Couples therapy involves a qualified marital or family therapist helping a couple work through problems in their relationship. Continue reading to learn more.
Relationships are like living, breathing things. They need energy and care devoted to them to ensure they stay healthy and ultimately thrive. Couples therapy is beneficial for couples in all stages of their relationship and does not necessarily mean that a problem or issue has to exist for a couple to benefit from treatment. However, here are three signs that seeking help from a couples therapist might be the solution for you and your partner.
What is Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy, also known as marriage counseling, is a type of talk therapy designed to help couples understand and resolve conflicts to improve their relationship. Marriage counseling teaches couples to communicate better, negotiate differences, solve problems, and even argue more constructively.
Marriage counseling is usually provided by licensed therapists called marriage and family therapists. These therapists offer the same mental health services as other therapists but focus specifically on couples. Depending on the couple’s preferences, they can choose between in-person sessions or virtual marriage counseling.
Marriage and family therapists assist couples in discussing a wide range of issues, including finances, household chores, sex, and raising children. Marriage counseling can also help couples heal after infidelity or work through other issues like lack of communication or trust issues.
Types of Couples Therapy
Whether you're seeking to increase intimacy, improve communication, rebuild trust after a betrayal, or resolve disagreements, couples therapy can be a valuable tool. Couples counseling can take many forms, and the right choice will ultimately depend on your relationship goals. The following are some common types of couples therapy that therapists may use.
Reflective listening is a type of couples therapy that can help partners improve their communication skills. In a healthy, safe environment where each partner takes a turn being an active listener, communication can be greatly enhanced by allowing each other to speak freely. Couples are encouraged to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements in order to have more productive conversations.
The Gottman Method
An evidence-based approach, the Gottman Method focuses on fostering friendship, resolving conflict, creating meaning together, and reducing divorce risk factors, commonly known as the Four Horsemen: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. During times of conflict in a relationship, Dr. John Gottman's method can help couples develop communication skills that improve intimacy.
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)
Developed by Dr. Susan Johnson, EFT is a couples counseling technique that can help identify destructive patterns that interfere with attachments and prevent couples from bonding. By focusing on the patterns and behaviors that create conflict in a relationship, a relationship can heal and bond more effectively.
Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)
SFT for marriage counseling puts the couple at the center of the process, allowing them to discover their own goals and desires for the relationship. Couples are asked what tools they have to succeed, what obstacles they face, and how they handle those situations. SFT helps improve listening and communication skills.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This method of talk therapy has been shown to be very effective for marriage counseling, as it can address many issues that couples commonly face. In CBT, thoughts and behaviors are the focus, and it can help both partners understand and change their own thought patterns and behaviors to improve their relationship.
Narrative therapy involves both partners sharing their relationship problems as narratives. This technique helps couples understand that one story alone does not capture the full experience of a relationship. Narrative therapy can be helpful when both people feel they are to blame for the breakdown of a relationship. It can be a great form of therapy when both partners are convinced they are failures, and thus, their relationship is bound to fail.
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
IFS incorporates evidence-based principles and emphasizes the eight Cs of self-leadership: calmness, clarity, curiosity, compassion, confidence, courage, creativity, and connectedness. As a result, we can begin to see how the parts of ourselves can either enhance or hinder our relationships.
Positive Psychology Therapy
Positive psychology can also be extremely helpful for empowering both partners in a relationship. During positive psychology therapy, both partners in the relationship are encouraged to recognize their strengths and skills and to find ways to access them. It also helps reframe negative events, allowing better outcomes and an appreciation for the difficulties of change in a relationship.
When to Seek Couples Therapy
Relationships are like living, breathing things. They need energy and care devoted to them to ensure they stay healthy and ultimately thrive. Couples therapy is beneficial for couples in all stages of their relationship and does not necessarily mean that a problem or issue has to exist for a couple to benefit from treatment. However, here are nine signs that seeking help from a couples therapist might be the solution for you and your partner.
You Keep Repeating The Same Fights
If you and your partner find yourselves repeating the same arguments or having conflicts over the same issues over and over, it may be time to enlist a third party to help. Continually having the same arguments is a sign that no true resolution has been reached, which is a bad pattern to create. Fighting and arguing are a part of any relationship. However, arguing with no resolution can lead to resentment and ultimately degrade the relationship.
You No Longer See The Positive
In a healthy relationship, you should associate your partner with fondness and positive thoughts. However, once your thoughts are mainly made up of negativity or blame, it may mean that your bad memories are overtaking any of the good ones. That may mean it is time to seek help from a licensed couples therapist.
There Is A Lack Of Communication
A shift in communication may also be a warning sign that couples therapy could be beneficial for your relationship. If you are finding it difficult to open up to your partner about your feelings or just talking with them less in general, marriage counseling could help to get you both back on the right track.
Your Relationship Lacks Intimacy
Even with the best intentions, many couples struggle to maintain the same level of physical intimacy after a few years of marriage. It's normal to experience this. However, if you feel that there is little or no intimacy between you and your spouse, you might want to consider going to couples counseling. When both people are aware of and concerned about a lack of intimacy in their relationship, counseling can help you rekindle a spark and restore intimacy in your relationship.
You're Living Separate Lives
Couples counseling may be necessary when couples feel more like roommates than spouses. While couples don't need to do everything together, a lack of communication, conversation, or intimacy may indicate that it's time to consult a therapist on how to rebuild the relationship.
You or Your Partner Have Been Unfaithful
Infidelity in a relationship can be extremely difficult to overcome. It's a breach of trust that cannot be easily repaired. While it's wrong, it often indicates underlying issues that lead to the breakdown of the relationship. This could be due to a lack of physical and emotional intimacy. One partner may not feel respected or loved, often leading to isolation and loneliness. Speaking with a therapist, whether it's in-person or online couples therapy, can help you work out the underlying issues and pain caused by an affair.
You or Your Partner Lies
When people start keeping secrets from each other, relationship counseling may be necessary. Keeping secrets or lying about things that are important to a couple can signal a deeper problem in the relationship. It could also mean your partner no longer trusts you with certain information, that they are doing something wrong, or they no longer care enough to share. With in-person or virtual marriage counseling, couples can address issues related to lying and find solutions for strengthening their relationships.
You Feel Indifferent About Your Relationship
It is commonly believed that hate is the opposite of love. However, hate still conveys passion and a feeling of caring. Having indifference toward a relationship is typically more problematic than anger or hatred. When this happens, you may not care to argue or address the problems in your relationship. If you or your spouse have reached a point in your relationship where you no longer care about each other’s feelings, couples counseling online or in person may be beneficial.
Finances are Being Kept Secret
Keeping secrets about finances may not seem like a big deal, but it indicates distress in a relationship. This could include opening secret bank accounts, borrowing money without your partner's consent, or withdrawing money from savings accounts before talking about it. While having separate bank accounts gives you the freedom to spend money after paying the bills, making secret purchases is unfair when partners share bank accounts. Talking to a therapist can help you approach this issue effectively and find resolutions.
Online Couples Therapy
According to a 2021 study, couples typically wait over two years after a serious problem occurs to seek help from a couples therapist. A lot can happen in those two years, allowing time for those problems to grow and manifest in other ways. It’s always better to seek help at the first signs of issues to help maintain a healthy relationship between you and your partner.