Are you and your partner increasingly at odds with one another? Do you wonder if couples therapy might be able to help? According to the American Psychological Association, couples therapy is effective at restoring relationships approximately 75 percent of the time. But the key is not to wait too long.
Love is a feeling, but a healthy relationship is a skill. – Linda Carroll, LMFT
The longer you wait, the more deep-rooted bad habits become and the harder it is to break them. Waiting until you are on the verge of breaking up or are too angry and resentful to be reasonable makes therapy more difficult and may lower its effectiveness.
Signs that you could benefit from couples therapy.
- You are struggling to navigate a major life change and could use some support.
- Negative experiences are starting to outweigh the positive ones in your relationship.
- You and your partner are constantly bickering and finding things to argue about.
- You avoid talking about the things that bother you to avoid conflict.
- You feel unheard or misunderstood.
- You keep arguing about the same thing repeatedly without being able to come to a resolution.
- You have trust issues.
- The spark has disappeared from your relationship, and you feel more like roommates than lovers.
- Your eye is starting to wander outside of your relationship.
- You and your partner no longer want the same things.
What is couples therapy?
Couples therapy is a form of joint counseling that helps you and your partner work through your relationship issues, learn how to identify and manage your unique challenges, and enhance the quality of your relationship by improving communication and equipping you with the necessary skills to resolve conflicts in a healthy way.
Couples therapy is sometimes referred to as marriage counseling, but you don’t have to be married to benefit from it. Dating couples can attend couples therapy too.
Therapy sessions are conducted by a trained mental health professional who acts as an unbiased neutral party. They provide objective feedback, helping you unpack what’s at the root of your problems and looking at them through fresh eyes. A counselor also equips you with the necessary tools to help get your relationship back on track.
You don’t need to struggle in your relationship to seek couples therapy. Like maintenance on a car, preventive appointments can identify problems before they become critical. And couples therapy before marriage can help couples embarking on a relationship get to know each other better and build a strong foundation for their future life together.
Examples of what couples therapy can do.
- Enhance communication and listening skills between you and your partner.
- Teach you how to express your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly without being critical of each other.
- Teach you and your partner how to ask for what you want without causing each other to shut down.
- Provide an opportunity for you to address your differences before they turn into a major conflict.
- Help you look at the roles you play and identify unhealthy dynamics.
- Help you address differences in expectations.
- Help you become unstuck and smooth out bumps in the road.
- Help you learn more effective ways of reaching each other.
- Help you gain a better understanding of each other’s needs and develop healthier ways of relating to each other.
- Help you uncover the root causes of your present conflict.
- Teach you healthy conflict resolution skills and how to handle disagreements in a healthy way.
- Help you identify unhealthy behaviors and learn new relational skills.
- Help you process and heal trust issues between you and your partner, restoring intimacy and sexual connection.
- Help strengthen your bond of friendship.
- Help you see your relationship in a more objective way.
- Show you how to face your struggles together.
- Teach you how to support each other better.
- Teach you how to share your needs and fears in a way that makes you feel heard.
- Help you identify areas where you function well as a couple and strengthen the positive aspects of your relationship.
- Help you step into your partner’s shoes so you can see the issue from his or her perspective.
- Help renew the spark you once had for each other and rekindle the romance.
- Help you and your partner get your relationship back on track.
Popular forms of couples therapy.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
Emotionally focused therapy is a short-term evidence-based couples therapy that has been shown to have one of the highest success rates. Its premise is that isolation is traumatizing, and life-long partnerships require a strong emotional attachment to thrive.
Your therapist will focus on helping you identify maladaptive patterns of behavior, unpack the emotions rooted beneath the surface that have led to them, and help you gain awareness of each other’s unmet needs. The goal is to foster acceptance and compassion for one another and teach you techniques for creating safe, secure attachments. This will ultimately strengthen the emotional bond between you.
Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)
Solution-focused therapy is also a short-term evidence-based form of couples therapy. It uses a goal-oriented approach that focuses on solutions rather than problems, which makes it a good choice if you are having trouble figuring out what your issues are, or need help solving a specific challenge.
Your counselor will help you and your partner examine the positives and negatives of your relationship and use the strengths to create new ways of communicating and solving problems together. The counselor will also help you establish goals and construct solutions to your issues rather than dwell on them.
Imago Relationship Therapy
Though not evidence-based, imago relationship therapy is a popular model that explores your past and looks at your current challenges as being the outcome of childhood neglect or unmet needs that have led to conflicts in your adult relationships.
Your therapist will help you and your partner explore your childhood memories to understand how past experiences have affected your current view of relationships and guide you into correcting negative feelings you’ve falsely projected onto your partner.
The Gottman Method
The Gottman method is one of the most popular couples therapy models. It was designed and developed by Dr. John Gottman and his wife, psychologist Julie Gottman, following 40 years of research on how to improve and maintain happy, loving relationships.
Unlike other couples therapies, it is flexible in addressing you and your partner’s unique interactions. It consists of nine components, including the making of a mental map of each other’s world and learning how to break through gridlock.
Your therapist will work with you to help you develop a deeper understanding of each other, increase empathy, enhance communication, strengthen the bonds of friendship between you, and equip you with the skills to manage conflict. This is done by turning toward each other when one of you is hurting, rather than away.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying the thoughts that lead each of you to act the way you do so you can get to the root of the problem and better understand and empathize with the why behind one another’s actions.
Your counselor will work with you to help you challenge and dispel false beliefs and miscommunications and learn how to communicate more effectively. You will learn to replace the negative dynamics that are harming your relationship with healthier, more rewarding ones.
Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)
Behavioral couples therapy is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, except that the focus is on changing and shaping behavior. This is done by reinforcing positive actions that promote stability and contentment while discouraging behaviors that foster negativity.
Faith-based counseling involves a combination of Biblical principles and clinical intervention. It can incorporate different modes of therapy through a biblical lens. This faith-based approach offers help and hope.
If you would like to meet with one of the faith-based counselors in the online directory, please give us a call today. We would be happy to answer your questions and discuss how we can help you manage the challenges you are facing.
Difficulties in relationship almost always originate in our internal emotional structure. Early trauma happens to us at an age when we literally do not have the neocortex to process or normalize it, so we have these traumatized places in essence frozen in time, until we identify and begin to process them.
After communication and regulation tools help us navigate conversations without causing damage, understanding our trauma narrative and how it impacts our relationship is the most important work we can do.
Some couples will find that simply the knowledge they do not have to carry their partners emotion will be life changing. For others, the work may have to be deeper and take longer, but if you have the courage to press on through the process, the result will be a journey toward growth and health.
Sanjana Gupta. “What Is Couples Therapy?” Verywell Mind. Updated August 10, 2021. verywellmnd.com/couples-therapy-definition-types-techniques-and-efficacy-5191137.
Sophia Benoit. “This Is What Couples Therapy Can Actually Solve.” GQ Magazine. April 11, 2019. gq.com/story/couples-therapy-guide.
“Cuddling”, Courtesy of Taisiia Stupak, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Frank van Hulst, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Couple”, Courtesy of Almos Bechtold, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Sitting on the Hill”, Courtesy of Enq 1998, Unsplash.com, CC0 License