Techniques And Modalities For Relationship Therapy

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated March 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While marital issues are not mental health conditions themselves, marital conflict and the ensuing stress can lead to health problems such as hypertension, anxiety, and depression. Each of these can lead to other physical or mental health issues. Couples might be more amenable to unhappy marriage therapy if they view it as more of a preventive measure than as a treatment for a problem.

Marriage counseling can offer productive ways for couples to work through the problems that are holding them back. Couples therapy sessions with marriage and family therapists can assist in resolving negative couple interaction patterns and improving relationship satisfaction. By utilizing the best marriage counseling techniques, therapists trained in the Gottman method or Imago relationship therapy can help adult partners to honestly express their feelings, identify childhood experiences that may be impacting their romantic bonding behavior, and create new narrative forms that foster healthy relationships. Seeking family therapy can be particularly helpful for couples struggling to resolve conflict or those who want to address the impact of sexual orientation or medical history on their relationship.

With that said, there are several couple counseling techniques that keep this model in mind. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to individual counseling, there are also multiple approaches to couples therapy sessions.

Are you and your spouse experiencing marital issues?

The Adlerian or individual approach

Alfred Adler was one of the pioneers of individual therapy. He believed that one had to treat the individual as a whole and consider how that person experienced and viewed the world as a unique human being. Adler was quite successful in working with both individuals and couples because of his realization that there were two distinct persons involved in the marriage. The status of a couple implies oneness, but Adler insisted that the individual's needs must come first. 

Often, couples might say, "We want to save our marriage." Adler believed that when two people are so intent on saving the marriage, they may lose themselves, possibly generating a great deal of damage. Mental health professionals specializing in emotionally focused therapy and narrative therapy can assist couples in resolving conflicts while also helping to improve relationship satisfaction. In couples therapy sessions, partners can be encouraged to express their feelings honestly and identify how their romantic bonding behavior is impacted by their personal needs. Focused therapy techniques can also be utilized to help couples prioritize their own needs and identities, which can ultimately help to save their adult relationships.

Group therapy

While it is comforting to realize there are others with the same sorts of problems, taking relationship difficulties into a group setting can have one of several impacts. If one says something the other is not comfortable with others knowing, an issue that may not have existed before has now been created. Add this issue to the stack of problems already present, and group settings have the potential to make the situation even worse.

In some cases, this could cause others to feel attacked, which can prevent a healthy couples counseling environment from forming. With other types of issues, group therapy can work quite well. For marriage therapy, strong consideration may want to be given. Of course, every situation is different, and some couples might find that the group setting is exactly what they need.

Therapeutic model vs. pragmatic

With the therapeutic model of these counseling approaches, couples therapists treat relationship problems much like they would a mental health issue. In some marriages, this may set the stage for blaming and labeling.

Marital conflict can be due to one or both partners having a mental health concern, or substance use/addiction issue; however, these should be treated individually, as separate concerns and separate people.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Individual therapy can be conducted outside the marriage or couples therapy alliance. However, the couple can discuss how these issues have impacted the marriage when in marriage counseling.

With the pragmatic model therapy style, couples are encouraged to deal with immediate concerns that are causing conflict. These often include the “easy” fixes. This could mean that partners spend more quality time together, learn each other’s love language, or just communicate more effectively so that they can make more informed decisions about the relationship. With the pragmatic approach, there is often a great deal of self-examination on the part of each individual to determine their motives and discover their triggers. After these have been identified, the couple can begin working on solutions to resolve conflict.

Imago relationship therapy

One popular form of couples therapy is the imago method. This type of therapy typically helps couples understand the reason behind their behaviors, which researchers believe is related to a person’s childhood. Specifically, a person’s reactions may be related to the relationships they established with parents or caregivers. This type of therapy may help couples understand each other more, which may lead to more intimacy. 

Are you and your spouse experiencing marital issues?

Online marriage and family therapists with BetterHelp

Considering getting individual or couples counseling? Each of these can be a helpful option for moving forward from negative cycles that are leaving you and your partner feeling stuck. It can be difficult to find the time for therapy, particularly if you and your significant other would like to go together. Online therapy can be a viable resource for busy individuals or couples who would like to receive support but don’t have time to commute to a therapist’s office. You can connect with a therapist through BetterHelp, an online counseling platform. You can easily seek couples therapy from the comfort of your own home and all you’ll need to get started in marriage counseling online is a smart device and a reliable internet connection.

Effective marriage therapy with online therapy

Online-based therapy can be beneficial for individuals and couples alike, whether they’re experiencing a mental health disorder or have general concerns about their well-being. One study assessed the efficacy of an online couples therapy intervention delivered through videoconferencing. Participants reported higher relationship satisfaction and researchers concluded that the study “provides evidence for couples therapy via videoconferencing as a viable alternative to face-to-face interventions, especially for those couples who may not have the treatment they require.”


Marriage counseling can take on many different forms. Since each marriage is comprised of two unique individuals, it can be important for marriage counseling to focus on both people separately as well as together. If you’re experiencing challenges in your relationship, online marriage counseling may be a solution that helps you through the problems you’re facing. If you are struggling to understand your partner or to get your partner to change unhelpful or even dysfunctional behavior, couples counseling may provide you with valuable insights and strategies. Whether you seek therapy alone or with your partner, seeking the assistance of a mental health professional can offer unbiased support and help you navigate your relationship challenges. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.
Marriage can come with complex challenges
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