There’s an old stigma around marriage counseling that suggests couples who seek therapy are doomed. In reality, pursuing couples counseling is a healthy sign that partners are willing to work on themselves and eager to reaffirm the foundation of their relationship.
If you’ve considered starting couples therapy but have questions about how it works, how effective it is and what you can expect, you’ve come to the right place. Let this article reassure you that engaging in couples therapy is one of the best steps you can take for your relationship.
How does couples therapy work?
Couples therapy, like most psychotherapy (or talk therapy), occurs as a collaboration with a licensed professional. In sessions, you’ll work to identify challenges, assess strengths and use your resources and abilities to come up with actionable solutions.
Couples counseling usually lasts for around 50 minutes a session for a handful or more meetings. Therapy can occur in-person or virtually. It’s always done simultaneously with both partners, but individual counseling may also be advantageous if you each find you have personal matters to work through as well.
Depending on the framework of your therapist or counselor, you’ll work through several different areas. Here are some topics you’re likely to cover.
Communication style and skills
Mental health history
Relevant family dynamics
Level of trust
Identifying changes in the relationship
Discussing short and long-term goals for the relationship
Issues relating to children
These and other subjects will be considered in your therapy session, as well as any other topics that are pertinent to the stability and enjoyment of your relationships.
What are couples therapy questions?
Beginning therapy with your significant other can be intimidating, especially if you struggle to open up about your feelings. Here are some common examples of couples therapy questions to help you feel prepared and at ease.
How long have you been together?
How did your relationship progress to where it is now?
What do you most appreciate about each other?
What encouraged you to seek professional help?
What are the biggest stressors in your relationship?
Have you struggled in your marriage before?
What solutions were you able to come up with to resolve past issues?
How committed are you to making this relationship last?
How would you describe your satisfaction in the relationship?
What’s one way you think you personally need to change?
What’s one way you’d like to see your partner change?
If everything was going well, what would your life look like?
What is the biggest obstacle to happiness in your relationship?
How do you like to show love?
How do you want love to be shown to you?
How do you handle stress?
What boundaries do you think would be helpful to your relationship?
How can you build trust again?
What current expectations of your spouse are unrealistic?
What expectations need to be adjusted?
What needs are failing to be met?
How can you verbally affirm each other?
What do you need to apologize for?
How can you prioritize intentional time together?
This list of sample questions is by no means exhaustive, but they should suffice for brainstorming and visualizing how your relationship could improve and what you need to do to get there.
Is online couples therapy different?
If you’re researching marriage therapy, you’ve probably wondered about the difference between in-person and online services, and which would work better for you and your spouse. Unfortunately, no one can make that choice for you. Starting therapy as soon as possible is more important than choosing the right method.
Both in-person and online programs have pros and cons. If you’re still on the fence after the first session, discuss the question with your therapist. Without making the decision for you, he or she can ask probing questions to help you illuminate the most beneficial path forward.
Is couples therapy effective?
The big question remains—does couples therapy work? In the same sense that individual therapy aids people in processing emotions and events, creating socio-emotional skills and alleviating problems, yes, couples therapy is effective.
Counseling can help couples to manage some of life’s most difficult challenges, including affairs, losing a job, being evicted, raising children with disabilities, trauma, deployment, changing religious affiliations and countless other real-life scenarios.
While the benefits of couples counseling are clear, the evidence of the effectiveness in couples counseling is far behind. The truth is, there are few empirical studies on the effectiveness of couples counseling, and even those that have been conducted are often skewed due to the fact that couples tend to seek services once they have reached a desperate point and not as a preventative measure.
However, the Journal of Family Therapy published one Swedish study of over 300 couples found that even a minimal therapy routine showed improvements in marital relations, individual mental health and coping skills. These results remained consistent after long-term follow-up. The findings also suggest that couples may need to participate in counseling again in the event of a relapse.
How do I get started?
If you and your loved one are facing a tough time, don’t wait to get help. The sooner you start couples counseling, the greater an impact it can have. Check out Pyramid Online Counseling to get access to the best care available. Invest in your relationship and get started now.