What is Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy, sometimes referred to as marriage therapy or couples counseling, can help couples of all types recognize and resolve conflicts and improve their relationships. Through couples therapy, you and your partner can make thoughtful decisions about rebuilding and strengthening your relationship or going your separate ways.
Couples counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. It is also quite often short term. Couples therapy typically includes both partners, but sometimes one partner chooses to work with a therapist alone. The specific treatment plan depends on the situation.
How Can Couples Therapy Help?
Couples therapy can help people in all types of intimate relationships — regardless of sexual orientation or marriage status.
Some couples seek therapy to strengthen their partnership and gain a better understanding of each other. Therapy can also help couples who plan to get married. Premarital counseling can help couples achieve a deeper understanding of each other and iron out differences before marriage.
In other cases, couples seek therapy to improve a troubled relationship. You can use marriage counseling to help with many specific issues, including:
- Communication problems
- Sexual difficulties
- Conflicts about child rearing or blended families
- Substance abuse
In-Person & Online Couples Therapy Available
Some couples with busy schedules prefer the convenience of online couples therapy in addition to in-person therapy appointments. At LifeStance Health, our couples counselors offer both in-person and online couples therapy services.
The benefits of online Couples Therapy are making more and more couples consider it as a part of their relationship maintenance, including:
- Repairing emotional connections
- Managing conflict
- Rebuilding trust
What to Expect in Couples Therapy
To get the most out of Couples Therapy, you and your partner should discuss shared goals – what are you struggling with, do you both want the same things in life, etc. Talk about what you want out of the sessions, accept the challenges and be committed to the effort.
When you meet the therapist for your first session, you and your partner will meet the therapist together. After that initial session together, you may have some individual sessions, and for the rest of your sessions, you and your partner will be working together on your relationship issues.
Typically, couples therapy begins with some standard interview questions regarding the history of the relationship as well as deep diving into each partner’s family-of-origin, values and cultural background. The therapist will want to know the main problems you are experiencing, and what causes most of your stress within the relationship. During that first session, expect to discuss the history of your relationship distress.
Who Should Consider Couples Therapy?
Couples that are having the same fight over and over again without resolution might benefit from seeing a therapist. Couples can also go to therapy to help manage a hard decision together, if they’re considering splitting up, or if there’s been a major stressor on the relationship.
Couples Therapy can help prevent an aggravation of problems or simply provide a check-in for a happy couple that is experiencing a period of transition or increased stress. Common areas of concern addressed in couples therapy include issues with money, parenting, sex, infidelity, in-laws, chronic health issues, infertility, gambling, substance use, emotional distance and frequent conflict.
Couples Therapy FAQ
Some people will have negative experiences in Couples Therapy. That could be a result of the therapist’s approach or lack of training that can make things worse for the couple. But the process of going to Couples Therapy surfaces some tough conversations and makes people feel vulnerable, which they may interpret as “making things worse”—even if the process may be helpful in the long run.
Certain couples do break up after couples therapy, but sometimes that’s for best. Some people stay in a relationship just for their children or because they don’t know how to make a change. In these cases, people can be more unhappy staying in a relationship than leaving one—and a separation could be seen as a form of success.
Couples Therapy sessions are facilitated by a trained, licensed clinician, such as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), licensed professional counselor (LPC), or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). They may call themselves marriage counselors, marriage therapists, or simply therapists.
LifeStance Health employs many highly-trained clinicians that offer Couples Therapy. Take some time to find the right Couples Therapist who you both feel comfortable with and confident in helping support your relationship.
Telehealth has some benefits for Couples Therapy. It’s convenient, removing the need to commute to a therapist’s office, making it easier for a busy couple to fit sessions into their schedules. It can also make people feel more comfortable and more likely to open up, since they are in a familiar setting that feels safe.
But it’s not without potential drawbacks, like limiting the ability of the therapist to read body language or pick up on important cues. The sessions given over a computer screen may feel less intimate, and many everyday distractions can occur that affect the experience in a negative way (children, pets, phone calls, etc). Deciding on which method will work best for you and your partner is part of the discussion you can have with your therapist.