What is Couples Therapy?

What Is Couples Therapy

Romantic relationships are complex; they need regular maintenance to keep them functioning well. No one relationship is without conflict; from simple misunderstandings to full-blown arguments, it’s an ongoing journey of balance and compromise. Whether you’re stuck in a cycle or feel like you could benefit from a relationship check-up, an unbiased third party can help you take a step forward together. 

Couples therapy focuses on helping couples work through relationship challenges and find better and healthier ways to communicate with each other. Couples therapy is suitable for all types of couples in a relationship, married or not. The goal of couples therapy is to help both parties improve their relationship and, in some cases, help them decide whether staying together is the right thing to do.

How Does Couples Therapy Work?

Couples therapy usually includes multiple sessions to help build communication skills, improve problem-solving, and identify relationship responsibilities and goals. It may also help to address common issues like financial problems, infidelity, illness, and anger. Depending on the individual couple, therapy can be short-term for a few weeks or long-term, running for months and even years.

A therapist may use several approaches to couples counseling, including: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT is about identifying and changing behavioral patterns that negatively influence your behavior. A therapist may use CBT as a couple, individually, or both. 
  • Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) – The focus is on helping couples improve the attachment and bonding between them. The therapist works with you to help you understand and change the patterns resulting in feelings of disconnect.

So, what exactly happens during couples therapy, and how does it work? 

Couples therapy employs an integrated approach that borrows from different forms of treatment, depending on the couple’s needs. 

Haley Selarnick, MS, LMFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in New York, says, “I utilize psycho-education frequently with couples because I find that couples really appreciate having information about what couples research says. I try to make that as accessible as possible. 

I teach communication tactics such as assertive speaking and active listening, which is really important if you’re going to get anywhere in therapy with a partner. I also help clients work through and understand “flooding” – this is when you get physiologically overwhelmed. It can happen more frequently in couples therapy than individuals because there is another person there that might trigger you. Learning how to manage feeling overwhelmed WITH your partner in real-time is invaluable. It teaches you how to manage it when you’re not in therapy.”  

Often, in couples therapy, the first step is getting to know you and your partner. Expect to be open and honest in couples therapy. Your therapist will need to understand your dynamic and any problems. Therapy is a safe and judgment-free zone for you to have a conversation with your partner. Open up about your relationship strengths, as well as talk about what may be causing you distress. 

The therapist will work with you to help you understand yourself and your partner better. They will then help you and your partner identify your feelings and work on helping you put these feelings into words. The goal is to help you better understand your fears, behaviors, and motivations in the relationship. This approach can also help address unresolved conflicts that may still affect your relationship.  

Couples therapy can look different for couples, depending on your situation. In some cases, your therapist may work with you to resolve an issue and correct negative behavioral patterns. They may work on teaching you and your partner skills that you can employ when facing future conflicts or a combination of tools. The skills may include problem-solving, conflict resolution, or anger management so you can deal with issues as soon as they crop up. 

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How Effective is Couples Therapy?

In my experience, couples therapy is the very best tool there is for working through recurring issues or concerns in your relationship. 

A common theme of sessions that have the best result are ones where the clients are actively engaging in the process. These are couples that are willing to try out what the therapist suggests. If I suggest trying an interaction again, with different guidance, there is a reason I’m suggesting it!” says Haley Selarnick. 

Studies show that some relationships improve after couples therapy. Overall, research shows that couples therapy can have a positive impact on relationship satisfaction for couples in distress. Yet, some couples revert to their negative behavior patterns even after couples therapy. Couples therapy isn’t an overnight cure to your relationship problems, but it can be very effective. Being able to speak openly in a safe space with your partner is incredibly value. Ultimately, couples therapy takes time, and its success is hugely dependent on the couple themselves. While couples therapy is a great tool, it requires active engagement from both parties.

Statistics show that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery after emotionally-focused therapy. About 90% of couples see significant improvement in their relationships after EFT. In some cases, the couples continued enjoying a positive result at least two years after their last therapy session. But, how successful couples therapy is, depends entirely on the couple in question and their desire to put the work in, learn new skills, and remain invested in the process of growth. 

The aim of couples therapy is to give you the tools you need to communicate effectively, so you can go away and resolve issues on your own. They are there to give you a new perspective but can’t tell you what to do. 

How Much Does Couples Therapy Cost?

On average, couples therapy per session costs between $100 to $200. The hourly fees vary from one therapist to another as well as location; some therapists charge $50 an hour, and others may charge $250 or more. While most sessions last an hour, some may be shorter or longer.

How Thriving Center of Psych Can Help

To give you an idea of what to expect, Haley breaks down what couples therapy could look like with her. 

An intake session is going to be me asking you a lot of questions about yourselves – things like the arc of your relationship, how you met, what your strengths are as a couple, and your goals! 

From there, we will pinpoint specific things to work on and devote sessions to those topics. For example, if one goal we have is to more effectively manage roles and responsibilities, we may use a session (or more) to identify what roles/responsibilities exist in your lives, how you each feel about them, and how to balance them more effectively,” says Haley Selarnick. 

Some couples show up to therapy at breaking point, while others use it as a way to check in on the relationships to avoid bigger problems down the line. Any couple can benefit from therapy, whether they have an issue or not. 

If you would like to improve communication with your partner or think your relationship could benefit from an unbiased outsider, schedule an appointment with Thriving Center of Psych, or call our offices. We have a team of expert and caring therapists who can give you the tools you need to move forward and address issues in the relationship.   

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