Does Couple Counseling Work For Unhappy Couples?
By: Jessica Saxena
Updated June 18, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Does couple counseling really work for unhappy couples, or is it just a romantic notion? The idea is that the two of you want to work it out… if only a wise, professional, third party could set down some rules and provide great guidance! While couple counseling is not a magic fix, those couples that go through the process of counseling are often successful at rekindling that fire.
What Is Couple Counseling?
Unless you have the tools to properly deal with issues like arguing too much, growing apart, or stress from work, these issues (among many others) can be overwhelming. Couple counseling aims to help give both you and your partner the tools to successfully communicate with each other and work through these challenges.
When most people ask whether couple counseling works, what they really mean is, will it save our relationship? The statistics speak for themselves. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 97.1% of surveyed clients said they received the help they needed. Upwards of 80 percent said that couple counseling had a positive impact.
However, success is only possible if both partners are willing to put in the work. By working through the issues together, with the guidance of a counselor, your relationship can get a much stronger foundation on which to grow.
Things To Think About When Considering Couples Counseling
Effective couple counseling should help the two of you better understand your relationship, and assist you in increasing skills which support healthy relationships. This may include effective communication, conflict resolution skills with a strong emphasis on listening, and increasing the harmony and positive aspects of your relationship.
Don't think of couple counseling as "divorce counseling," or as some kind of punishment your partner must endure, proving their love for you. Remember, you only have control over yourself. You can impact others, especially those with whom you are in a close relationship; but you cannot choose a path for your partner, nor dictate their actions.
So, even in couple counseling, you will achieve the most success by focusing on yourself—your thoughts, attitudes, intentions, and actions. This is a simple, yet powerful strategy, to maximize the effectiveness of the counseling process.
As human beings, we tend to be resistant to change. We are more comfortable with the status quo, regardless of how painful or dysfunctional current reality happens to be. This is not because we like pain, but because what is familiar also tends to be most comfortable, and requires the least amount of effort. This is one of the biggest challenges when going through counseling, whether you are getting counseling as a couple or as an individual.
As mentioned before, successful couple counseling requires the motivation of both partners. Some partners know they are already so far gone that they are not open to the counseling process. It is not uncommon for a partner to agree to couple counseling merely so they can claim to have tried to save the relationship. While it is possible for these partners to gain more than they expect, meaningful change requires sincere commitment, intentionality, and effort on the part of both partners.
You Don't Have To Be Married
Dating couples have challenges just as married couples do. Couple counseling can help 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.
Couple counseling before marriage is often referred to as premarital counseling. Studies have shown that couples that receive premarital counseling have long-term marriage success. This is because the counseling gives the couple a healthy foundation for their marriage by discussing issues related to children, finances, and shared responsibilities.
Protect Your Mental Health
Your relationship can have a major impact on your mental health,as well asthatof your partner's. While a healthy relationship can reduce stress and improve overall health, poor relationships can increase your chances of experiencing depression. Poor relationships can also affect your physical health—weakening your immune system, causing high blood pressure, etc. If you are struggling in your relationship, and you and your partner are unable to successfully overcome the issues you are facing, going through couple counseling can help minimize the impact a poor relationship has on both your mental and physical health.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you are looking into couple counseling, here are four things you can do to help improve your chances of success.
- Soul Searching
Before heading into counseling, think about what it is you want to achieve and the direction you want for your relationship. Be ready to accept your faults and your role in the current state of affairs, and be ready to do the personal work to make your counseling efforts successful.
- 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 counseling. However, your progress will be hindered if your friends are simply telling you to leave your partner rather than respecting your ability to make your own decision.
- Find a Counselor You Both are Comfortable With
Counseling requires the collaboration between the personality and beliefs of you, your partner, and your counselor. You must find a counselor you are both comfortable with, and be ready to move on to the next one if your current counselor isn't working out.
- Start Early
Waiting too long to get help can cause issues to fester, making you grow to resent each other and the relationship irreparably. Getting help as soon as you start to have issues can help the two of you overcome these challenges and strengthen your relationship.
BetterHelp Is Here to Help
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. They begin by noting that relationship distress can contribute to poor physical health, in addition to impaired mental health for those in the relationship. The study mentions a number of potential benefits provided by online therapy, including higher relationship satisfaction, increased commitment and readiness for marriage, improvedcommunication 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 counseling can be an accessible and convenient form of help for you and your partner. With everything done online, appointment times are flexible—no more coordinating with your counselor weeks or months ahead of times just to fit in an appointment. You can easily make or modify appointments through the BetterHelp app, so that you’re creating a schedule that works for you. Another unique benefit of couple counseling online is that it is a viable option for couples that are long distance, allowing both of you to communicate the issues despite the physical distance. A licensed counselor can help you and your partner work through your issues so that you’re creating a stronger, more communicative relationship. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from those who have sought help for similar issues.
“I absolutely speaking with Tonya! It feels like second nature. Tonya has help me to grow personally and within my marriage. She has given me ways to view my situation differently and has provided several ways for me to communicate better with my husband and to put my needs first so that I am the best person, wife and mother that I can be!”
“He helps me understand my responsibility in my marriage and has helped me set boundaries while learning to communicate more effectively. He helps with my parenting issues. One of the biggest areas of relief is with my anxiety. I would have panic attacks regularly that I honestly thought were asthma attacks or heart attacks. I have learned to ground myself and take care of me even when I experience a panic attack. My life still has stress and high and low points but I would be completely miserable had I continued to try and go it alone. I’m so grateful for Brandon’s expertise, help and guidance and for the BH platform.”
Working Toward A Better Relationship Can Start Today
Couple counseling is an excellent resource for effective support, encouragement, understanding, and training in methods you can begin to implement right away.
Because you are wondering if couple counseling works, you are showing clear signs that you are open to strengthening your relationship. Even for unhappy couples, a lasting and fulfilling relationship is possible—all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.
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