What Are The Most Common And Effective Couples Therapy Methods?

By Julia Thomas|Updated September 6, 2022

Couples Therapy Techniques

There are many reasons why people may opt to seek help, and it isn’t always what everyone expects. Many partners attend sessions of couples therapy to gain a deeper understanding of each other, and to strengthen their relationship so that they’re prepared for any potential problems in the future. In other cases, partners might not realize that they have a problem that actually warrants getting help.

Research shows that approximately 70-75% of distressed relationships are able to recover their partnership due to emotionally-focused couples therapy. 

In this article we will discuss some common reasons people in a relationship might seek advice, as well as several methods that are effective for nourishing communication and connection within a partnership.

Why Couples Might Seek Expert Advice

Most people assume that couples therapy can help only couples that are on a brink of splitting up as a last-ditch effort. However, this is not always the case. Some couples therapy sessions are for serious reasons, such as when one or both spouses have had an affair. A therapist can help both individuals in adult relationships to process emotions following a betrayal and move towards rebuilding a relationship, if both people are committed to doing so. That being said, there are other situations that aren’t this serious where therapy can help a couple develop a healthy relationship.

Some examples of such instances include when partners are struggling with any communication skills. Maybe there have been unhealthy patterns of communication during conflict which impedes on relationship satisfaction.

Unhealthy communication can lead to couples having a breakdown in different areas of their relationship as well. It can be difficult for partners to sort through their own situation to determine where a problem is coming from. And, if they talk to people that they know on a personal level, the person may feel inclined to take sides, which is something that a therapist usually won’t do. Working with a licensed therapist in couples counseling can help partners to recognize unproductive patterns of communication and develop skills for navigating conflict in healthier ways. 

Couples therapy can help when one or both people in a relationship are experiencing mental illness, like anxiety or depression, or processing a loss or major life event. Even if actual symptoms and negative behavior patterns are only impacting one person in a relationship, it can still impact a relationship and the other person which can lead to relationship difficulties. A counselor can help to treat the person who is struggling while also helping them identify ways that it’s impacting their significant other. And they can help provide valuable tips on what the other person can do to support their partner through this difficult time which can improve relationship satisfaction.

When Should You Pursue Couples Therapy?

Perhaps you are wondering how to know it could be time to seek out professional support to work on issues like emotional intimacy and relationship issues. According to licensed couples therapist Ian Kerner, the earlier you and your partner seek couples therapy for dysfunctional behavior, the better. If you’re having trouble with financial concerns, your sex life, infidelity, or an additional potentially sensitive subject, it can help to get those relationship issues out in the open and discuss them before they turn into bigger problems.  

Couples therapy can help for providing a safe space for you and your partner to address any of your concerns. Couples therapy can also allow you to take home training materials, techniques, and strategies to continue the work.

Improving Communications: The Couples Therapy Techniques

Couples therapy isn’t always viewed as a primary treatment for individuals with a medical history of experiencing depression, but it can be an excellent concurrent therapy as living with depression can affect all areas of a person’s life and negative behaviors, including in relationships. Individuals with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression tend to have a high divorce rate. All interactions provided in therapy allow each partner to examine their own behaviors and provides immediate feedback on the positive aspects like the success of a new skill. While couples therapy is not focused on treating mental illness, couples therapy can help with the treatment by offering strategies on things like conflict resolution or reflective listening with your partner. By putting effort into areas like reflective listening and the ability to manage conflict, therapy can help the other partner improve as well. When one partner works to improve the relationship, it often motivates the other partner to try harder too.

Poor communication isn’t necessarily a result of a poor choice of words. Couples may be sending out certain wrong signals through body language, avoidance of their emotional state, or burying issues. A couple’s therapist helps each partner draw on their feelings and explore any things that may have gone wrong in a relationship.

An experienced therapist knows what right questions to ask that will inspire those in therapy to have to dig deep and draw out any underlying cause of a problem. They can also provide exercises that each partner can begin to do in order to learn how to improve their communication skills with each other. For example, when one partner questions the actions of the other, the other partners can learn to not take it as a criticism out of self reflection.

Therapy Can Give Both Partners A Comfortable Environment

Happiness isn’t just about what goes on inside your mind, but how well your personal needs are being met. Anxiety and depression can be results of unresolved grief, with symptoms coming to the surface much later in life. It can be a troubling conflict of role disputes or role transitions with the need for problem solving in different forms. An effective couples counselor creates a safe environment for identifying any personal issues and exploring solutions that will meet each person’s needs.

Sometimes it will be necessary for that individual to have one-on-one sessions with a therapist to help them feel more comfortable opening up to get to problem solving. However, it’s eventually a good idea for each partner to attend therapy together to see how new information and changes can be incorporated into the relationship and what any new needs are as a result. The new needs might be as simple as more quality time to increase intimacy and social bonds, or it could be more serious where one partner might feel hurt on a deeper level of underlying issues in their daily lives. Whatever is causing conflict and hurting your well being, quality time with your partner in couples therapy can help to shed light on the conflict and resume the love languages.

Couples Connection: Meditation And Relaxation Therapy

Statistics on how frequently anxiety disorders and depression affect relationships are elusive, but depression will often cause a couple to seek therapy, fearful that it will lead to divorce. Depression doesn’t necessarily lead to divorce according to experts, but it can bring about different issues. Depression can often hurt intimacy, and therapists can help with that.

Meditation and relaxation can play a role in creating an effective treatment for couples. Depression and anxiety affect the mental state of the partner as well as the individual experiencing it according to peer reviewed studies. A person living with an anxiety disorder may transfer stress or may have lost interest in sexual activity and intimacy. A person who isn’t experiencing depression may perceive the symptoms as a problem with the relationship. Therapists can help open communication, bring the couple together into a single story of love languages, and reduce conflict to restore intimacy.

Relaxation techniques are generally easier to maintain when they are shared between a couple. This can be as simple as listening to favorite music together, taking afternoon walks, or breathing exercises designed to relax tension and build harmony. When couples attend therapy sessions together, they will learn what activities they can try together in order to build connection and strengthen their intimacy, communication, and relationship overall.

Additional Forms of Couples Therapy

There are a number of specific forms of couples therapy, but the common knowledge and what you really needed to know is written earlier in this article.

First, there is the Gottman Method from John Gottman as put forth by the Gottman Institute. From their website, the Gottman Method seeks, "to disarm conflicting verbal communication; increase intimacy, respect, and affection; remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy, and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship."

Another form of therapy was developed by known couples counselors Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix who called it Imago Relationship Therapy which can be performed as live workshops or couples therapy. Imago therapy focuses on turning conflict between couples into growth.

Narrative therapy is another form of couples therapy. Narrative therapy focuses on the narrative form of the story that you tell about your life. With the help of narrative therapy, you and your partner can put your story back on the same path.

One last form of therapy to mention is Emotionally Focused Therapy. Emotionally Focused Therapy is a short term therapy that tries to improve attachment and bonding over a short period of time. Emotionally Focused Therapy has three stages: de-escalation, restructuring, and consolidation.

There are many more forms and types of couples therapy to help you and your partner rebuild a strong relationship. This article focused on the general ideas, but there are many different specific strategies that can be better discussed in couples therapy.

Mediation In Couples Therapy

Seeing online therapists as a form of therapy for a couple or an individual, can give valuable insight into a relationship, as well as you and your partner as individuals. A therapist doesn’t cast blame but seeks to mediate between a couple, helping both individuals to understand their role in contributing to the challenges of the relationship. At the same time, a therapist helps to avoid scapegoating. If a person’s mental health is portrayed as the cause of a faltering relationship, this could lead to a worsening of the person’s state.

Couples counseling techniques alone don’t always address all the problems of a depressive disorder, but it does strengthen the ties in a relationship. It helps improve their functions together, giving new dynamics to their relationship and greater confidence in handling any problems with one on one time.

Online therapy sessions can help and be a good fit for couples because it allows them to attend sessions from the comfort of their home. If couples have busy schedules or, perhaps because of their marital issues, have a hard time being in the same room as the other person, online counseling can help them remotely see a counselor to begin the process of working through their situation. It’s also a great fit for couples that have young children that struggle to find a babysitter or miss out on childhood experiences to be able to attend sessions together.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that online therapy can help any couples, regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status. Marriage and family therapists can also help. Marriage and family therapists are able to help any type of relationship from siblings to parents with their kids. Marriage and family therapy is often similar to couples therapy.

Online therapy also allows couples to avoid the stigma that comes with mental health in their search to improve each other’s romantic partners’ bonding behavior. Many licensed therapists encourage couples to start therapy before its too late and the couple has irreconcilable differences in their relationship. If one of the individuals isn’t comfortable with the idea of going to a therapy office, they can still get the help that they need while being in the privacy of their own home to work on relationship satisfactionf. The most important thing is that the couple is able to talk to a therapist and get the help that they need. BetterHelp provides easy access to licensed counselors with expertise in family and relationship dynamics. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp’s mental health professionals from those who have experienced similar issues. 

Exploring BetterHelp Therapist Reviews

“My husband and I were going through a rough patch of life and it was bleeding into the marriage. Don really helped us get back on track to communicating and understanding one another again. He listens and gives real world examples there’s no blame game and there’s always room to be better for ourselves and spouse.”

therapist

“Stephanie is a gem! She's very thoughtful, thorough, honest, insightful but most of all helpful. This is coming from a person that never wanted to do counseling and just "knew" I didn't need it. She's been key in helping my wife and I find our better place. She made us grow as a couple and individually. Thanks Steph!”

Couples Therapy Conclusion

Regardless of what difficulties you may be experiencing in your relationship, consider taking the step of seeking support. Talking with a professional may be what is needed to move towards healthier communication and any intimacy and connection you desire with your partner. 

Commonly Asked Questions About This Topic

What is the most effective form of couples therapy?
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What is the Gottman Method couples therapy?
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What is the success rate of couples therapy?
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