing to following the therapist’s guidance outside of sessions is also very important. Building a better relationship requires lots of compromises and hard work. You only get what you put into these couple’s counseling sessions.

Remember, your therapist’s role is to facilitate communication between you and your partners for better mutual understanding and provide tools for conflict resolution and improved communication. Still, you and your partner are ultimately the ones that determine the success of the counseling.

If all goes well, you and your partners should come out of couple’s therapy with improved communication, better conflict resolution, and, most importantly, the bonds of the relationship so you can build a future together, whether that is building a healthier relationship or making informed decisions on your future together.

Find Your Nearest Couples Counseling Therapist

LifeStance Health offers a variety of highly qualified, experienced, and diverse groups of individuals that will be tailored to your needs. Find your nearest therapist and take the first step to scheduling a Couple’s Therapy session today.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults.

Reviewed By

Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S
Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

Nicholette is a faculty member at John Carroll University’s Clinical Counseling program, and she is also the host of the LifeStance podcast, Convos from the Couch.