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Couples Therapy: A Complete Guide to Discovering New Possibilities in a Relationship

couple therapy

The term couples counseling or, as you may also call it, couples therapy evokes the strangest of emotions in one’s mind. For some, it is like installing an expensive fire sprinkler system in the house as they hope that the need for its use never arises—while others dispose of the idea completely even in the face of immediate need. However, in most cases, these emotions in our minds are driven by the experiences of others. The myths around couples counseling also take our thoughts on the Devil’s Flight coaster time and again. So what should you ideally do in a situation like this? 

Well, to begin with, taking inspiration from those who have benefitted from couples therapy sessions is a great idea. Additionally, you can try looking at it from a completely new perspective for the sake of your relationship. This is why we have got you this quick guide so that you can pave a new road for new possibilities in your relationship and deal effectively with the turbulence caused by the wheels of time.  

Did you know that most couples wait for more than six months before seeking relationship counseling?

What is Couples Therapy?

We all think we know what couples therapy is. However, just knowing complicated definitions don’t help much sometimes and lead us to believe in easy myths that our brain, somehow, processes faster than facts. 

So to keep it simple, couples therapy or couples counseling is a process used by professional therapists to improve romantic relationships through brief solution-focused sessions. The number of sessions varies from couple to couple depending on various factors including the types of issues they are facing. On average, for a complete treatment, a couple needs to take around 10-14 sessions of those over a period of time. In each session, these therapists try to get to the root of the differences by letting a couple voice their opinions out.

A lot of people think that this concept came into existence recently. However, that’s not true. Couples counseling dates back to 1920. It originated in Germany and by the 1980s it was all around the globe, mainly due to celebrities who had started vouching for its benefits by now. 

Celebrity couples who restored trust in each other with the help of relationship counseling

Marriages are complicated at times. Add a dash of fame to it and it becomes a set of the Da Vinci codes that not even Dr. Langdon can crack. This is why many celebrities turn to couples counseling these days to fix tiny fissures developed by the dazzle of superstardom. We have compiled a list of five such celebrities who went to therapy and came out as even stronger partners forever. Here we go: 

1. The first couple—literally: Michelle and Barack Obama

Former president Barack Obama and his wife were going through a rough patch of time once when the first lady decided to take the initiative and bridge the gap herself. This entire journey changed the way Michelle perceived the institution of marriage. She discovered new possibilities through therapy while, at the same time, learning about the importance of controlling her own happiness. 

2. The “man in black” Will Smith and his better half Jada Pinkett Smith

That Oscar incident of Will slapping Chris Rock in response to a joke about Jada’s shaved head tells a lot about the bond the couple shares with each other even now. However, you will be surprised to know that the two were once taking relationship counseling sessions to keep the flame of their romance alive.

In an interview for a magazine, Will opened up about going to therapy and how it helped him become better as a partner over time. He also shared the challenges of taking such therapies wherein a couple has to lay their truths out in the open. Saying truths and hearing them out from your partner are cringe-worthy moments men like him won’t want to experience in their lifetime. Will referred to these therapies as soul-cleansing sessions to keep a relationship healthy.

3. How Barney met his therapist: Neil Patrick Harris and his husband David Burtka 

Neil Patrick Harris and his husband are a perfect couple that you would often see talking good things about each other. However, in an interview with a magazine, Neil admitted that the couple was going to couples counseling and how the entire experience helped their bond with each other grow even stronger. 

Neil feels that seeing a therapist like these is often looked upon by many in our society. However, it is necessary to detoxify a relationship once in a while through couple therapy. 

4. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus: Dax Shephard and Kristen Bell

This beautiful couple hit it off instantly after meeting for the first time. Their bond kept getting stronger with time and when everything looked just perfect until Kristen revealed that the two decided to see a couple therapist quite early in their relationship. She believed that these early interventions helped her understand areas where she needs to improve and learn ways to stop arguments.

Who should Actually Seek Couples Counseling?

That’s a very tricky question to answer. Many couples think that undergoing any sort of relationship counseling will make their bond fall apart. So they don’t just go to any therapist at all. On the other hand, some couples seek interventions even when there is no need to. For example, once a famous therapist revealed that a lady wanted to undergo couples counseling because her husband refused to paint the house purple. 

Purple!!! Are you even serious?

So, considering both scenarios, it is important to understand who should go to these therapies. We will figure that out in this section. 

  • Couples who think that their partners are finding it difficult to understand their roles and responsibilities should seek couples counseling. 
  • Couples who are finding it difficult to deal with the beliefs of each other’s religions must go see a therapist. 
  • Couples who are not comfortable with each other’s ways of financial management should seek therapy. 

According to a study, financial management among couples is one of the main reasons why they seek therapy and, often, divorce.

  • Couples who are failing to give each other enough time should seek therapy. Many celebrities undergoing relationship treatment cited lack of time as a reason for opting for therapy. 
  • Couples who are facing issues living with each other’s other family members such as parents and siblings can seek couples therapy.
  • Infidelity is also one of the top reasons why some couples should seek therapy as it gives them a voice to express their feelings and concerns. 
  • Health issues faced by your partner can sometimes affect your mental health as well. In that case, you can see a therapist. It will only help you heal from the inside out. 
  • Couples may not always have the same views on becoming parents, adoption or, maybe, taking responsibility for a child/children of their partners. This is also a good reason for seeking help from professionals. 
  • Work pressure too adds to a couple’s woes at times and is a reasonable ground for them to seek guidance from a professional.  

Understanding the types of couples counseling

Every couple’s journey differs from the other. This means the therapy that worked for you may not necessarily work for others. This is possibly why there’s no standard couples counseling type, which therapists can apply to all. 

The success rate of couples counseling has increased from 50% in the 1980s to 75% in 2022.

Different couples need different types of counseling approaches based on their unique needs. Let’s explore these approaches one by one so that you at least know what road you should take to reach your destination.

The Gottman approach to couples counseling

Imagine a counseling approach or therapy that’s been developed by a Dr. couple married for over 35 years. Yes. You are right. We are talking about one of the most popular approaches to couples counseling: the Gottman method. This is like Indiana Jones himself on the hunt for the crystal skulls in the Kingdom of Akator. We know that this man will find the skulls for sure. That’s exactly what we feel when this Gottman approach is used today to help a couple discover new possibilities in their relationships. 

Developed in the 1980s by Dr. John Gottman and his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, the Gottman method leverages research-based interventions to help a couple find a connection with each other, empathy, awareness, and a deeper sense of understanding of each other’s emotions as well. A couple needs to go through the following stages of the treatment while using the Gottman method: 

  • Stage #1: At this stage, a couple needs to understand each other’s psychological worlds. 
  • Stage #2: The next stage encourages them to appreciate each other’s feelings to restore their bond. 
  • Stage #3:   This stage discusses ways to identify moments when your partner is seeking attention.
  • Stage #4: Here a couple learns to look at their partner positively, enabling them to acknowledge the key reasons for the failure that were circumstantial, not personal. 
  • Stage #5: A 3-step process is used to help a couple manage their differences. The first step in the process is to understand each other’s feelings followed by discussing their problems and, finally, learning techniques to cool off each other during a conflict. 
  • Stage #6: In this stage, a couple is encouraged to include each other in their dreams and goals in life.
  • Stage #7: A couple thus learns to trust each other and express their commitment to their relationship.
  • State #8: Finally, they reach a stage where they learn to create a world of their own brimming with their beliefs. 

Did you know that the prediction accuracy of the Gottman Method was a whopping 94%?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

This therapy is also known as cognitive behavioral couples therapy (CBCT). It aims to identify and correct thoughts that are negative and can affect one’s personality severally, thus, leading to differences in a relationship. 

Imago relationship therapy (IRT)

This couples counseling approach explores the childhood of an individual to understand things that might have happened back then, and now they are affecting their life as an adult. It is believed that the childhood of an individual plays a critical role in shaping their life as an adult. Any untoward trait in personality can easily be fixed by going down memory lane under the guidance of a moderator. 

Ellen Watchel’s therapy

This approach tries to look at a relationship from a different perspective. It is more about putting on the glasses of positivity, looking into the mirror for self-reflection, and, for the sake of this relationship, stopping blaming your partner once and for all. 

Psychodynamic couples therapy

The psychodynamic approach is a way to learn about the emotions that lay hidden in the deepest corners of your heart and brain. It helps unlock hidden treasures of your personality that once out in the open make you a different person.

Demystifying the myths around couples counseling

When couples counseling started back in the 1920s, a social stigma got attached to it that only grew with time. As a result, while there were couples who were vouching for its benefits, there was another group that chose to stay behind the veil. These behind-the-veil couples look down upon the idea of going to therapy even today. The acceptance has not yet come from them due to a variety of myths driving their decisions. 

The reason behind compiling this section is to bust those myths or, at least, throw some light on the topics we’ve never talked about. The idea is to bring out the truth in its purest form, hoping that couples in need have some clarity about couples therapy and knowledge about how it can change the game of love entirely. So let’s get going and bust myths surrounding couples therapy. Here we go: 

Myth 1: Couples counseling is for people seeking a divorce from their partners

Truth: Well, that’s so untrue. You can see a therapist even if things are going well in your paradise, and you want to just make your relationship stronger so that it can stand the test of time. Do you install a fire extinguisher in your home after it has been set on fire? Nope. You don’t. Similarly, couples counseling is a quality safety measure to save relationships. Don’t wait until the house has come crashing down. 

Myth 2: Couples counseling encourages divorce

Truth: No. It does not. On the contrary, it prevents divorce by simply resolving differences a couple may have. So don’t let this myth stop you from discovering new possibilities in your relationship.

Myth 3: Therapies make things even worse in relationships

Truth: This myth crops up from the fact that a couple has to express their opinions in the purest form about and in front of their partners. This is unsettling for many. However, that’s why we do it with a therapist who knows how to deal with moments of truth like these. It’s like a cleansing process by sipping on some not-so-delicious detox potions. 

Myth 4: Therapies are expensive

Truth:  Divorce is more expensive than these counseling therapies. Do you agree? 

Myth 5: Couples counseling is a time-consuming process

Truth: These therapy sessions are customized keeping in mind your daily schedule so as to give the most out of it while also keeping your days productive with other stuff. 

What kind of benefits does couples therapy offer to people in need?

There are a variety of benefits of undergoing relationship counseling some of which we have discussed already in parts above. Let’s now put the spotlight on the benefits and review them for more clarity. So here are the benefits of undergoing relationship counseling: 

Increased understanding of emotions 

A couple gets to express their emotions, feelings, and opinions in front of their partner. This helps them understand their partners even more. The best part is that these discussions are moderated by a therapist in favor of both of them. 

Improved trust in each other

Couples therapy helps a couple with trust factors. When you get to express your feelings in their raw form with your partner, it reinstates their trust in you without much of a fuss. 

Getting equipped with new skills

While undergoing relationship counseling, you just don’t discuss issues but also learn new skills to keep the flame of romance alive between you and your partner. 

Enhanced communications skills

One of the main benefits of going to therapy is that couples learn the art of effective communication skills with each other. Effective communication can heal almost all issues if used properly. 

Getting rid of negative behavior

Couples therapy helps a couple identify their negative behavior. They both work on it under the guidance of the therapist and get rid of it over time. 

Tips to get started with couples counseling effectively

Even if a couple makes their minds up for relationship counseling, they sometimes fail to head start the journey for various reasons. So to help you make a move in the right direction, we have compiled a list of things you can easily adopt for the new beginnings of a lifetime. 

1. Discussion with your partner 

The very first thing you can do to get into counseling with a therapist is to have a discussion with your partner. Learn about their views about the whole idea and then kickstart your journey on a positive note.

2. Finding the right therapist

Research well and try finding a therapist who is experienced, versatile, and certified by a reputed institution.

3. Working out your timings

Understand the daily routine of your partner and set your appointments with the therapist accordingly. Remember, every single second of the session counts. So to make the most of it, you should both be available and invested in it. 

4. Doing the paperwork

You are required to do some paperwork. These paperworks are essentially about getting some personal information about you to pave the road for the journey clearly and effectively. 

5. Setting targets

Finally, once all have been taken care of, your therapist will meet you to outline the goals of the treatment. Obviously, you must be in agreement with all of the developments. 

Common techniques used by your therapist to improve your relationship with your partner

Couples therapists are no Harry Potters yet they cast a spell that refreshes your relationship like magic. What exactly do they do to restore everything like it was always in the beginning? Well, as we have already discussed, couples counseling is a psychological treatment based on solution-focused practices or sessions. Our therapists leverage these practices to understand the root cause of the problem and devise a program to bring your relationship back on track. 

Here are a few techniques used by your therapist to improve your relationship: 

Knowing you 

One of the first techniques that comes into effect when a therapist meets you and your partner is getting to know you both from the inside out. They will try to delve into your childhood, your life, personality, and everything else with your consent to understand you better. This is important for the collaboration with you otherwise results may not come as good as expected. 

Knowing your feelings for your partner

Yeah. Obviously. They would like to know your feelings about your partner without any touch of ostentation. This is necessary as these raw unprocessed feelings help your therapist get to the root of the problem your relationship is going through. 

Knowing your past

To build a bright future, you have to lighten the dark streets of your past. Your therapist will also try to look into it in hope of discovering something that is somehow connected to your present. Your past has keys to how you are right now. Thus, it is important for your therapist to delve into your past to help you. 

Final Thoughts

Life is full of experiences. Some are comforting while some hurt indescribably. Cheer that you at least feel the pain because only when you die you don’t. Celebrate that you are still alive and capable of doing everything to work in favor of you and your partner. Couples therapy can reverse the rough patch in your relationship once and for all, all you need to do is make the first move. The healing will start coming from the treatment over a period of time as you will notice increased affection and intimacy for each other. 

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