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Does Couples Therapy Work? A Complete Guide for Beginners in 2023

couples therapy

“Does couples therapy work?” is quite a common question that most couples will reach for when things get tough, which it probably will for everyone at some point. There are always those couples that stay madly in love, but even they have their ups and downs. Relationships travel through stages, and one of those stages is the crisis stage, according to researchers. That 5 or 7-year itch, as it is sometimes called, is just one reason why couples reach for couples therapy. 

Couples therapy is not a magic wand that can fix all your relationship difficulties. However, research shows that it is effective for the vast majority of couples who try it. The estimate sits around 70-80%, as we’ll explore later. 

It is essential to understand that couples therapy works on the principles of science. It consists of a number of joint counseling sessions depending on the type of issues you and your partner are facing. All these sessions are moderated by your couples therapist, who is trained in couples counseling techniques and can help you work through conflicts, understand each other, and grow closer.

Is Couples Therapy Effective?

Yes, it is! Couples therapy or marriage counseling is one of the most effective solutions to resolve issues in marriage. 

According to a VeryWellMind Survey, 99% of respondents said couples therapy had a positive impact on their relationship. Although this is just one survey, and a little higher than what other surveys report, it is still telling. Other studies cite 70-80% of couples are better off than those who did not receive couples counseling. Most researchers seem to agree that between 70% and 80% of couples benefit from couples counseling. The VeryWellMind Survey found that 76% found couples counseling had a high or very high positive impact on their relationship. 

Although couples counseling can be expensive, 94% say it’s worth the investment, according to the VeryWellMind survey. And, there are plenty of cost-affordable couple therapy options out there. 

The research in favor of couples therapy has grown exponentially in the past few years. A meta-analysis done in 2022—meaning a study that analyzes a collection of other studies to find common threads—says that “both as a stand‐alone intervention and in conjunction with other treatment formats, couple‐based interventions have garnered considerable empirical support for their effectiveness in addressing a broad spectrum of specific relational dysfunctions as well as individual emotional and physical health problems.”

So… what does that mean?

“Empirical support” means the effectiveness of couples therapy is verifiable and observable through data. It’s not just people saying “Yeah, couples therapy worked for me!”; it’s researchers being able to look at behavior and emotions before and after couples therapy sessions and seeing a positive change. 

This meta-analysis also found that couples therapy not only addresses relationship difficulties but can also be highly beneficial for individual emotional and physical health problems. This comes as no surprise, as sectors of human health have always been highly correlated. When your mental health struggles, your physical and social health struggles. When your physical health struggles, your mental and relationship health struggles. And when your relationship health struggles, your physical and mental health struggles. We’ve all known someone who was in a bad relationship and experienced a post-breakup glow up. This is because our social, mental, and physical health are all connected. Working on one benefits the others. 

The research is clear: couples therapy is effective. But what does “effective” mean? Will it save a crumbling relationship? Or will it just make things a little easier? Let’s take a look at the specifics. 

How Does Couples Therapy Work?

Couple therapy aims at resolving the root of the problem in a relationship. In this quest, therapists leverage the principles of science and psychology to help a couple come to an agreement of starting a new life mutually. These therapies serve as a tool to help a couple communicate their feelings, emotions, and thoughts with their partners.

Moderated by a professional therapist, these discussions between two individuals allow them to learn how to deal with their emotional conflicts healthily. Once you know the root cause of the problem, you begin to follow practices that gradually help rejuvenate the old love between you two. 

Counseling is not just about giving space but also about knowing each other’s space and respecting it.

According to the famous relationship therapist Jaime Bronstein, you don’t need to be in any sort of trouble to start going to couple therapies. You can do it whenever you feel like enhancing your connection with your partner.

Short-Term Effects of Couples Therapy

Short-term effects of couples therapy can include improvements in relationship satisfaction and communication. Research has shown that couples therapy can be highly effective in improving relationship satisfaction in most couples in the short term. Couples therapy aims to equip partners with skills to prevent and manage conflicts that arise in the relationship, leading to an overall improvement in the quality of the relationship.

Long-Term Effects of Couples Therapy

Couples therapy can have long-term effects on relationships. In a study examining the effectiveness of couple counseling and relationship education groups, it was found that couple counseling can have long-term effects on relationship satisfaction. The study indicated that couples who participated in counseling experienced improvements that lasted beyond the duration of the therapy program.

When does couples counseling work? Timing is everything.

Timing is an important factor in the success of couples counseling. Couples counseling tends to be more effective when both partners are willing to actively participate and engage in the therapeutic process. It is important for couples to seek therapy at a time when they are motivated and committed to working on their relationship issues. Couples counseling is most successful when both partners are open to change and willing to invest time and effort into the therapy process.

How long does it take for couples counseling to work?

The duration of couples counseling can vary depending on the specific issues being addressed and the progress made by the couple. There is no set timeframe for couples counseling to work as every relationship is unique. The duration of therapy can range from a few sessions to several months or longer. It is important for couples to have realistic expectations and be patient with the therapy process as it takes time to address and resolve relationship issues.

Can Couples Counseling save my relationship?

This may be hard to hear, but it’s important to get your expectations in check before attending couples counseling sessions: Couples counseling is not about making one outcome happen, it’s about strengthening and healing the relationship and the individuals. Obviously, the goal of couples counseling is to give a relationship the tools it needs to be successful in the long-term. However, it is also about unlearning unhealthy behavior, and sometimes that unlearning can lead couples to decide they are healthiest on their own. If this is the case, the couples counselor will always work with couples through the breakup to find a mutually beneficial ending. 

 

Does Online Couples Counseling Work?

Absolutely, online couples counseling can be incredibly effective in improving relationships. Research has shown that online couples counseling can be just as successful as traditional in-person therapy. Virtual platforms make it convenient for couples to access therapy from the comfort of their own home, allowing for greater flexibility and accessibility. It's important to remember that the effectiveness of online couples counseling depends on the dedication of both partners to actively engage in the process and work towards positive changes in their relationship.

Online couples counseling offers the same evidence-based therapeutic techniques as traditional counseling, such as improving communication, resolving conflicts, and deepening emotional connection. With the guidance of a skilled and compassionate therapist, couples can address their issues, build healthier relationship dynamics, and strengthen their bond.

What to Expect from Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy won’t be the same for every couple. It may differ from one couple to another depending on the type of problems they are going through.

How-Couple-Therapy-Works

Couples counseling begins with the evaluation phase. Your therapist may choose to do it with you both together or separately. Sometimes, individuals want to discuss their concerns privately. This is perfectly understandable and most couples counselors will be sensitive to this. 

After the evaluation phase, couples therapy sessions are usually done together—with both partners and the therapist—and are generally an hour long. Most people visit their therapist once a week or once every other week, but this can vary.

What Do You Learn During Marriage Counseling?

As we have already explored, couples therapy helps partners understand the core issues in their relationship and learn coping skills to address them. 

Apart from this, they learn many new skills to manage the highs and lows in their relationship on their own. We have listed a couple below for your quick reference:

  • Effective communication skills

Marriage counseling helps a couple enhance their ways to communicate with each other. This leads to exchanging of thoughts and emotions in a way one can easily feel.

  • Faithfulness

With the help of marriage counseling, a couple learns ways to stay truthful to each other.

  • Gratitude

Judging and criticizing are the two most common traits among couples that lead to a fire in the love island.

  • Purpose

You lose the purpose of having each other in life with time. Couples therapy helps you discover the purpose back.

The concept of marriage counseling is not restricted to just the four walls of a therapist’s chamber. One or two sessions a week are enough to keep you on track in the relationship. However, it is these six or five days that matter the most in your counseling journey. On these days, you apply all the learning you have received from your therapist.

Therapists often advise couples to perform specific exercises as homework to help them stay connected with the process. A lot of people fail to invest in the process as they feel detached. So to keep them motivated all the time, marriage counselors suggest the following exercises:

  • Therapists often advise their clients to take some time out of their busy schedules and give each other moments of intimacy.
  • Communication is the key to keeping a relationship healthy. So implementing all the best practices related to communication is a great way to go when not seeing a therapist.
  • Not just communication but also active listening is equally important to keep a relationship healthy. So pay attention to the needs of your partner. Listen to their thoughts.

According to Bronstein, putting learning into action is the way a couple can get most of the counseling sessions.

Experts believe that marriage counseling works the most when couples willingly enter into an agreement to rejuvenate their marriage. It should not be a forced step for any of them. Individuals should be keen on learning new things and applying them in their daily lives.

How to Ask Your Partner to Go See a Marriage Counselor?

If you're considering asking your partner to see a couples counselor, it's important to approach the conversation with care and sensitivity. Remember, it takes courage to address relationship issues, and this step can lead to positive changes for both of you. Here are some compassionate and practical tips for broaching this topic with your partner:

  1. Choose the Right Time: Find a time when you both can talk without distractions and have enough time to have a meaningful conversation. It's essential that both of you feel comfortable and open to discussing this important matter.
  2. Express Your Feelings: Share your thoughts and feelings honestly with your partner. Focus on using "I" statements to express how you are feeling and why you believe seeking the support of a couples counselor could be beneficial for your relationship.
  3. Emphasize the Positive: Highlight the potential benefits of couples counseling. Emphasize that you see this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and create a healthier and happier future together.
  4. Be Open and Receptive: Prepare to actively listen to your partner's perspective. Encourage an open dialogue where both of you can express your thoughts without judgment.
  5. Approach with Care: Approach the conversation with empathy, understanding, and patience. Recognize that your partner may have their own feelings and concerns about couples counseling.

Remember, suggesting couples counseling is a positive step toward nurturing and improving your relationship. If your partner hesitates, continue to express your willingness to work together to resolve any issues that may be hindering the relationship.

Seeking guidance from a skilled couples counselor can provide valuable support as you and your partner navigate challenges and work towards a more fulfilling relationship.

Conclusion

So the answer to the “does couples counseling work?” question is that it obviously does. If you put your learning into action, you begin to transform your relationship with your partner quite significantly over a period of time. These sessions heal you from within, provided you, too, are invested in the process and willing to make a difference.

Just like any other milestone in one’s life, relationship strengthening requires much effort and dedication. Always remember that a couples therapists are your resources to help you navigate your life without stress.

Find Your Therapist

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. Couples therapy is effective for sure. The results are quite amazing provided you and your partner are willing to invest in the process. Put all the learning into action, and you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The cost of couples therapy depends on many factors ,including the problems you are facing in a relationship. The experience of your therapist is crucial in deciding the total cost of the therapy. 

Yes. You can but the chances of doing so are not always high. Having a couples therapist to guide you through the tough times is always helpful. You have a professional by your side to help you strengthen your relationship. So don’t take a chance by not opting for couples therapy.

They say that you should never hide anything from your doctor. The same goes for your couples therapist. If you want to get the most out of each session, you should express your thoughts on how you feel about your marriage, relationship, and partner. All these sessions are moderated by a professional therapist. So just don’t worry about the consequences. Your therapist knows how to handle your thoughts and drive them to healing your relationship.

It is not always when you see trouble in paradise that you start looking for a therapist to save your relationship with your significant other.

Couples therapy can also serve as something that can help make your relationship even stronger.

Your therapist may initially start your sessions individually to rule out any possibility of mental issues and affairs outside the relationship once your sessions are mostly done with your partner. Remember, it is couples therapy. So couples got to participate in it.

There are a variety of exercises that you and your partner are required to do out of the counseling sessions to stay invested and motivated. Finding time for intimacy, taking some time out to express each other’s feelings, and active listening are some exercises your therapist might ask you to do every day when you are home.

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