A Quick Guide To Couples Counseling Techniques

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 2, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Looking to strengthen your relationship?

This article will go over couples’ therapy techniques and how they aim to help couples improve things like relationship satisfaction and communication. 


Communication is one of the foundational aspects of a marriage or intimate relationship; it's also where most relationship problems stem from. If communication is not healthy - for example, partners aren't listening to each other - relationship problems can arise.

Misunderstandings can be a problem in relationships, particularly if one partner isn't bothering to meet the other halfway. Through the process of learning to communicate with your partner, communication can be improved in relationships. One of the best ways to achieve this is to attend couples therapy with a couple's counselor who can give you advice and techniques to help you communicate better, minimize misunderstandings, and help you manage and work through misunderstandings more effectively should they arise in the future.

In every relationship, we want to have our emotional needs met. In the early 20th century, doctors treating children with infectious diseases made a huge discovery. They noticed that the youth who weren't around other human beings died more often. Isolation impacted these children and their health. We have found much the same from modern-day, medically-reviewed studies that explore the effects of isolation on physical and mental health. These early 1900s observations helped to further developments about attachment, which was just beginning to be explored at the time. The psychological studies about attachment are what we rely on for many things today, including how couples relate to each other.

Babies are born dependent on their caregiver(s). That's when attachment and bonds start developing. There are situations in which children don't feel loved by their parents, are neglected, or abused and that can cause emotional damage and impact attachment. These impacts can last into adulthood and affect relationships, but it’s possible to work through them and shift your attachment style. Couples counseling is one way to begin working through these things.

Many adults struggle with attachment issues, including fear of abandonment. These are some of the problems that come up in couples’ therapy. But one of the problems that can arise in romantic relationships is when one or both partners feel that their needs aren't being met. 

When couples fight, and there's a communication breakdown, there are usually underlying issues that may be rooted in troubles with intimacy or attachment. Thankfully, couples’ therapy techniques can help you and your partner deal with communication issues and address how to listen to your partner, value their needs, and meet them. There's a balance between meeting your partner's needs and having your needs met, and it all starts with communicating your emotional needs, which can be facilitated through couples’ therapy.


Couples counseling techniques that help with communication

Imago relationship therapy is a kind of couples or marriage counseling that combines Western psychology with a spiritual practice. Using this couples’ therapy technique, your therapist will look at the entire situation from a bird's eye view rather than each problem itself. When people are experiencing emotional unrest in a relationship, they may feel angry at one another. It's essential to figure out where these feelings come from so that you can work through the issue together and your communication can improve. Using the Imago technique, your counselor helps you understand that each person in the relationship will communicate differently. It's essential to accept that your partner expresses themself in their own way, just as you express yourself in yours.

Imago therapy is highly structured. When the partners are communicating about difficult issues, over time with Imago therapy, they may feel more confident in stating their needs. One fundamental idea in Imago therapy is that what an individual says is their truth; you cannot tell them that they're wrong because it's their reality. They deserve to have their viewpoint heard and respected. Both perspectives are real and valid. You might not agree with what your partner says, but that doesn't make it "wrong." It's how they perceive the situation, and it is real to them, just as your perception is real to you.

Another concept within Imago therapy is communicating with respect for the other person. You want to avoid three things: shame, blame, and criticism. Your job in the therapy sessions is to communicate what is real and authentic for you, but you don't have to blame your partner. You do not have to make them feel shameful about what they did, and it's not productive to criticize them. Think about how you want to be treated and treat your partner with the same level of respect.

Unconscious problems: Finding the cause

Couples therapy techniques sometimes need a bit of background on the unconscious cause of the problem, so it's essential to bring to the surface what's bothering the two people whether they realize it or not. There can be problems in a relationship that the couple is unaware of, making it difficult to combat the issues. Maybe, one person was abused during their childhood, and that abuse impacts the way they relate in intimate relationships. It could be that one person struggles with anger and they're not sure where it's coming from or why they're taking it out on the other, or it could be that one of the individuals in a relationship was unfaithful. It's vital to get to the root of where your problems come from, and that's where couples’ therapy can help.

Emotionally focused couples’ therapy

Dr. Susan Johnson developed emotionally focused couples' therapy (EFT) in the 1980s, and it's also helpful for family counseling. Emotionally focused therapy is practiced worldwide. It's a short-term type of treatment, and it's focused on getting to the root emotion that's bothering the people in the relationship. When people get heated, they can have an emotional response toward their partner. Emotionally focused therapy for couples has a 70-75% success rate for relationship recovery between partners. 

In emotionally focused therapy, your therapist helps you get to the root of your problems. You might not know the source of your feelings, and that's the point of this form of couple therapy: to uncover the issue underneath. Sometimes it's challenging to figure out the core issues because they're not visible, but working in emotionally focused therapy (EFT) can help you and your partner gain insight into what's causing distress in your relationship. The goal of EFT is to confront these deep-seated issues and face and work through some tough emotions. 

During the past 15 years, Dr. Johnson has worked on the model of EFT and fine-tuned it by conducting various studies. Not only is EFT used with couples, but it's also highly useful with families and family therapy as well. The studies indicate that 90% of patients who have engaged in EFT demonstrate significant growth, and their symptoms improve.

Promoting intimacy

Looking to strengthen your relationship?

A popular goal in couples’ therapy approaches is to get closer to your partner. One of the most important ways to feel connected to your partner is through emotional intimacy, but it can be scary to open up to someone and be vulnerable. That's why working on these issues using couples therapy techniques can be helpful. There are intimacy exercises for couples you can do to get closer to your partner, and one of the forms of therapy that can help you do that is known as the Gottman method. 

The Gottman method has been around for three decades, and it's still going strong. It focuses primarily on emotional intimacy and allows couples to match their partner's joy, worries, and hopes for the future. With this method of therapy, both partners build what are called Love Maps. This helps you and your partner get closer together by developing mutual respect and understanding of what's important to your significant other. 

In the United States, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The Gottman method exists to support both couples and families whether they are considering divorce, not considering divorce, or are divorced. One of the goals of the Gottman method is to assist couples in learning to be vulnerable and love each other. Part of emotional intimacy is the concept of vulnerability. 


Most couples will experience conflict in their relationship. It's a normal part of being in a committed relationship. Exercises that center around improving communication and various forms of intimacy can be helpful whether your relationship is struggling or is in a good place.  With couples’ counseling, an experienced and licensed therapist can find the best couples therapy exercises for your goals and help you work through issues that you and your partner may have.

You can see a couple's counselor in your local area or find one online. Online therapy has the added benefit of being available anywhere you have an internet connection. Additionally, you can switch therapists at any time. The counselors at Regain can help you and your partner communicate, become more intimate, and develop skills and techniques for improved communication, understanding, and closeness. You may also begin to understand what the root causes of your relationship problems are. If you want to help your relationship, consider trying online counseling and learning more about how the types of couple counseling work.

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