Couples therapy is often short-term counseling that helps couples resolve relationship distress. Licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists conduct couples therapy.
During the first session, the therapist will take an intake to get acquainted with each partner and their relationship history. They will also discuss current relationship challenges and goals.
A big reason couples seek therapy is to improve their communication skills. This can include learning how to use “I” statements, practicing active listening and incorporating empathic and problem-solving strategies into conversations. Therapists can also help couples better understand non-verbal communication, which includes gestures, body posture, and facial expressions. Having this awareness can reduce miscommunication and misunderstandings.
In addition to improving communication, couples often work on building trust and resolving conflict in their relationship. This can be done through practicing loving-kindness, expressing gratitude and respect, and learning to listen for underlying emotions and needs. Ultimately, this creates a foundation of trust and lays the groundwork for productive discussions.
Therapists can also teach couples to better understand their own and each other’s love languages, which is another way to build trust and connect. For example, a partner may express their love through acts of service or by giving physical gifts. The therapist can help the couple identify their unique love language and then practice ways to express it consistently.
Whether you and your partner are struggling or are in a healthy relationship, it is never too late to consider couples counseling. Many couples seek counseling when there is a major issue that they need to work through, such as infidelity, financial stress, or a major life change. However, Carroll and Hoge note that even happy couples can benefit from sessions to learn new skills and improve communication.
While disagreements are a natural part of any relationship, how they’re managed has a significant impact on the health of a couple’s bond. Couples therapy helps couples develop conflict resolution skills that can help them manage and even prevent arguments in the future.
One of the first things a therapist will work on with you is helping you recognize and identify your own feelings, such as frustration, anger, or hurt. This is vital to being able to listen to your partner and empathize with their perspective without feeling defensive or resentful. Your therapist will also teach you to pick your battles, so you don’t go into every argument trying to prove your point. This only leads to more resentment and often doesn’t accomplish anything other than making your partner feel misunderstood and unheard.
Your therapist will also work on identifying any existing relationship disturbances that are contributing to the conflict. These may include past emotional injuries, or “triggers” that have gone unresolved for too long. This can be a common cause of resentment and even distrust in relationships. Your therapist will help you discuss your triggers together and work through them in a safe environment where everyone feels heard. They’ll also teach you to validate your partner’s feelings so that they don’t feel misheard or unsupported. This can make a huge difference in how well you are able to communicate during an argument.
A healthy and secure relationship begins with trust. In couples therapy, therapists work with both partners to help them communicate honestly and openly, creating a safe space for emotional vulnerability. Trust is also built through respectful and empathetic listening, which is an essential part of the couple’s communication process. Trusting your therapist takes time and practice, but you can learn to build trust by sharing your vulnerabilities and innermost thoughts with a non-judgemental ear.
It is important for couples to find a therapist they are comfortable with. A therapist who is well-versed in the latest practices in marriage counseling and couples therapy will be better equipped to support you in your relationship goals. There are many types of therapists, including psychologists, licensed professional counselors (LPC), and social workers.
When couples come to therapy, they often have specific goals in mind, such as rebuilding trust after infidelity, improving communication, navigating conflict, and building intimacy. Marni Levy uses a compassionate and loving approach in her work with couples, transforming reactive cycles into positive, connected cycles of empathy and repair, emotional responsiveness, and affection.
One of the most difficult tasks for couples is navigating conflict without resorting to anger and resentment. When conflicts arise, it is important to resolve them quickly before they become toxic. It is also important to avoid going to sleep angry, as resentment will only fester and lead to further damage down the road.
Intimacy issues can cause problems for any couple, and sometimes the challenges feel too great to overcome without outside help. For this reason, many couples seek counseling to help them work through intimacy hurdles that can affect any relationship.
Intimate therapy often focuses on helping couples communicate and build closeness. It also may include exercises to promote emotional awareness and a sense of safety. It can also help couples learn how to communicate their sexual needs, desires, and preferences to one another.
Therapists can also teach couples how to fight more healthily. For example, they might encourage the couple to use active listening skills and avoid saying things that could hurt their partner’s feelings. In addition, a therapist can help them explore their past and address unresolved issues from the past that are affecting their present relationships.
Emotional intimacy is the deep friendship part of a relationship. It can be built through things like spending time doing activities together, knowing each other’s dreams and fears, and sharing common experiences. In Gottman Method Couples Therapy, for instance, couples spend a lot of time building love maps and improving their emotional intimacy. People seek couples therapy for all sorts of reasons, from major challenges that threaten a marriage, like infidelity or money disagreements, to feeling disconnected or not having a healthy communication style. And even in happy, long-term marriages, some couples attend therapy to improve their relationships and learn new skills.