Couples Therapy: What To Do When Books Can't Provide The Answers

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

With each new relationship comes a fresh canvas, an opportunity to create something truly one-of-a-kind. The canvas starts off blank, a new chapter waiting to be written. As time passes and experiences accumulate, the canvas fills with moments of laughter, tears, and everything in between. 

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But what happens when the seams start to unravel and the picture starts to become muddled?

Many couples turn to books and online resources for advice. While these resources are certainly valuable, offering a plethora of advice on improving communication, reigniting passion, or managing conflicts, they may not always provide the intricate, personalized guidance that a complex relationship requires.

That's where couples therapy comes in.

Couples therapy is an empirically backed technique tailored to address unique relationship dynamics, providing tools and strategies that are personalized, relevant, and actionable. Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach but an individualized guide to help couples find their way back to connection and understanding.

Couples therapy provides a safe space for both partners to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. With the guidance of their therapist, couples can examine and reframe their difficulties, work towards a mutually beneficial solution, and learn effective communication techniques to get there.

Couples therapy isn't about fixing the other person but is a journey of self-discovery that both partners can take together. Through this process, they may better understand themselves as individuals and as a couple — growing stronger with each step.

Understanding the limitations of self-help books

Self-help books can be useful tools for providing general information and offering tips on how to navigate relationship concerns. However, couples should also recognize the limitations of self-help resources.

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For example, whereas a book may offer universal advice that applies to a broad range of relationships, it may not account for the unique dynamics between two individuals and their relationships. Similarly, self-help books may not provide personalized feedback or account for the dynamics of a couple's unique situation. Furthermore, there is always the risk of misunderstanding or misapplying concepts from a book if one has limited experience in this area — a concern that therapy can help to address.

When a situation becomes too complex for self-help books to provide answers, couples therapy is invaluable for helping partners address their relationship challenges. The importance of professional guidance cannot be overstated, particularly when navigating extreme emotions or difficult conversations.

A therapist can be a neutral mediator, offering unique insights and valuable tools to help couples overcome obstacles. By providing a safe space for open dialogue, therapists will help partners take the steps necessary to understand one another to rebuild trust and connection.

Therapists are equipped with the insights and tools needed to address each couple's unique needs, allowing them to progress constructively. With a wide range of therapeutic techniques and a deep understanding of the relationship dynamics at play, therapists can provide couples with highly specialized guidance and an actionable plan for success.

Evidence-based techniques, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can help couples identify the pain points in their relationship and provide tangible strategies for addressing them. Through this process, couples can build a stronger bond and foster greater connection — restoring the intimacy they once had.

How to navigate the couples therapy process

Couples therapy is a long-term commitment and requires dedication from both partners.

The process typically involves four distinct phases: the initial assessment phase, the goal-setting stage, the therapeutic interventions stage, and the evaluation and follow-up phase.

In the initial assessment phase, couples should expect to spend some time discussing their individual circumstances and relationship history. As an important step in understanding the couple dynamics, this phase is meant to provide a baseline for treatment.

The goal-setting stage follows and requires both partners to collaboratively determine their desired outcomes. As a couple, you will discuss which areas of your relationship you wish to improve and what success looks like for you.

Once the goals have been established, the therapeutic interventions phase begins. The primary goal of this stage is to equip partners with the tools and insights needed to achieve their desired outcomes. Through a combination of practical advice, skill-building exercises, and meaningful conversations, couples will gain greater insight into one another — allowing them to understand each other's emotions and perspectives more deeply.

The final phase is the evaluation and follow-up stage. This step involves both partners reflecting on their progress and making any necessary adjustments to ensure they are still on track to achieve their goals. Recognizing any successes and areas where further work may be needed is important. Follow-ups may also be suggested to stay on top of any changes or developments in the relationship.

Although many helpful resources are available, couples therapy is ultimately a more comprehensive approach that will help partners better navigate their relationship concerns. Through this process, a therapist will provide a supportive, neutral environment to discuss the issues at hand while also introducing evidence-based tools and techniques to help couples resolve their conflicts in healthier ways.

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Recognizing when it's time to seek professional help

Couples therapy can be immensely beneficial for couples facing a range of challenges. If you or your partner are experiencing any of the following, it may be time to consider seeking professional help:

  • Identifying persistent issues that self-help books have not resolved
  • Recognizing patterns of negative communication or escalating conflict
  • Experiencing major life changes or stressors
  • Addressing instances of infidelity or deep-seated resentment

When a couple is distressed, therapy can provide the necessary skills and guidance to help them move forward. However, a couple does not need to experience distress to benefit from couples counseling. Even if the relationship is relatively healthy, therapy can still help partners strengthen their bond and deepen their connection.

Your individual mental health may also affect the well-being of your relationship. Clinical research indicates partners living with mental health conditions may experience a greater risk of relationship dissolution. If you or your partner are living with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use, or any other mental health condition, therapy can help you effectively manage these concerns while addressing the health of your partnership.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Misconceptions about couples therapy often arise from a lack of understanding about the process and how it can be used to enhance relationships. However, your relationship need not be in crisis to benefit from therapy. In fact, individuals and couples often seek counseling to prevent problems before they start — allowing them to address concerns more proactively than reactively. By getting ahead of any potential concerns, you create a foundation for future success.

No matter what stage a couple is in, seeking professional help is often the best way to ensure both parties are heard and respected. With the right support, couples can cultivate a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.

By working together in an online therapy environment, you may be able to reach new heights of connection and intimacy. A therapist can help you develop the skills and techniques necessary to foster a supportive, healthy relationship. For couples who are experiencing difficulty or are hoping to further enrich their relationship, online therapy provides the opportunity to get professional help from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Recent studies indicate that many couples find online therapy beneficial to their relationship. The benefits of online therapy include greater convenience and flexibility, as well as a sense of safety and comfort that can increase the quality of the therapeutic process. 

Regardless of your approach to couples therapy, it is important to remember that the path to healing is often not linear. You and your partner may need some time to identify strengths, build trust, and implement constructive communication patterns. However, with patience, understanding, and a commitment to growth, couples can create an environment of safety and support that will help them thrive.


Relationships are fundamental to many people's lives, bringing joy and companionship to our daily routines. However, sometimes maintaining and cultivating relationships can be a tough task, and couples may find themselves facing a variety of challenges.

Couples therapy is a powerful tool that provides a personalized approach to working through the intricacies of relationships. Unlike self-help books, couples therapy offers the opportunity to communicate openly and constructively with a trained professional who can guide you through difficult situations. By creating a safe space to explore your unique dynamics, you and your partner can work towards building a healthier, happier relationship.

Whether it's unresolved conflict, poor communication, significant life changes, or something else entirely, couples therapy can help you and your partner tackle some of the toughest issues. Online therapy may further increase the comfort and convenience of your counseling experience, giving you space and time to connect and deepen your bond.

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