Most Popular Counseling Exercises For Couples

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many romantic relationships and romantic partners can experience conflicts, challenges, and impasses. There is no ideal relationship, and disagreements can occur for various reasons, even small things, which may not always signify the need for a change. It can be impossible to avoid conflict. However, couples counseling using Gottman exercises might benefit you if you and your partner are concerned about relationship stress or struggling to resolve conflicts. 

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Top couples therapy activities

While there are several couple counseling techniques and couple counseling exercises mental healthcare professionals may focus on, the most commonly utilized options are listed below.

The Gottman technique

The Gottman technique or Gottman method, founded by spouses Drs. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman, is a type of couples therapy utilized for over 40 years that has helped over 3,000 couples heal their relationships at a profound level. The Gottman method activities and therapy emphasize eight steps to healthy relationships.

Building love maps 

"Love maps" is a term devised by the Gottman Institute to describe the process of getting to know your partner's world and recognizing your partner's inner self and their likes and dislikes. When you decide to spend your life with someone, you may let them into your world, including memories of your past, thoughts on your present, and what you hope for your future. 

Developing friendship skills 

The second step in the Gottman process includes learning friendship skills to combat contempt. It can involve becoming your partner's friend and their lover. You might use specific statements expressing appreciation, noticing positive aspects, and showing care to foster fondness.  

Managing conflict rather than trying to resolve it  

In Dr. Gottman's book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, his research found that 69% of relationship problems may be unsolvable. Instead of having your partner see the situation from your point of view or fix every disagreement, it may be healthier to manage the conflict.  


Techniques used in couples therapy sessions

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)

Since the 1980s, emotionally focused therapy (EFT) has improved people's lives by strengthening their bonds and focusing on emotions. EFT is a couples therapy exercise that may significantly enhance couples' communication, validation, and understanding. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is an approach to therapy that focuses on thinking patterns in individuals or relationships that may not be helpful and becoming aware of these patterns. Through CBT, couples therapists may help couples to learn relationship skills and create a safe space to discuss relationship problems.

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Is your relationship under stress?

Do you want to build a healthy relationship?

Marriage counseling can be highly beneficial. If you're considering the modalities or couples therapy activities above, the following areas may be focused on in and outside of your sessions. 


In therapy, you may work to change your behaviors and thoughts without controlling your partner while they do the same. Understand yourself and recognize your concerns, what you want, and your role in your current relationship to benefit yourself and your relationship. 


Expressing gratitude and making a concerted ongoing effort to be thankful for your partner is one thing you can do to develop a strong bond. Try to find areas of beauty in your life to express gratitude for each day. Practicing gratitude can help you look for the positive in each situation and see your partner in a new light.

Counseling options 

It may not be uncommon for couples to forego the support they seek because they feel embarrassed or ashamed to attend an in-person therapy session. Couples therapy exercises can be conducted in various manners, including online. If you face barriers, shame, or uncertainty regarding in-person relationship coaching, consider online resources like the BetterHelp website for individuals or its sister website, Regain for couples. 

A growing body of research shows that online counseling for couples effectively addresses relationship concerns. In a report published in the European Journal of Counseling Psychology, researchers noted that significant barriers preventing couples from seeking counseling included cost, long commute times, and discretion concerns. These concerns were removed when partaking in internet-based counseling, and other researchers found that this type of counseling was more effective than in-person couples therapy.  


Couples therapy may employ a variety of methods, including the Gottman method, EFT, or narrative therapy ideas. These modalities and the activities that can accompany them may help many couples improve communication, emotional understanding, and commitment. If you're interested in getting started with couples therapy techniques to explore the benefits or learn more about what to expect, consider contacting a couples therapist for further insight and support.

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