How To Start Couples Therapy And Find A Couples Therapist

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated March 9, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Addressing Issues In A Romantic Relationship Can Be Difficult.

Couples therapy can be a practical method of addressing problems and improving mental health between partners in a romantic relationship. If you need professional help, a search for "marriage counseling near me" will help you locate a skilled therapist in your area. Typically, when people consider going to couples therapy, they are already aware that there are problems between them and their significant other that they don't know how to solve without professional help. In general, couples therapy requires both partners to contribute time and effort to see results. You may find a local therapist to work with, or you may prefer connecting with a couples therapist online.

Does Couples Therapy Work?

Before you can consider couples therapy, it can be important to understand how it could help you. You might begin by asking yourself what you mean when you ask, “Does couples therapy really work?” What criteria would you use to assess whether it works or not? If you mean, “Will couple's therapy improve my relationship?” the answer may vary. Once you get to the root of the problem in your relationship, you may be faced with the decision to recommit or end things.

You might also consider whether couples therapy is right for you and your partner. For this type of therapy to be effective, you generally need to commit to attending regular sessions with your significant other. Sometimes, your therapist might suggest you have a few individual sessions in addition to the joint sessions to improve your own mental health and well-being, or even consider family therapy if you have children.

You may wish to keep in mind that couples therapy usually only works if you are willing to participate fully. After all, couple's therapy generally isn't something that is done for you; usually, both you and your partner must put in the work to improve your relationship and mental health. This is often a process that you can accomplish with the guidance of your therapist.

Types Of Couples Therapy 

The type of couples therapy you choose may depend on the status of your relationship and your religious affiliations. If you are engaged or in the initial stages of planning your life together, you might choose premarital counseling with a licensed clinical social worker, for example. People who are in a romantic relationship but not yet married can use this time to learn more about the way the other person thinks and behaves. They can then learn techniques for building a strong marriage and to create feelings of well-being within their marriage, or they may decide that marriage is not for them.

For people who have children, marriage and family counseling might be more helpful than couples therapy alone. Parents with dissimilar ideas about childrearing often have problems and recurring arguments in their marriage as a result. Some sessions might be for the couple alone, while other sessions might include the children, too, or even the extended family.

If religion is an important part of your life, religious leaders who offer religious couples therapy may be available online or in your local community. 

There may also be some therapy options to consider that you may not have heard of before. For example, some therapists and mental health professionals have master’s degrees and specialized training. These specific training qualifications and advanced degrees often mean you can find a marriage therapist who is also able to prescribe medications (psychiatrists) or provide different treatment approaches (for example, emotionally focused therapy). You can also find marriage therapists and mental health professionals who specialize in helping couples with mental illness and substance use issues, as well as providing effective couples therapy.

Questions To Ask Yourself And Your Spouse Before Heading To Couples Therapy

The following is a brief list of couples therapy questions that may help you and your spouse prepare for your first couples therapy session.

  • What issues cause problems in our marriage?

  • What issues are most important for us to solve?

  • Is either of us considering divorce?

  • Is this a temporary bump in the road, or do we have long-term problems?

  • What bothers us about each other?

  • What are our feelings toward each other?

  • Do we trust each other?

  • Do we have a satisfying intimate relationship?

  • Has either of us been unfaithful or considered seeing someone else?

  • What do we expect will change if we go to therapy?

  • How is our communication?

  • Are we willing to change to save the relationship?

  • Does either of us have any underlying mental health issues that may be affecting the relationship?

Be aware that you and your spouse might have completely different answers to these questions. You don't necessarily have to agree on everything to solve problems, but you may need to have some common ground if you want to improve your relationship and see positive changes. The common ground may even be that you both recognize there are issues that may need to be addressed.

Questions For Premarital Counseling

Are you considering premarital counseling? Once you find a mental health professional, you can prepare for your first session by answering a few questions. Premarital counseling questions are sometime future-oriented, but usually need to cover your past together and how you currently interact as well. Here are a few of the questions you might ask your partner before seeing a mental health professional:

  • What attracted us to each other in the first place?

  • What types of issues have we had in our relationship so far?

  • What kind of marriage do we want?

  • What did we learn about marriage from our parents?

  • What kind of future do we want to build together?

  • Do we want to have children together? If so, how will we raise them?

  • What can premarital counseling do for us?

  • Are we willing to change if necessary to have a healthy relationship?

Finding A Couple’s Therapist

If you decide it's time to move forward with couples therapy, the next step may be answering the question, “Where can I find couples therapy near me?” No matter where you live, the answer to finding a couples therapist may be the same—online! You may find a couples therapist online, regardless of where you live. However, in many areas, you can find a marriage therapist to meet with in your local community as well.

You can get a referral from your primary care doctor to see a mental health professional. If you are already working individually with a therapist, they may help you find an effective mental health professional to meet your needs as a couple.

One potential benefit of attending couples therapy sessions online could be that you may feel more comfortable and at ease sitting on your own couch than in a therapist’s office. You may also find that, if either you or your partner feels hesitant to try therapy, the idea of online therapy can be less intimidating.

As this study explains, online couples therapy can be as effective as in-office couples therapy. Although several of the couples participating in the study initially had doubts about whether online therapy would be helpful for them, they were able to form strong therapeutic alliances with their therapists and found that the overall experience was a positive and beneficial one.

Addressing Issues In A Romantic Relationship Can Be Difficult.

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If you’re experiencing relationship issues that you and your partner can’t seem to resolve on your own, attending couples therapy together may be helpful. However, it can be important to note that in most situations, both partners must be willing to put in the effort, grow, and change for their relationships to improve. When looking for a couples therapist, you may find one locally, or it can be possible to connect with licensed mental health professionals online.

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