Couples Therapy: Does It Really Work?

Updated December 26, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Couples therapy generally pairs partners with a therapist who can help them collaboratively work through concerns and challenges while improving communication. You don’t have to be married to benefit from couples therapy, and going in with the right mindset can be beneficial. Often, results are better when both partners are willing to put in the effort to change and improve. Soul-searching, setting boundaries with friends, finding a therapist you’re both comfortable with, and going to therapy before issues spiral out of control can all help your odds of success as well. Online therapy platforms can be a convenient way of seeking out couples therapy.

What Is Couples Therapy?

Unless you have the proper tools to handle issues like arguing too much, growing apart, or stress from your job impacting your relationship, these issues (among many others) can be overwhelming. Couples therapy generally aims to give you and your partner the tools to successfully communicate with each other and navigate challenges. 

When most people ask whether couples counseling is effective, what they really mean is, will it save their relationship? According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 97.1% of surveyed clients said they received the help they needed from couples therapy. Upwards of 80 percent said that couples therapy had a positive impact. However, it may be important to note that success can be more likely if both partners are willing to put in the effort. 

Considerations For Couples Therapy

Effective couples therapy may help the two of you better understand your relationship and assist you in increasing skills that support healthy relationships. These may include effective communication, conflict resolution, and listening skills, as well as strategies to increase the harmony and positive aspects of your relationship.

Learn Strategies To Strengthen Your Relationship.

Mindset

It may be helpful not to think of couples therapy as "divorce counseling," or as a type of punishment your partner must endure to prove their love for you. You might keep in mind that you only have control over yourself. You may impact others, especially those with whom you are in a close relationship, but you may not be able to choose a path for your partner or dictate their actions. Even in couples therapy, you may achieve the most success by focusing on yourself: your thoughts, attitudes, intentions, and actions. This can be a simple yet powerful strategy to maximize the effectiveness of the therapy process.

As human beings, we tend to be resistant to change. We are usually more comfortable with the situations we’ve come to regard as normal, regardless of how painful or dysfunctional our current reality may be. This is not necessarily because we like pain, but because what is familiar also tends to be most comfortable and requires the least amount of effort. This can be one of the most significant challenges when going through both individual and couples therapy.

As mentioned previously, successful couples therapy typically requires the motivation of both partners. Some partners may not be open to the therapy process, however. It may not be uncommon for a partner to agree to couples therapy merely so they can claim to have tried to save the relationship. While it can be possible for these partners to gain more than they expect, meaningful change may require sincere commitment, intentionality, and effort on the part of both partners.

Marital Status

Dating couples can have challenges just as married couples can. Couples therapy may give you and your partner the tools needed to overcome these challenges and improve the quality of your relationship, whether you've been dating for a few weeks or married for decades. Couples therapy before marriage is often referred to as premarital counseling, and studies have shown that couples that receive premarital counseling can have long-term marital success. This is likely because the counseling can give the couple a healthy foundation for their marriage by discussing topics like children, finances, and responsibilities.

Your Mental Health

Your relationship can have a major impact on your mental health, as well as that of your partner. While a healthy relationship can reduce stress and improve overall health, poor relationships may increase your chances of experiencing depression. Poor relationships can also affect your physical health by weakening your immune system, contributing to high blood pressure, and causing other physical symptoms. If you are having relationship difficulties, and you and your partner are unable to successfully overcome the issues you are facing, going through couples therapy may minimize the negative impacts your relationship could have on your mental and physical health.

Set Yourself Up For Success

If you are looking into couples therapy, here are four things you can do to improve your chances of success.

1. Soul-Searching

Before heading into therapy, you might think about what it is you want to achieve and the direction you’d like your relationship to go. It can be beneficial to be ready to accept your faults and your role in the current state of affairs, and be prepared to do the personal work to make your therapy efforts successful.

2. Set Boundaries With Friends

Having the support of your friends, with boundaries in place, can be helpful in working through the issues brought up by therapy. However, your progress may be hindered if your friends are continually telling you to leave your partner instead of respecting your ability to make your own decision.

3. Find A Therapist You Are Both Comfortable With

Therapy generally requires collaboration between yourself, your partner, and your therapist. It is often helpful to find a therapist you are both comfortable with and be ready to move on to the next one if your current therapist isn't working out.

4. Start Early

Waiting too long to get help can allow issues to fester, potentially contributing to resentment. Getting help as soon as you start to have issues can help the two of you overcome these challenges and strengthen your relationship.

Online Couples Therapy May Be Beneficial For You

Research shows that online therapy can be a powerful tool for couples to improve their relationships. For example, in a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Medicine, researchers assessed the efficacy of online therapy when treating at-risk couples. The study mentions several potential benefits provided by online therapy, including higher relationship satisfaction, increased commitment and readiness for marriage, improved communication and problem solving, and a decrease in aggression. Additionally, individuals can experience a decrease in mental health issues as a result of treatment.

As discussed above, online therapy can be a convenient form of help for you and your partner. With everything done online, appointment times can be flexible, so there’s typically no need to coordinate with your counselor weeks or months ahead of time just to fit in an appointment. Another unique benefit of online couples therapy is that it can be a viable option for long-distance couples.

Learn Strategies To Strengthen Your Relationship.

Conclusion

In couples therapy, partners are usually connected with a therapist who can help them work together to address their issues and challenges. Several things that may improve couples’ odds of success in therapy can include:

  • Both partners having the right mindset

  • Both partners being willing to put in the necessary work

  • Soul-searching before starting therapy

  • Setting boundaries with friends

  • Selecting a therapist both partners are comfortable with

  • Choosing to attend therapy before problems have time to fester

Any couple may attend couples therapy, regardless of whether they are married. If you’re interested in trying couples therapy yourself, an online therapy platform can be an excellent place to get the support and guidance you deserve.

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