Does Couple Counseling Work For Unhappy Couples?

By Marie Miguel

Updated December 06, 2018

Does couple counseling work for unhappy couples or is it just a romantic notion? The idea that the two of you want to work it out…if only a third party could get involved to set down some rules! However, there is a serious flaw in this line of thinking.


The third party is not an authority figure that can "make" one partner understand the problem. Rather, the third party counselor acts as a mediator, one who helps the couple learn better communication. As for whether couple counseling really works, it depends on only one factor:

Just how dedicated both partners are to keeping the marriage alive rather than trying to escape it. The motivation has to be there.

What Statistics on

Statistically speaking, some organizations, not to mention many couples, have found great success. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 97.1% of surveyed clients claimed they received the help they needed and 98.1 percent claimed the services were either good or excellent. Upwards of 80 percent claimed that couples counseling had a positive impact.

On the other hand, some sources such as the New York Times, claim that 25 percent of couples that tried couples therapy state that within two years they were worse off than before, and within four years, 38 percent were divorced.


This illustrates the simple idea that no relationship is going to survive simply because couples therapy is tried as a last resort. In fact, the problem may very well be that couples are asking "Does couple counseling work?" far too late into the relationship, when both partners have lost respect for each other or no longer prioritize the marriage.

Tips That Work

What most therapists agree on is that focusing on these specific points will help the therapy to work.

  1. Couples therapy works better BEFORE your last resort. By the time you desperately seek couples counseling as an escape, it's too late. In fact, studies showing long-term marriage success in couples that received pre-marital counseling have been promising.
  2. Just because a therapist offers help and may be hyper-educated does not necessarily mean he/she is right for you. Some you meet are general therapists and not specialized to work with couples. Others may be super-educated but may not communicate well with you or your partner. If the therapist appears standoffish to one or both partners, or they don't put you at ease, then the therapy is not going to work. There's nothing wrong with having one session, not liking the dynamic, and then looking for someone that "clicks" better.
  3. Focus on creating a respectful and peaceful atmosphere that allows both partners to speak their mind, freely express their feelings, and find ways to compromise.

Don't think of couple counseling as "divorce counseling", as some kind of punishment that your partner has to endure to prove his/her love. This is about more effective communication.

You're not going to learn how to respect your partner. You're going to learn how to better communicate respect. You're not going to learn how to love your partner despite their mistakes. You're going to learn how to better express that love.


That's what therapy is-teaching you how to communicate better, and how to cope with the stress of married life and combining that intimacy with other life factors.

The good news is that because you are wondering "Does couple counseling work?" and actually seeking answers rather than just wanting to end the relationship, you are showing clear signs that you want this relationship to survive. That's a starting point. A couples therapist may be able to help you and now it's easier than ever before to start a dialog, with online marital counseling. Try it once, as a couple or individual, and see if it's right for you.

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