The 5 Things You Learn In Relationship Counselling

By Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated March 11, 2020

Reviewer Laura Angers

If you are experiencing relationship problems, it might feel like there is nowhere to turn. Perhaps you normally to go your partner with problems, or you don't trust many people with your personal information. No matter the reason, don't be afraid to ask for help. We all need human touch, love, and affection to thrive. You deserve to be in a relationship where you can feel carefree and happy.

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What You Learn in Relationship Counseling

Many couples are hesitant to begin relationship counseling because they're not sure how it can help them. You may feel as if traditional methods of therapy won't work for you, or maybe you don't understand the options. On the other hand, you might be sure that you want help, but you don't know what to expect.

In counseling you'll learn about skills like communication and problem-solving; then your therapist will help you apply them to your relationship. Before long, you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor in a happy, stable relationship. We'll discuss these skills in more depth later in this article.

Relationship Counseling Statistics

Does relationship counseling work? Can therapy sessions save a marriage characterized by arguing and constant negativity? Statistics show that counseling for couples is likely to help communication and other important aspects of a relationship.

It can be difficult to cope if you feel like everyone around you is in a healthy, happy relationship. But when it comes to relationship issues, you're not alone. Fortunately, relationship counseling can help heal your partnership, leaving your relationship on much better terms. While some statistics report a 38 percent failure rate for couples who attend family therapy, other sources like the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists report a 98 percent of couples consider counseling a success. Ultimately, the success of couples counseling will depend on your willingness to engage with the treatment.

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How You Can Make it Work

When you begin relationship counseling, the attitude of both partners can determine their success. While it may seem self-evident that those seeking professional counseling want help to change, this is not always the case. With couples, there may be other factors that prompt them to consider counseling, and these dynamics are not always optimal for success. For instance, some people only want to show that they've given serious effort to save their relationship. Others may genuinely care about their partner, but they've already decided to leave the relationship, so they choose to attend counseling to ensure their partner connects to a supportive therapist before their imminent departure.

That said, in many couples, both parties are sincerely open to improving their relationship by receiving support, assistance, education, and counseling. In this case, these couples will reap the benefits of open-mindedness as well as a willingness to listen to the other partner. In surveying couples attending therapy for the first time, five more surprising lessons stood out. We'll discuss these below.

1. Relationship Counseling is not about "he said, she said."

Most qualified experts in relationship counseling know there's no winner in a game of "he said, she said." So, blaming, victimization, and woe-is-me stories are not encouraged. Counseling isn't about who was right or wrong; it's about repairing trust and re-establishing boundaries. While a single person can choose to end any relationship, healthy relationships require the participation of both parties.

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And we can learn a lot from our partners. For instance, sometimes the very qualities in our partner that drive us crazy are the qualities that we possess! Instead of complaining, we'll benefit if we look at our own behavior first. If I tend to complain that my partner never listens to me, I may want to consider how well I listen to him. If I find myself feeling hurt because he is not paying attention to me, I can evaluate how intentionally I attend to him.

One of the greatest sources of conflict in relationships is a misunderstanding, much of which originates from miscommunication. Therefore, a common part of relationship counseling is about communicating effectively and developing conflict resolution skills. We may be truly astounded by how much conflict is the result of a simple misunderstanding. In counseling, you'll learn productive tools for managing conflict like healthy listening skills; speaking for oneself rather than for the other person; listening more than speaking; asking open-ended questions to gather more complete and accurate information from the other person before responding; using mutually respectful time outs; and learning the differences between passive-aggressive and assertive communication.

It is helpful to recognize that change and blame are mutually exclusive. We have no control over anyone other than ourselves. Of course, we influence others, but we do not have the power to force another person to change. The more we focus our attention on our partner, the less it may even occur to us to look at our own behavior. And because we can't compel our partners to change, such attempts only lead to feeling more out of control. It is much more productive for each partner to focus on themselves. Relationships are systems where change in any one part automatically creates change throughout the system. There is greater hope and likelihood for change when we commit to changing ourselves.

2. The first few visits are informational: don't expect major conflict.

Most counselors start with a simple question and answer session, asking both partners to explain their history as well as the problem. You'll get a chance to talk and tell your side of things. These first few sessions establish the tone of counseling and the goals you have as a couple seeking to improve your relationship. Many relationship counselors prefer that the initial session include both partners. This helps to ensure the foundational dynamic of the therapeutic relationship with the couple as a client, rather than only one of the partners as the primary client.

However, it is also quite common for the clinician to strongly recommend, if not require, at least one individual session for each partner immediately following that first joint session. This allows each partner to share whatever they need to express without concern for how their partner may interpret their comments. It also allows the clinician to observe how the partners interact both together and separately.
It is wise to note that, often, things seem to escalate before improving in counseling. This is because we often wait to seek counseling, and in the interim we create coping mechanisms to help us live with the difficulties of our relationships.

Most coping mechanisms serve, in some way, to minimize our awareness of those issues. However, counseling generally requires that we bring everything out into the light. This can cause an increase in both awareness and intensity while working effectively through the counseling process. Please do not be alarmed if you experience this to some extent. It is very normal and to be expected, so, you can view it as evidence of progress, even if it doesn't feel that way!

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3. It's not all about "Uh-huh" and "Tell me why you feel that way."

The first few sessions might be calm, but as the counseling progresses, the therapist becomes a mediating force--someone who highlights the real problems that exist in a couple's communication or personal habits. According to one marriage counselor, "the traditional passive, 'uh huh uh huh' approach is useless." Many individual counselors are also much more interactive than the stereotype of a counselor. These stereotypical counselors may display primarily unconditional positive regard. They trust that each partner has all of the answers inside them, so they only need warmth, support, and encouragement to access their inner wisdom. However, relationship counselors almost always need to be more instructive, directive, and interactive to serve the best needs of their clients.

4. Relationship counseling is about starting a new relationship with each other--not continuing with business as usual.

According to Psychology Today, the real goal of couples' counseling is to change the way both partners view the relationship. It's about respectfully confronting each other, listening to each other, and then learning to see the relationship in a more "objective manner." In doing so, couples learn to stop blaming each other and instead look at the marriage or relationship as a team project. The longer you have been in your relationship, the easier it is to get stuck in the way you view your partner. This can interfere with your partner's ability to make the changes you may have been requesting for years or decades! We all tend to resist change -- even when it is completely personal, involving no one outside ourselves.

Therefore, it is prudent to be aware of the ways you might try to derail or obstruct your progress. When you're in relationship counseling, you'll also want to be cognizant of the extent to which you may resist your partner's attempts to grow. If you want change to occur, you must be intentional about allowing for change.

How BetterHelp Can Help

Many couples are now trying the online option because traveling to and from a clinic is difficult, especially if both partners work or have other family responsibilities. While face-to-face sessions allow for greater exchange of helpful details like body language, facial expressions, or other non-verbal reactions, virtual counseling serves a very important role in making professional, high-quality, counseling available to everyone. BetterHelp offers features like like conferencing and phone chat, making it easier than ever to find a time and date that works for everyone. If you and your partner would like to try a new approach, sign up and see how easy it is to get started. See below for BetterHelp counselor reviews.

Counselor Reviews

"I would refer Helen to anyone that would need to speak to a counselor. She listens and gives excellent advice. My husband and I are the closest we've ever been."

"Dr. Harrell was there for me and helped me get to the issues of my problems and triggers. I am a much better person and feel like a new person. I am pursuing a dream that I never thought would be possible to achieve. Me and my wife are again on speaking terms with a small glimmer of hope. I honestly wouldn't be where I am now without her support."

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the success rate of couples counseling?

According to Psychology Today, couples counseling (using Emotionally Focused Therapy) has a 75 percent chance of success. It depends on both partners committed to the process, but if each person is invested in changing the relationship for the better, there's a good chance that couples counseling can work. There are many different types of issues that you can discuss in couples counseling. Sex, relationships, intimacy, or infidelity are among the topics that you and your partner may talk about with a therapist. You may not know what the issues are until you start to speak with a couple's counselor. You might have some things that are bothering you, but maybe you're not aware of what's troubling your partner. There are many different kinds of relationships and no two partnerships are the same. That's why couples counseling can help so many different partnerships.

What does a relationship counselor do?

A relationship counselor works on the connection between partners in couples with a therapeutic setting. They see many different types of relationships in couples therapy. Some partners are on the verge of breaking up while others have some kinks to work out, but they are ready to smooth these differences out. Some relationships work out even after the couples think they are going to end. Couples counseling can help salvage a connection between partners who believe it's over. If you are struggling with intimacy issues, you're not alone. Some sex relationships between partners can be challenging if there is infidelity involved. But a skilled couples counselor can help you work these concerns out and move past them. Your current relationship may be struggling, but working with a therapist who gets these issues will help you and your partner work together and heal.

Can counseling help a relationship?

Counseling can not only help a relationship, but it can save it if both partners are dedicated to change. An excellent couples counselor can see both sides and help partners communicate. People's relationships go through all sorts of challenges. You may find that you and your partner are growing apart. However, relationships in couples therapy have the opportunity to grow and change positively.

When should you see a relationship counselor?

There are many times that a relationship counselor can help. Maybe you are struggling with communication. Perhaps one partner has a mental health issue, and the other partner doesn't know how to support them. You could see a relationship counselor if you are trying to separate peacefully. You might want to work through issues surrounding infidelity, trust, sex relationship issues. There are many concerns that you can address in couple's therapy. You and your partner can decide what the priorities are and go from there.

Will marriage counselors ever suggest divorce?

A skilled marriage counselor won't tell a couple to separate. Only the two people in the relationship have the right to make that final decision. However, the counselor can guide the couple through a peaceful separation or divorce.

How many marriages survive after counseling?

It's hard to say how many marriages make it after seeing a counselor. However, according to recent statistics, over 75 percent of these relationships improve as a result of the couple's counseling.

How can I save my relationship?

You and your partner need to be dedicated to working through the problems in your relationship. If you are both willing to compromise and talk out some serious issues, the relationship stands a chance to survive.

How much does a relationship counselor cost?

Depending on your health insurance coverage, you can find relationship counseling for as low as $40 a session online. You can look for a counselor in your local area and see what your insurance covers. You may find that there are low-cost mental health clinics that provide counseling for couples in your area.

How often do couples argue?

The answer varies depending on the relationship. However, what the most important thing is how they disagree. If you and your partner can communicate with one another in an honest, non-judgmental way, that is the sign of a stable relationship. You don't have to raise your voice to argue. You can diplomatically communicate your needs.

How do you rebuild trust?

To rebuild trust in a relationship, you have to choose to forgive. There's that old saying, "forgive and forget." You can't forget what happened that made you hurt or angry, but you can learn to forgive someone you love for how they hurt you.

Why do couples seek counseling?

Couples seek counseling for many reasons, including improving their sex life, working through trust issues, talking about infidelity, peacefully separating, learning to communicate better, and working on shared relationship goals.

Do marriage counselors take sides?

A good marriage counselor remains impartial and sees both points of view. You are there to see that person as a team. You don't want your therapist to take your side or your partner's. They must remain neutral so they can effectively help you.

How do you fix a sexless relationship?

If a sex relationship is lacking, it's something you can discuss with a couple's therapist. Ultimately, emotional issues are causing sexual ones. A couples counselor can help you figure out what those are and support the couple in working through them together.

How do you know if your relationship is worth saving?

You only know if you try. Couples therapy is an excellent place to figure out if the problems in your relationship are ones that you two can work through together. If you're at the point where you are worried about breaking up, consider trying couples counseling first. Then you can make a definitive decision.

If you are considering relationship therapy, it is important to prepare for what's to come. With the right attitude and effort, you can solve all of your relationship problems. It may take some work, and at times it will be uncomfortable, but it will always be worth it. The support and help you need is just a click away with BetterHelp - take the first step here.


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