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Couples Therapy: Definition, Techniques & Efficacy. Here's how you can find a couple's therapist.

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a process of psychotherapy that focuses on the interaction and communication between two people in an intimate relationship. It's aimed at strengthening and improving the quality of the relationship. The goal is to maintain or improve satisfaction, joy and love in the relationship, while reducing fear, stress, anger and dissatisfaction.

For many couples therapy can be an effective way to find new ways of managing conflict and solving problems. There is no single definition of couples therapy, so the ways that therapists choose to work with couples vary. The treatment approach depends on what both partners want. Some may prefer to keep their relationship issues private and discuss at home, while others may prefer group work in a group setting. A therapist can address different issues including:

  • Communication and conflict resolution

  • Addressing unrealistic expectations and fears

  • Increasing couple skills (how the couple talks with each other)

Modalities of couples' therapy

There are many different types of couples therapy. It could be both offline or online couples therapy, or it could be couples therapy in India or any other country. The most common approaches include: Developmental models; CBT; positive psychology couples therapy, interpersonal therapy for couples; psychoanalysis; behavioral marital therapy; crisis intervention & treatment for couples in marriage counseling or divorce counseling.

The goals of couples therapy can vary depending on what the couple hopes to achieve. If a couple is engaged or married and preparing for their wedding, therapy can help establish a foundation for the future. Couples therapy can help couples prepare for some of the challenges of building their own families and adjusting to life as new parents.

If a couple has been married for years and is having a lot of trouble communicating or making decisions, couples therapy can help change this pattern. If one partner has an addiction and needs professional help, local couples therapy can help address the issues that are coming up in the relationship.

Efficacy of couples' therapy

A review of research studies, the latest being published in 2009, states that the efficacy and effectiveness of couples therapy is well established. Researchers found that "couples therapy was more effective for distressed and dysfunctional couples than for functional and healthy ones."

What does this mean? Most of us think "if we're doing pretty well, then why bother going to couples counseling?" The bottom line is: if a couple wants to enhance their relationship and/or work on specific issues then couple's therapy can be helpful. The goal of couples therapy is to improve the quality of the relationship, including communication, conflict resolution and problem solving.

Benefits of couples' therapy

Couples therapy is often the most effective way to evaluate a relationship and decide whether or not it can improve. The benefits of couples' therapy include:

  • Development of better communication patterns in the relationship

  • Better problem-solving skills to resolve conflict sooner

  • Increased awareness of one's own strengths and weaknesses as well as partner's strengths and weaknesses. This will eventually make close communication more easy to accomplish.

  • Increased confidence, self-esteem, and ability to better manage conflict in the relationship. This leads to more effective problem-solving skills which allow couples to resolve their issues before they get out of hand.

  • Increased awareness of the importance of understanding one's partner, and learning to truly care about the other person.

  • Increased understanding of oneself and how one relates to others. This leads to a more satisfying relationship that can last a lifetime.


Limitations of couples' therapy

The biggest limitation of couples therapy is the inability to work on long term psychodynamic issues that some couples may need help with, especially if it has gone on for many years and is making your relationship unworkable. Short term counseling, like marriage counseling, can be helpful if you're going through some issues right now but need help moving forward in your life as well as strengthening your relationships with family and friends. Marriage counseling should not be used as a replacement for therapy when it comes to long-term issues, such as depression or codependency.

One of the most important things couples therapy teaches is that you must work on your own issues and make changes before assuming your partner is at fault. There are many misconceptions about what causes a marriage to end, including divorce statistics and beliefs based on cartoonish perceptions of American culture.

The reality is there are many reasons why couples divorce, including infidelity, communication patterns that have been neglected for years, personal and financial problems that no one anticipated or realized would happen in the marriage, an inability to resolve conflict with disagreement and hurt feelings, which then lead to a lack of trust in one another.

Finding a couples' therapist

The first step in finding the right couples' therapist is to think about what you want out of the therapy. You can discuss these concerns with your partner and figure out what your issues are and then look for a therapist that can best address these issues. It is important to realize that you will likely not see eye-to-eye with some therapists when it comes to how long counseling will take or what kind of therapy will be used.

In some cases one partner may need therapy at a slower pace and the partner who wants more treatment will have a hard time being patient if the other person gets stuck in relationship talk that is not helping their issues. This can make it difficult for both partners to be successful in couples therapy.

When finding a couples' therapist, you should ask about their training, experience and qualifications as well as what type of counseling they specialize in. You should also research their credentials and find out if they are board certified (someone who has received a set of credentials from an organization that certifies therapists). In addition to looking at the therapist's experience and qualifications, you should also check their references.

If you are a same-sex couple, you should ask about their experience in counseling gay and lesbian couples. If you are a non-traditional couple, you still need the same counseling benefits as any other couple. If the therapist has worked with many non-traditional couples then they will be more prepared to meet your needs.

To sum up

Couples therapy has many benefits and allows you to come up with solutions together rather than you each trying to figure it out on your own. If a couple is going through problems in their relationship, couples therapy can be a good place to start to learn how to fix these issues.

Moreover, if a couple is always fighting, it may be a sign that there are underlying issues such as codependency or depression that need to be addressed before the relationship can improve. The bottom line is, if one of you has a mental illness (e.g., depression), couples therapy can be more effective because your therapist gets to see the relationship from both sides and can help you work on the underlying problems together.