What To Know Before Entering Couples Therapy

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated June 17, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Couples therapy can have a different structure than individual or group therapy. While individual therapy focuses solely on one client's needs, desires, and goals, couples therapy divides the time between partners and aims to provide a fair and balanced opportunity for more than one person to receive care. This form of mental health treatment can help you and your partner learn about yourselves and each other and how you can strengthen your relationship. However, some aspects of couples therapy can be beneficial to understand before you get started.

Are you ready to start couples therapy?

What to know about couples therapy

When going into a new pursuit, like couples counseling, it can be valuable to be as aware as possible about how sessions might go. If you're feeling nervous or uncertain, researching the process beforehand can help you prepare, regardless of which type of therapy you choose. Keep the following advice in mind as you approach the concept of couples therapy. 

Couples therapy may not "save" your relationship 

Couples counselors are not able to "save" or "fix" your relationship on their own. If the individuals seeking support do not give willingness, effort, and intent, the strategies and techniques taught may not be effective. A couples therapist offers advice and teaches couples what might work based on the information they provide. If the information provided is false, undetailed, or confusing, effects may not be noticed. 

If both partners are unwilling to try therapy, there may not be as much of a result. Although you can't change how someone else acts, if you're seeking treatment while your partner is against the idea, the therapist may be unable to change their mind. You might feel more frustrated, where your partner might feel pressured or that the therapist is taking sides, even if they aren't. 

If you are considering ending your relationship, a couples therapist can help you discuss these possibilities as a moderator, providing insight and noting if unhealthy coping mechanisms are used during conversations in session. Often, having an open mind and being willing to complete homework and partake in activities is one of the best ways to find results from couples therapy. 


A significant amount of work is done outside of sessions 

Although sessions with a therapist provide the basis for the skills you can learn in couples therapy, the work you learn in sessions must often be practiced outside of sessions for you to integrate it into your life. Therapy is not forever, and the skills you learn when talking to your therapist are there to help you make changes. If you and your partner ignore the homework, avoid activities, or only try the coping skills once or twice, you might not find them effective. 

It may feel easier to do the work when you and your partner sit in the room with your therapist. Doing the work at home, feeling frustrated with one another, and having a bad day can be more challenging. Therapy is a structured environment, but home life is more realistic, where you can practice skills in real-time. As you and your partner are responsible for fixing and maintaining your relationship, dedicating yourselves to this time, even when it's hard, may help you succeed. 

Willingness is essential 

You or your partner may feel resistant to couple therapy. However, a willingness to try, give couples therapy a chance, and participate in all activities can make the difference between improvements and stagnancy. Deciding you love your partner and want your relationship to change positively can be the first step. 

You might also benefit more from couples therapy if both you and your partner want the relationship to work out at the same level. If one of you is fully committed while the other is only partially committed, you might be doing most of the work, which can cause emotional distress and unfair dynamics. In some cases, you might find it healthiest to end your relationship. In others, your therapist might be able to help you have a heart-to-heart with your partner about the effort you need in your relationship for it to continue. 

You can try couples therapy at any time 

Many couples believe that couples therapy is only a last resort for problems like divorce or infidelity. However, couples counseling can be beneficial at any point. You do not have to have a mental health condition or diagnosis to see a therapist, and you do not have to be on the brink of divorcing to receive guidance. In addition, couples can attend therapy at the beginning of their relationship, in the middle, or years into it. Anyone of any age, sexuality, gender identity, or background can use this service. 

When attending couples therapy without a present conflict or severe challenge, your therapist can help you tackle minor issues or teach you new skills to use in case future conflicts or challenges occur. You might also discuss your individual mental health and any boundaries you haven't previously brought up. Instead of bringing up these topics during arguments, they can be addressed early with a professional's support. 

Couples therapy may not guarantee results 

Note that couples therapy is a therapeutic service but not a cure. Even if you hope to stay with your partner or resolve conflict, there may be cases where the skills you use do not work or you aren't compatible. Although it can be painful to lose a relationship or not make progress, note that this may not say anything about you, your partner, or your therapist. At times, individuals are at different stages of growth and need different elements to thrive. If you feel that your therapist isn't helping, is picking sides, or asking one of you to leave the other, you might benefit from choosing a new provider. 

Are you ready to start couples therapy?

Open communication can make a difference 

When going into couple therapy, try to be willing to openly and honestly communicate with your therapist and partner. Even if you feel embarrassed or shameful about certain subjects, try not to agree with your partner to keep details about your arguments out of the conversation. Although you don't have to share everything with your therapist, being transparent about mistakes, not completing homework, or arguments can help your therapist know how to support you best. 

Counseling options 

Couples therapy is a mental health service that has helped millions of couples improve their relationships, and over 70% of couples see results for up to three years after treatment or longer. Couples therapy can help clients recognize patterns, understand areas for improvement, and learn about what a successful, loving, and healthy partnership can look like. Life can sometimes be challenging, but a therapist can offer empathy and guidance as you navigate your challenges. 

If you're struggling to find a couples therapist that fits you and your partner's schedule, or you're looking for someone with a specialty not offered in your area, you can also try online couples therapy. Through an online platform like Regain, you can get matched with a therapist based on your preferences and meet with them remotely via phone, video, or live chat sessions. If you and your partner have alternate schedules, you can meet your provider from two locations. 

Studies show that couples prefer internet-based methods to in-person ones due to reduced stigma, the connection between them and their therapist, and the ability to use a flexible treatment format. When you sign up for a platform, you can receive care as effective as traditional therapy from an environment that makes you feel comfortable. 


There are many aspects of couples therapy that couples may not understand when first getting started. Preparing yourself for treatment can help you get the most out of your therapist's advice and start focusing on your goals alongside your partner. 

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