Couples therapy is effective. A paper published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology states that whenever couples therapy treatment is tested against a control group, the treatment shows reliable change.
Think couples therapy isn’t for you? Read on to learn how couples therapy could benefit your relationship.
What Is Couples Therapy?
Deciding whether to engage in couples therapy or counseling starts with understanding what it is. Don’t reject it based on hearsay, prejudice, or fear of the unknown. It’s healthy to have some skepticism until you know what it is, so let’s start there.
There are several approaches to couples therapy, so it’s as well to discuss what approaches will be taken by any particular therapist you are considering.
Couples therapy is not just for married people. The rather old-fashioned idea of marriage guidance has moved on. It’s for married couples, girlfriend and boyfriend couples, unmarried couples, same-sex couples, friends, and business partners too.
The counseling sessions typically focus on problem-solving, communication, and conflict resolution. Because we are all different, the focus of your couples therapy sessions will be based on your needs. It’s not simply a standard out-of-the-box solution.
Couples therapy involves talking, and that might not be easy for both parties in a couple. That’s where your therapist comes in. Their skills are in helping the conversation happen.
It’s confidential except in certain special cases. The exceptions are cases of suspected child, elder, or dependent adult abuse, or if there is a threat of violence to self or others.
1. See the View from Their Window
When you are experiencing relationship problems, one of the frustrations is getting someone to see it from your point of view. In a conflict, it’s as if we are each observing the situation from different positions. As if the view from your window is different from the view from your partner’s.
Poor communication and emotional turmoil make it difficult to bridge the gap alone. You may be struggling to get your partner to understand your perspective. You may find it hard to understand where your partner is coming from.
One of the skills of a couples therapist is to help each party see things from the others point of view.
2. Resolve Conflict
A different perspective can lead to conflict. A conflict can also arise over behavior, changing circumstances, external pressures, and more. If you and your partner have difficulty resolving conflict on your own, turning to a couple therapist may be an answer.
The therapist will not take sides or act as a judge and jury. They will help you both with the process of conflict resolution.
3. A Place of Safety
Do you ever feel that discussing issues with your partner can escalate? Perhaps it starts fine but then descends into arguments. Maybe you have a problem keeping control of your emotions.
Couples counseling can provide a safe place to address issues. There’s something about having such discussions in the presence of a therapist that helps both you and your partner talk about difficult issues more constructively. Emotions are kept under control and you both listen more.
4. Improve Your Relationship
A relationship is a complicated thing. Every individual brings their own history, personality, and motivations to their relationships. The dynamics of the relationship are then complicated by the interaction of what each party brings to the situation.
Couples therapy can help the parties understand what each of you brings to the relationship. Spoken or unspoken assumptions can be a source of problems and the therapist can surface these. A mutual understanding of your motivations can be explored and problems addressed.
These relationships need not be only romantic relationships. They can be other family relationships, friendships, or even business relationships. Wherever there is an unsatisfactory relationship a mutual understanding of the dynamics of the relationship can improve it.
5. Learn to Listen
It’s important for a couples therapy session that the parties learn to listen to each other. Listening may well be something that a couple has had difficulty doing until deciding to have couples counseling.
A couples therapist is especially skilled at listening. They also help each of the parties develop their listening skills through the process of the therapy. These skills can be a real benefit to you and your partner.
Listening skills don’t just benefit your relationship. They help you in your career and in other family and personal relationships
6. Learn to Cope with Issues
Throughout life, we can face difficulties. Financial and career challenges can spill over into relationship issues. Bereavement, family breakdown, and health problems can also be a challenge.
We get little preparation for these issues in our education or upbringing and then have to cope with them. It’s hardly surprising that we don’t always cope well. This struggle with issues impacts on our mental and physical health and on the lives of work colleagues, friends, and family.
A couples therapist can help you develop more resilience when experiencing issues like this. It’s not always a matter of just addressing a relationship problem. That could be secondary to other deeper problems and the therapist can help address these, too.
7. Prevent Problems
For couples therapy to be successful in the long term, it has to address how any improvements will be sustained. It’s no good if a relationship is temporarily better if the next time a problem emerges it breaks down again. As a couple, you need tools and techniques for addressing problems in the future.
Your couples counselor can work with you to develop these strategies for a more sustainable relationship. You may work on developing good communication habits and better problem-solving techniques to prevent future problems.
8. Develop Intimacy
Anger, depression, communication problems, and other related challenges can be associated with a lack of intimacy. A benefit of addressing emotional and relationship issues is to also develop more intimacy.
For some people, intimacy is about trust and openness. For others, it is about body image or sexual relations. Couples therapy can address these issues.
9. Improve Your Communication
The couples therapist may spend most of their time facilitating communication. They can help you develop better communication skills.
Communication is not just about talking. Good communication is also about listening, body language, and feedback.
Often what’s at the root of poor communication is difficulty in understanding your own and other people’s thoughts and feelings. Your couples therapist will help you with this too.
Talk About Couples Therapy
A reputable couples therapist will be happy to discuss how they will work with you and your partner. They will want to build your confidence in them. Find out more about couples therapy and see if it’s right for you.