Types Of Couple Counseling Techniques
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? Healing from difficulties with trust? Working through concerns related to family life and stress? In need of premarital support? Something else?
Finding a therapist might seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of scouring the internet and wasting time on information overload, read this quick summary of several couples’ counseling techniques you may want to try.
Couples’ Counseling Techniques
Because there are several kinds of relationship therapists, the techniques listed here focus on the broad categories of relationship counseling options available to you. However, they are not mutually exclusive, and it’s common for professionals to use a blended approach. Although you don’t necessarily need to know what techniques, approaches, or supplemental therapeutic activities you want to try, getting an idea of what couples counseling can look like or entail may put you at ease.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some common techniques and activities.
Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago relationship therapy (IRT) is one of the couples therapy approaches that focus on counseling that helps you and your partner heal and grow together. “Imago” is Latin for image and refers to the unconscious image of relationships. The main goal in this method is to understand each other on a more personal and romantic level.
This approach 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, suppose you grew up in a tumultuous household with abuse and neglect. In that case, you might have carried some of your family’s behaviors over into your relationship, or it could impact how you feel in relationships.
IRT suggests that those feelings and relationships you experienced as a child are how you see your future relationships. If you have had a troubled childhood, you might benefit from counseling to improve your relationship or personal mental health. With this form of therapy, you and your partner can increase empathy and understanding, move away from maladaptive behavior or blame, work together in a more personally informed way, and deepen your bond. For married couples, imago marriage counseling might help your relationship flourish further.
*Please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. You can also visit their website to chat online, find resources, and more.
Focusing On the Positive: A Building Block For One Approach
Suppose you sense that negative interactions are overriding the positive ones in your relationship. In that case, a simple thing you can do that may make a significant difference is focus on the positive instead of the negative. That does not mean ignoring problems that are present or shutting out negative emotions. Any problems can and should be addressed, but by focusing on the positive, you can increase affection and work together with the positives in mind.
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 increasing your relationship strengths. This is recommended by Dr. John Gottman, a leading researcher on relationships, marriage, and divorce.
The Gottman Method
A well-known relationship therapy technique, the Gottman Method, was developed by Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist who has his relationship counseling practice. Through over 40 years of research, Dr. Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman, determined what it takes for a relationship to last and be healthy. 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 understand each other better.
- Building love maps is about learning your partner’s hopes, joys, stresses, worries, and history
- 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
- Make your dreams come true by talking openly and honestly with each other about your wishes, hopes, and aspirations
- 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. 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.
The narrative therapy method is a way to separate you from your problems to rely on your skills to help control and minimize issues. 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 their lives.
- 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 to see them in a different light. By externalizing your problems, you can see them more objectively.
Couple Therapy Worksheets
What is a couple’s therapy worksheet? They are questionnaires that can help 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. This is where couple therapy techniques may benefit you the most.
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 believe they can talk openly with you.
Relationship Growth Worksheet
This questionnaire asks you each question to help you 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 points of view can be an enlightening practice to help you understand how each other sees and thinks about 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 the boy as irresponsible for not having a leash on the dog. At the same time, 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.
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 consider books written by professionals who have worked with couples in a counseling or coaching setting. If you choose an author who does not have counseling certifications, do some research to ensure 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 work together on the content.
Face-To-Face Couples’ Counseling
Traditional counseling in a therapist’s office is one of the most popular options for seeking relationship help. You may get more from face-to-face sessions with a couples’ counselor if you and your partner notice negative patterns before they eat away at the entire relationship. If you’re not ready for therapy or counseling or are on a waiting list, you can dip your toes into the water and start working on your relationship using a worksheet, book, or other methods. While it’s not a replacement for therapy, it’s great to start working on your partnership together in the ways you can right now.
Online Relationship Counseling
A terrific alternative to in-office couples’ counseling is online relationship counseling. This is much the same as traditional counseling, except that you get the added convenience of having a wider range of counselors from whom to choose 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 with some online therapy plans.
Research indicates that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of conditions and concerns, including aiding relationships. A 2022 study on relationship counseling held via video conferencing found that therapeutic alliance (the degree of trust and comfort between client and therapist) did not differ between online and in-person therapy. Additionally, the study “indicated improvements in relationship satisfaction, mental health, and all other outcome scores over time” that were comparable to those of couples who received in-person therapy.
Remember that, although you can learn a lot about various therapy modalities online, you don’t have to know exactly what approach will be most effective for you. If you connect with a therapist and discuss why you’re pursuing counseling, they’ll be able to tell you if they can help. If not, they will generally be able to refer you, or recommend another provider who may be a better fit for your needs and preferences.
If you decide to use an online therapy platform like Regain, you’ll start by completing a quick questionnaire that’ll help you match with a counselor or therapist. If you don’t like the first therapist or counselor you see, you will be able to switch or change providers at any point in time. The platform offers both individual counseling and couples counseling, so whether you’re looking for a provider for yourself or yourself and a partner, you can find it here.
Whether you start the counseling process in person or online, you deserve to have the support of a provider who meets your needs. Take the leap and sign up or start your search when you’re ready.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is There Free Couples’ Counseling?
One way you can get free couples’ therapy is through community centers or universities that offer counseling services. Some established therapy offices have interns, who are relatively new to the field and therefore offer services for free or at low cost. Free or low-cost counseling is available to people who have certain types of insurance or are within a specific income bracket. Some organizations offer vouchers for therapy, including couples and marital therapy. Another route 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 who don't have insurance covering 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. You don't have to commute, making it excellent for people with busy schedules or children or those with mental or physical health issues that make leaving home or driving difficult. Additionally, online therapy doesn't generally have the long waitlists that a traditional in-person therapist sometimes has.
Can Couples Therapy Make Things Worse?
If you see someone who is not adept at working with your concerns, 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 should have extensive training and be fully licensed and experienced. Always check a provider's licensure, and if you ever feel that couples therapy isn't helpful or is making things worse, know that you have every right to switch providers. Sometimes, a therapist won't be a good fit, and that's okay. However, while couples’ therapy can be particularly difficult at first, it should get easier with time.
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 discuss goals you would like to meet in or outside counseling. This is a way to check on your progress and make sure that things are going smoothly. If you and your partner are not committed to open communication and putting in the work, the therapeutic process may not be helpful.
How Much Does Online Marriage Counseling Cost?
Online marriage counseling ranges from roughly $65 a week to $90 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. At ReGain, counseling prices start at $65 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 various issues couples face. Another great thing about online therapy is that it's often easier to switch providers if you dislike the first person 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.
When Should You Consider Couples’ Counseling?
One reason to consider couples counseling is to improve your communication skills. Counseling is an excellent option if you find yourself having a conflict and not knowing how to navigate it. Another reason that people consider couples’ therapy is because they are planning a family together. Additionally, a couple may seek 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 couples counseling in order 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 many different kinds of relationships as there are people, so don't feel like your relationship needs to look any specific way to go to therapy or be accepted in a therapy office.
What Is The Success Rate Of Couples’ Counseling?
Statistics regarding couples’ counseling are promising. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) 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 romantic relationships and understanding you and your partner. Suppose you can't talk about relationship issues with your couples’ therapist. In that case, it's critical to seek counseling services elsewhere from someone whom you and your partner feel good about seeing and who both of you can open up to.
Can A Therapist Tell You To Leave Your Partner?
A couples’ therapist should not tell you to leave your partner. A couples’ therapist serves as an objective neutral party and should objectively help you through any relationship issues. 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 get a divorce, know that therapy is a safe place for you to work through that issue. If you plan to separate from your significant other, you and your partner can go to therapy to help yourself separate peacefully. This can be helpful in any scenario, but couples with children often go this route because of the potential difficulties navigating child custody and other issues.
Do Marriage Counselors Take Sides?
A marriage counselor does not take sides; if they do, this is unprofessional, and it is advised that you seek a new therapist. A couples’ therapist is there to be an objective neutral party. Part of what can be so helpful about marriage therapy is that the therapist often 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 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 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 more affordable than in-person therapy. Online therapy starts at about $65 per session and is billed monthly, 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 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 affordable option for you.
What Are The Three Types Of Counseling?
Contrary to popular belief, there are far more than three types of counseling. However, within couples’ counseling, a few very popular counseling approaches have proven successful for many individuals.
Some of the most common and successful types of therapy for couples and individuals include:
Imago Relationship Therapy. This type of therapy focuses on the relationship image that each partner has. This counseling style hinges on childhood experiences and understanding how prior life experiences affect the current relationship.
The Gottman method. This type of counseling approaches the defensiveness that some couples struggle with when managing conflict. This counseling style relies on creating a "sound relationship house" that breaks down barriers and helps couples live more harmoniously.
Emotionally focused therapy. This popular counseling style has three main goals: 1) reposition your standing throughout an argument to have more productive conversations, 2) increase the strength of the bond between partners, and 3) be aware of you and your partner's emotional states. This type of counseling approaches relationships as a commitment between two people and improves the relationship's emotions.
Narrative therapy. This counseling style employs storytelling to help separate you from your symptoms and concerns. In other words, counselors help you understand that your problems don't define you or your relationships.
None of these types of counseling are mutually exclusive, and many couples benefit from experiencing multiple types of therapy.
What Are The Different Counseling Styles?
There are countless different counseling approaches. The counseling style that works best for you often relates to your concerns and your type of person.
Different counseling styles include narrative therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), imago relationship therapy, exposure therapy, aversion therapy, and many others. Choosing which counseling style is best for you is often a mutual choice between you and you mental health professional based on your needs, preferences, and therapy goals.
If, for example, you and your partner have a very poor image of what your relationship is like together, Imago relationship therapy may be an appropriate counseling style to utilize. On the other hand, if you or your partner tend to have poor self-image due to relationship problems, narrative therapy may be a more appropriate counseling style to try.
What Are The Five Types Of Therapy?
There are five overarching types of therapy. Most other types of therapy fall into one of these categories or may span multiple.
The five types of therapy generally accepted by medical professionals are:
Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies. This type of therapy focuses on related unconscious thoughts and meanings with real actions and negative thoughts.
Behavioral therapy. This type of therapy focuses on how learning can affect normal and abnormal behaviors. A classic example of behavioral therapy is Pavlov's dogs, who salivate at the sound of a bell after being trained to be fed right after ringing a bell.
Cognitive therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is all about thoughts rather than actions. It attempts to change how we think about a problem rather than just the final result.
Humanistic therapy. This type of therapy relies on humanity's capacity to make rational and informed decisions. It is also very focused on empathy and respect for others as the main pillars.
Integrative or holistic therapy. Integrative or holistic therapy blends elements from many previously listed therapy types into one holistic therapeutic experience.
What Are The Five Performance Steps Of Counseling?
How counseling approaches solving problems can be unique and is generally tailored depending on the client. Whether it is online counseling or in-person counseling, the main principles remain the same.
Any type of therapy or counseling is likely to be a multi-step process, and your relationship with your therapist will likely evolve. The basic five-step process of counseling and measuring your progress throughout is as follows:
Relationship building. Choosing a counselor who is right for you is difficult but necessary. You're more likely to have a better relationship and be more open with your counselor if you feel safe and comfortable.
Problems assessment. In this step, you'll likely have the counselor or other mental health professional in question find out what is truly going on in your mind as you experience problems. They may inquire about your symptoms and experiences to fully understand where you're coming from.
Goal setting. Setting goals is a critical element of almost all counseling approaches.
Counseling intervention. This is where the counselor can implement a specific treatment plan. This step often lasts the longest.
Evaluation and, eventually, termination. Ideally, counseling ends, and the patient has the tools to solve problems for themselves in the future.
What Are The Basic Principles Of Counselling?
There are many fundamental principles of counseling seen across all types of counseling, including online counseling, school counseling, and in-person counseling.
First, counseling relies on a patient to be honest and open with their thoughts and feelings.
Additionally, counseling typically requires building a relationship between the patient and counselor. This is why choosing a counselor who makes you feel comfortable and empowered is very important. Counseling also involves setting goals and creating a plan for achieving those goals.
Finally, treatment usually ends with a meta-evaluation and efforts to equip patients with tools to solve their future problems.
Nearly all lines of counseling tend to display these principles. No matter what type of counseling you seek out, these ideas are important to keep in mind.
It's up to you to determine who and what you are most comfortable with when counseling. So long as you keep these principles in the back of your mind, you're likely to set yourself up for success and have a genuinely beneficial, therapeutic experience.
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