Types Of Couple Counseling Techniques

By: Patricia Oelze

Updated November 18, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

Have you ever felt like your relationship needed a bit of guidance, but you were not exactly sure where to turn for help? What would be the best way to get your partnership back on track? Are you having trouble getting along or cannot seem to communicate effectively with your partner? Instead of scouring the internet and wasting time on information overload, read this quick summary of couple counseling techniques you may want to try.

Couple Counseling Techniques

The techniques listed here focus on the broad categories of relationship counseling options available to you. However, they are not mutually exclusive, so feel free to mix and match whichever types of help work best in your relationship. You may use each of these at different points alone or with your partner, whichever suits you at the time. While some of these techniques are officially noticed professional methods, some of them are new or unofficial types of programs.

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Imago Relationship Therapy

Imago relationship therapy (IRT) is a couple's therapy that focuses on counseling that helps you and your partner heal and grows together. Imago is Latin for image and refers to the unconscious image of relationships. The main goal in this type of method is to understand each other on a more personal as well as a romantic level. IRT encourages partners to open up and share their pasts, including traumatic experiences, childhood problems, past abuse or neglect, and any other childhood issues that are bound to impact your adult relationships.

This type of method suggests that your early relationships shape you and teach you how to manage future relationships. Our early lives reflect how we treat our future partners. For instance, if you were praised and given a lot of love and attention from your parents as a child, you will likely believe that you should be attentive and loving to your partner and anyone else you love. However, if you grew up in a tumultuous household with abuse and neglect, you may treat others badly as you expect others to treat you.

IRT suggests that those feelings and relationships you experienced as a child are how you see your future relationships, so if you have had a troubled childhood, you will need counseling to improve your relationship. And sharing your childhood issues brings you closer as a couple so that you can heal together.

Focusing On the Positive

If you are starting to feel like negative interactions are overriding the positive ones in your relationship, then a simple thing you can do that makes a huge difference is to start focusing on the positive instead of the negative. That does not mean to ignore that problems are present. It means that instead of trying to fix all the things you see as issues; start building on the things you see as positive.

Focusing on the positives is a great practice to include with any of the other techniques listed here. Remember that the only person's behavior you can control is your own. So, take those steps to make your relationship better and allow your partner to reciprocate. Connect with your partner by strengthening your relationship strengths. This is recommended by Dr. John Gottman, a leading researcher on relationships, marriage, and divorce.


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Gottman Method

A well-known relationship therapy technique, the Gottman Method, was developed by Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist who has his own relationship counseling practice. Over 40 years of research, Dr. Gottman and his wife, Julie, were determined to find out what it takes for a relationship to last a long time. They found that there are nine main components to build and retain a healthy and successful relationship.

The Gottman's named it the "Sound Relationship House." It helps individuals learn how to get rid of their defensiveness and work together to better understand each other. The nine components of the Gottman Method include:

  • Building love maps is about learning your partner's hopes, joys, stresses, worries, and history.
  • Sharing fondness and admiration by expressing appreciation and respect.
  • Turning toward instead of turning away by responding to each other.
  • Positivity in problem-solving is essential to repair relationships successfully.
  • Managing conflict is about managing disagreements rather than trying to fix them all because all relationships have conflict.
  • Making your dreams come true by talking openly and honestly with each other about your wishes, hopes, and aspirations.
  • Creating shared meanings, so you are both on the same page, so to speak about visions, communication, and values.
  • Building trust is the only way to have a healthy relationship.
  • Committing yourselves to each other means believing that your relationship is going to last forever.

Emotionally Focused Therapy

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) was developed in the 1980s by a Canadian psychologist named Dr. Susan Johnson. In 1998, she and her partners founded the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, where they use EFT daily. It is now used in training centers, clinics, and private practices all over the world. And it has three main goals. They include:

  • Repositioning your standing during disagreements to improve interactions.
  • Developing a stronger bond between you and your partner.
  • Recognizing and expanding on emotional responses.

There are different steps of EFT, which include:

Step One: De-escalating the Cycle

  • Identifying the main issues of concern
  • Understanding how negativity increases conflict
  • Having the therapist assist in identifying fears and negative emotions.
  • Reframing the key issues and each person's needs.

Step Two: Changing Patterns

  • Voicing each other's needs and emotions.
  • Being coached in how to accept and show compassion for each other's needs and emotions.
  • Learning how to express needs and emotions without conflict.

Step Three: Consolidating and Integrating

  • Being taught how to use new communication skills to talk about old issues and build new solutions.
  • Learning how to use these skills in real life outside of therapy permanently.

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Narrative Therapy

The narrative therapy method is a way to separate you from your problems to rely on your skills to help control and minimize them. Developed by Dr. David Epston and Dr. Michael White, narrative therapy believes that telling your story is a way to change things for the better. Some of the processes include:

  • Teaching individuals how to make room for new stages in your life.
  • Framing your problems in a larger and more sociocultural context.
  • Teaching people how to identify and objectify their problems.

What narrative therapy does not do is try to change the person. Instead, it focuses on changing the effects of the problems. The goal is to make more space between you and your problems so you can see them in a different light. By externalizing your problems, you can see them more objectively.

Couple Therapy Worksheets

What is a couple of therapy worksheet? They are questionnaires that make you and your partner look deep inside yourselves. This helps you understand each other better, which helps you learn to work through your problems more successfully.


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The GIVE worksheet focuses on four relationship-building strengths, which include:

  • Gentle: How can you be gentler and kinder to your partner?
  • Interest: Showing that you are interested in what your partner is saying and what they care about is important to your relationship.
  • Validate: Each partner should feel validated in a relationship, so listening and understanding help build a stronger partnership.
  • Easy: Having an easygoing manner helps your partner see you as approachable so they feel they can talk openly with you.

Relationship Growth Worksheet

This questionnaire asks you each question about others to find out more about each other. For example, some of the questions include what your partner's favorite show was as a child, what your partner's favorite thing about you is, and what your partner's goals for the future include.

Point Of View Worksheet

Learning about each other's point of view is an enlightening practice to help you understand how each other sees things. For example, you may both read the same short story and see them in completely different ways. In a story about a boy and his dog who get separated because the dog runs away, one person may see this as the boy being irresponsible for not having a leash on the dog while the other may consider the dog bad for not listening to the boy. Then others are just sad for the boy while some are sad for the dog. People see things differently, and it is important to know how your partner sees things.

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Relationship Counseling Books

Many books are available to help you with DIY relationship improvement. When you're looking for a book to help you with your relationship, it's a good idea to look at books written by professionals who have worked with couples in a counseling or coaching setting. If you go with an author who does not have counseling certifications, do a little research to make sure they have some kind of credibility in offering relationship advice. Books written by couples who have been together for many years are also a good source of guidance, especially when both partners worked together on the content.

Face-To-Face Couple Counseling

Traditional counseling in a therapist's office is one of the most popular options for seeking relationship help. Unfortunately, it's usually put off until the relationship is in dire circumstances. And that makes it much more difficult for the counseling sessions to get your relationship to a good place before one of you gives up. You will get more from face-to-face sessions with a couple of counselors if you and your partner notice negative patterns before they eat away at the entire relationship. But if you are not ready for that yet, at least try a relationship book or worksheet together.

Online Relationship Counseling

A terrific alternative to in-office couple counseling is online couple counseling. This is pretty much the same as traditional counseling, except that you get the added convenience of having a wider range of counselors to choose from without the deterrent of a long commute to their office. You can engage in counseling sessions with your partner and the counselor from any location that is convenient for you. Also, you will not need to make an appointment, and you can communicate with your counselor anytime you want, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there free couples counseling?

It can be hard to find free couples counseling or couples therapy, but free couples counseling and free couples therapy are technically out there. One of the ways that you can get free couples therapy is through Community centers that offer counseling services. Free or low-cost counseling is available to people who have certain types of insurance or who are within a specific income bracket and are eligible to get certain kinds of insurance. Some organizations offer vouchers for therapy, including couples therapy. Another route to go is to see if you can get therapy through your religious community if you attend a church or another religious institution. Many churches offer counseling services, including free couples counseling or marriage counseling. While it isn't free, online therapy is another affordable option for those who find it hard to pay for traditional in-person counseling or for those who don't have insurance that covers a significant portion of counseling costs.

Is online marriage counseling effective?

Online marriage counseling is effective. Often, if someone chooses online marriage counseling, they prefer it because of its flexible nature. Often, online counseling is more affordable than therapy that takes place in a private practice setting in someone's geographical area. Another benefit of online counseling is that you can access it from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You don't have to commute, making it excellent for people with busy schedules or children. Additionally, online therapy doesn't generally have the long waitlists that a traditional in-person therapist sometimes has.

In online therapy, you can get a variety of counseling services. You can see a couples therapist for couples therapy or couples counseling, or you can see an individual counselor. If you have questions about getting couples counseling online through ReGain, the FAQs on the ReGain website may be able to help you with some of your inquiries. It's normal to have questions about couples counseling in the beginning and about counseling services in general, whether you see a provider in person or online. The counselors at ReGain have addressed many different kinds of relationships or relationship issues in couples therapy and are here to answer any questions about couples therapy you have when you are in a session.

Can couples therapy make things worse?

If you're seeing someone that is not adept at working with the concerns you have, they may do more harm than good. When you seek counseling services, it's important to remember that not all couples therapists are the same. A couples counselor or therapist should have extensive training that has made them ready for couples. They must be licensed and experienced. Always check a provider's licensure, and if you ever feel as though couples therapy isn't helpful or is making things worse, know that you have every right to switch providers. Sometimes, a therapist simply won't be a good fit, and that's okay. If you have a couples therapist that's a good fit, things should improve over time; not get worse.

In marriage counseling couples therapy or any other form of care, you and your therapist should have open communication about the therapeutic process. Often, in couples therapy, you, your partner, and your couples therapist will talk about goals that you would like to meet in or outside of counseling. This is a way to check on your progress and make sure that things are going smoothly.

How much does online marriage counseling cost?

Online marriage counseling ranges from roughly $40 a week to $100 a week. In-person counseling can cost up to around $200 per session, making online therapy a more affordable option for many, depending on what providers are available to them. At ReGain, counseling prices start at $40 a week. Something to note about the therapists at ReGain is that you can be assured that they're all licensed providers who are highly skilled and capable of working with a variety of issues couples face. Another great thing about online therapy is that it's often easier to switch providers if you don't like the first person that you see. It's incredibly important to make sure that any provider you see is licensed, and it's most critical to ensure that you're seeing someone who can truly help you. Something great about online therapy is that it cuts out a lot of the hassle affiliated with trying to find a therapist that you can see quickly, that you and your partner work well with, and that is affordable to you.

When should you consider couples counseling?

There are so many different reasons to go to couples therapy. One reason to consider couples counseling is to improve your communication skills. Counseling is an excellent option if you find yourself having conflict and not knowing how to navigate it. Another reason that people consider couples therapy or couples counseling is because they are planning a family together. Additionally, a couple may seek couples therapy or marriage counseling if they feel as though they are disengaged from their significant other in some way. For example, you and your partner may have stopped being intimate, or you may feel emotionally distant from one another. You can learn how to spice a relationship up in therapy, or you can learn to cultivate a more loving relationship. You can also work on things like trust and ways to display affection. Therapy does not always mean that there is an active issue in your relationship. Many people go to premarital counseling to prepare for married life, and studies show that those who go to pre-marriage counseling are more likely to have a successful marriage.

You don't have to feel ready or be ready for couples counseling to go to couples counseling. Starting couples therapy is a big step, and especially if therapy or counseling is new to a couple therapy can be intimidating at first. Remember, though, that licensed marriage and family counselors have generally worked with a wide variety of couples and families and have helped people navigate all kinds of relationships. There are as many different kinds of relationships as there are people, so don't feel as though your relationship needs to look any specific way to go to therapy or to be accepted in a therapy office. In therapy couples share personal feelings and other things that they might be tempted to hold back on at first, but know that the way counseling services work has something in common with how romantic relationships work in the sense that honesty is an inevitable and vital component. When you work through issues related to relationships in couples therapy, you need to be candid and truthful, so don't hold back who you really are or what you really want out of the experience.

What is the success rate of couples counseling?

Statistics regarding couples counseling and couples therapy are extremely positive. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) in particular is shown to be incredibly successful with 70% to 75% of couples finding success in the method and 90% of couples finding substantial improvement in EFT. One study showed that 98% of people who underwent couples therapy stated that their care was "good" or excellent." Good therapeutic relationships in couples therapy are something that matters. It's essential to have a provider that makes you feel comfortable talking about things related to romantic relationships, and that can understand you and your partner. If you can't talk about relationship issues with your couples therapist, it's critical to seek counseling services elsewhere from someone that you and your partner feel good about seeing and that both of you can open up to.

Can a therapist tell you to leave your partner?

A couples therapist will not tell you to leave your partner. A couples therapist is there to serve as an objective third-party in couples therapy and will help you through any relationship issues you have. Your therapist should never make big decisions for you. Rather, they should support you as you make your own choices. A couples therapist providing counseling services should guide you, listen, and, if applicable, teach you new skills as you work through the choices you have to make as well as any feelings related to the choices you have at hand.

While a therapist won't tell you to leave your partner, if you are actively looking to leave your partner or to get a divorce, know that therapy is a safe place for you to work through that issue as well. If you are planning on separating from your significant other, you and your partner can go to therapy to help yourselves separate peacefully. This can be helpful in any scenario, but couples with children often go this route because of the potential difficulties in navigating child custody and other issues.

Do marriage counselors take sides?

A marriage counselor does not take sides. A couples therapist or marriage counselor is there to be an objective third party. Part of what's so helpful about couples therapy is that a couples therapist offers an outside perspective. Couples therapy should be a place where you both feel safe and heard. You should be able to express yourself, and you should both have the space to do so. A couples therapist should help you mediate conflict in couples therapy and help you avoid issues that may arise in common arguments like talking over one another or feeling as though you are not being listened to. Any kind of relationship counseling, whether it's premarital counseling, divorce counseling, marriage counseling, or general couples therapy, should provide an objective and supportive environment with a goal of communication, understanding, and amicability.

Is online therapy cheaper?

Online therapy is often far more affordable than in-person therapy. Online therapy starts at about $40 per session and is billed monthly, which is far different from in-person therapy, which can cost up to around $800 a month if your insurance company doesn't cover any of it. You don't need to pay a fortune or strain yourself financially to get the help that you need. Call your insurance provider to see what they cover or search the online network of therapists at an online therapy website of your choice to find an option that is affordable for you.


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