Key Takeaways

  • Couples therapy — sometimes called relationship counseling — focuses on the health of a romantic relationship. In this type of therapy, the couple is the client.
  • Partners in all sorts of relationship styles and stages can benefit from therapy. You don’t have to be facing a crisis or possible separation to do couples therapy.
  • Couples enter therapy together for all sorts of reasons. Some common goals for couples therapy include improving communication and problem-solving, deepening or repairing trust, or navigating major transitions. 
Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to go to couples therapy?  Maybe you’re curious about whether or not it’s right for you and your partner(s) or how it differs from other forms of support. With all the different types of therapy to choose from, sometimes it can be difficult to know what form of mental healthcare is the right fit for you and your relationships.  For example, let’s say you’re dealing with an increase in anxiety due to some challenges in your current relationship. You may wonder if this is something to unpack in individual sessions with your therapist, something best brought to couples therapy, or perhaps a bit of both.  Like many things in the realm of mental health and relationships, the answer is “it depends.” Each person and relationship has a unique set of needs both in and outside the therapy session. But by taking some time to explore how couples therapy works and how it differs from types of care, you and your partner(s) can make an informed, empowered decision for your relationship.

What is couples therapy?

When most people hear the term “couples therapy,” they typically picture the traditional model: two members of a romantic couple meeting with a therapist to work on relational issues. While this is certainly a common scenario, couples therapy can support many different relationship models, including:
  • Polyamorous relationships
  • LGBTQ+ relationships
  • Open relationships 
  • New relationships
  • Age-gap relationships
Unlike individual therapy or family therapy, couples therapy is designed to heal and strengthen the bond between people who are romantically linked. This often involves working on things like communication, conflict resolution, and navigating differences in values or goals. Depending on the needs of the individuals, some goals for couples therapy could be to rebuild trust, improve intimacy, or break unhelpful patterns.  Many couples benefit from processing challenging issues with a neutral third party (the therapist) who can teach them new skills, identify problematic cycles, and validate each person’s feelings and experiences. The therapy session provides a safe space for romantic partners to navigate whatever challenges might be straining the relationship.  But unlike what’s often portrayed in movies or TV, couples therapy isn’t just for people in crisis or at the brink of divorce. While it can be helpful in those scenarios, it can also be used as a preventative measure. Many people seek couples therapy to foster interpersonal growth, build upon existing relationship strengths, and address issues before they become more difficult to manage.

How does couples therapy work?

As with other forms of mental healthcare, one of the most important factors in couples therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the clients.  This is also called the therapeutic relationship.  Couples therapists do not “take sides.” Their role is to act as a guide, to facilitate meaningful conversations, and to create a safe space for vulnerability. At times, they may act as a mediator, setting boundaries when tensions flare or as an educator when there’s a need to work on skill building. By modeling consistent care and support, without judgment, a couples therapist helps their clients feel seen, valued, and understood. Couples therapists may draw from a variety of approaches and many use an eclectic mix of interventions and activities in sessions, depending on what the couple needs and prefers. Some of the most common couples therapy approaches include: If you’re new to couples therapy, reading up on some of these more common types can help you identify the style that might be best for you and your partner(s) and help you feel more prepared for your first session. 

Is couples therapy right for me?

It can be challenging to determine what form of therapy is right for you. If you’re considering couples therapy, keep in mind that in this form of therapy, the client is the couple. So during sessions, the focus remains on whatever is impacting the relationship instead of strictly individual concerns.  Factors like a person’s trauma history, attachment style, or mental health condition undoubtedly impact relationship dynamics. But often those concerns are best addressed in individual therapy where treatment focuses on one person’s growth and well-being. Oftentimes, people attend individual and couples therapy concurrently, usually seeing different providers.  Couples therapy can be helpful for people in all different stages of their relationship, not just those at risk of separation or divorce. Because no matter how long you’ve been together or what challenges you’re facing, you can always work toward a healthier relationship. What matters most is that everyone is willing to be fully present and participate, knowing that there will be some ups and downs throughout the experience.  You and your partner(s) don’t have to have a clearly defined vision for success in couples therapy before you start — your therapist can help you identify goals to work towards. You just need to be willing to engage in self-reflection, experiment with new ways of connecting, and want to work towards a stronger relationship, whatever that looks like for you and your partner(s).

What kinds of concerns does couples therapy address?

People seek couples therapy to work on all types of relationship concerns. What you and your partner(s) decide to address in therapy might be completely different from those in another relationship. But some of the most common issues people come to couples therapy for include:
  • Communication issues
  • Infidelity or trust problems
  • Conflicts over finances
  • Parenting disagreements
  • Navigating major life transitions
  • Feeling disconnected or growing apart
  • Sexual or intimacy issues
  • Frequent arguing and trouble reaching a resolution

Finding the right couples therapist with Rula

If you’re considering couples therapy, you’ve already taken an important step toward strengthening your relationship. By setting aside regular time to invest in each other, you and your partner(s) can improve your communication, learn to navigate conflict in healthier ways, and deepen your love and respect for each other.  At Rula, we take the headache and confusion out of finding the right couples therapist so that you devote your time and energy to each other. Our matching tool can quickly match you with a therapist who specializes in working with couples like you and who takes your insurance. 

More From Rula

April 18, 2024
What causes low self-esteem? Six ways to feel better about yourself

If you have low self-esteem, there are things you can do to boost your confidence.

April 17, 2024
Understanding existential anxiety and how to cope

For people with existential anxiety, life’s big questions can cause extreme distress.