6 Common Counseling Approaches In Couples Therapy And How They Can Help Your Relationship

By: Nicole Beasley

Updated March 26, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

Couples therapy is a great way to make sure that your relationship can stand the test of time. Every couple has problems at some point, and sometimes it takes an outside third party to help you through those trying times and come out on the other side with a stronger relationship.

There are many different avenues that a couple's therapy can take depending on your situation. There are four main types of counseling approaches, and each can be applied to couples therapy in different ways. It can help you understand the different counseling approaches that your couple's therapist might take you through to resolve your couple's issues.

What Is Counseling?

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Counseling is different than psychotherapy. Counseling is often called "talk therapy." This is because it generally focuses on talking through problems that have arisen in your life. Counseling can be individual or with couples or families. Sometimes, a counselor or therapist might use a combination of individual and couples sessions.

What Is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is a type of counseling in which couples talk through problems to strengthen their relationship. Most people go to couples therapy because they have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, such as sexuality, infidelity, mistrust, lack of communication, mental illness, substance abuse, or other problems. However, some couples choose to get counseling to strengthen their relationship, such as counseling before marriage.

4 Main Types Of Counseling Approaches

There are four main types of counseling approaches, which are often used in couples counseling. With each type of counseling approach, there are various methods used in individual and couples counseling.


Psychodynamic counseling was first developed from the research and findings of Sigmund Freud, that popular psychiatrist from days gone by. This counseling approach is based on the idea that true knowledge and understanding of people and their problems is possible through understanding three areas of the human mind. These three areas are the conscious, the unconscious, and the subconscious. The idea of this counseling approach is that by bringing the unconscious and subconscious into the conscious so that the three elements of the mind are working in harmony.


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The humanistic counseling approaches are based on a person's individuality. This counseling approach is based on the belief that it is not the life experiences that cause problems but how one experiences these events. How one experiences life then also affects how they think about themselves and others. Therefore, humanistic counseling approaches aim to explore thoughts and feelings to work out solutions to their problems.


This counseling approach is based on the fact that the environment of a person affects their behavior. Counselors who use this approach believe that behavior is learned, and therefore, it can be unlearned. It focuses on individual behavior and helps people to change unwanted behaviors. For couples struggling with behavioral issues from one or both sides of the relationship, this can be a very effective tool in couple's therapy.


An integrative approach to counseling takes some elements from each of the other three types of counseling approaches. The idea behind an integrated approach is that there is some truth to each of the three types of counseling approaches. Only a combination of the three will be effective in treating the whole person or relationship.

Tried And True Counseling Approaches For Couples Therapy

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Many different methods are employed using the four main types of counseling approaches. The following approaches and methods have been based on the four types of counseling approaches discussed above. These approaches and methods have been tested and approved through clinical trials. This is, by far, not an extensive list of the counseling approaches and methods that might be used in couple's therapy. However, this will give you a starting point for understanding how a therapist might initiate and conduct couples counseling.

Cornerstone Approach

The Cornerstone approach developed and researched by counselors with Howard University is an integrative counseling approach to couples counseling. This approach is based on four cornerstones of a good marriage or relationship. These four cornerstones are resiliency, social support, adaptability, and self-fulfillment. These cornerstones are defined, explored, and reinforced to allow couples to reach fulfillment individually and together.

Relationship Enrichment

The Journal of Counseling Psychology published a study by E.L. Worthington et al. in 1997 about a strategic hope-focused relationship enrichment counseling. This is a humanistic approach to couple's therapy. This method is for couples who already have a healthy and stable relationship and want to strengthen and enrich that relationship to new heights. The study showed that it was extremely effective, and overall outcomes for those who did enrichment therapy were better than the control group who did not have the therapy.

Walker's Model

Walker's model used in couples therapy is a behavioral approach to couples counseling designed to be used for couples who face violent behavior from one or both partners. The method includes both individual and couples counseling so that behaviors can be addressed, understood, and changed on both a personal and relationship level.

Postmodern Narrative Therapy

A post-modern approach is a humanistic approach to couples counseling. According to a Counseling Psychology Quarterly study, this type of approach works best for couples from different cultural backgrounds. It may also be helpful in use with couples from different economic backgrounds. While there are three different postmodern counseling approaches, the study included in the study was a narrative therapy approach.

This approach evaluates thoughts and behaviors in the context of their culture or background and the story they have written for themselves. This can help couples go through together because it can bring a new understanding of the relationship. You will also learn more about your partner and how they relate to you and the world around them based on their background.

Christian Approach

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The Christian approach outlined in a study by Everett Worthington in 1990 is a psychodynamic approach with some behavioral elements. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy as well as structural and strategic marriage therapies. This approach was based on Christian beliefs and a sharing of those beliefs between partners and therapist.

Behavioral Couples Therapy

According to the National Institute of Health, behavioral couples therapy is a treatment approach developed specifically for couples where at least one partner has a substance abuse problem. It attempts to reduce substance abuse by restructuring destructive couple interactions that often lead to substance use. This type of couples therapy will be part of the individual's treatment plan with an addiction, a strengthening of the relationship, and an understanding from the other partner about their partner's illness and how it might be managed.

Choosing The Right Counseling Approach For You

Choosing the right counseling approach should largely be left up to the counselor or therapist you and your partner decide to see. After a session where the counselor will get to know you and your partner and an overview of why you seek therapy, the counselor will decide what counseling approach will work best for you and your situation.

If you want to suggest a counseling approach based on this information and your situation, this can be helpful for your therapist. Even if they do not want to take that approach, you are suggesting the approach will give them more insight into what you feel the problems are and how they might be fixed.

As with any therapy or counseling, of course, remember that the same approach doesn't always work for all couples and situations. Sometimes, the beginning approach does not give results, and another approach is tried midway through therapy. This is normal, and you should not become discouraged.

Moving Forward With The Next Step

Now that you know about the different counseling approaches and how your therapist will choose one, it is time to take the next step. Finding a couples counselor or therapist is a fairly easy thing to do with today's internet searches. However, it may be difficult to find a couple's therapist that does not have any previous associations with either partner and is close enough to be convenient in some areas.

When that happens, you and your partner can still get the help you need. Couples therapy is available online through ReGain. When you get therapy through ReGain, you can have a group chat with your partner and your therapist through text, voice, or video. All you need to participate in is a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. You can access it from anywhere with a data or internet connection, and your ReGain available 24/7/365. Contact them today to get started.

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