What is Couples Counselling and How Does it Work?

Sometimes called couples counselling or marriage therapy, couples therapy is a specific type of therapy where couples can get help with difficulties they may be experiencing in their relationship with each other.

It is normal for relationships to go through difficulties and many couples grow stronger through facing these difficulties together. Unfortunately, modern life can place a great deal of strain on couples at every point of their relationship: money worries, employment issues, children, infidelity and dealing with our partner’s problems can cause couples to drift apart, stop talking, or lose interest in each other and the relationship.

If left unaddressed these problems, and in particular the lack of communication, can lead to unhappiness, mental health problems, resentment and in extreme circumstances domestic abuse, separation and divorce (in 2010 42% of marriages ended in divorce: Relate 2016).

Couples therapy can offer a confidential, safe environment for couples to explore their problems and develop ways to address them. According to research from America, 93% of couples who opted for couples therapy reported that they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems after attending therapy.

Couples therapy can be accessed in several ways. The most well-known service in the UK is Relate. Since 1938 Relate has provided couples therapy and now trains and regulates most couples therapists, you can also see a couples therapist privately.

Are Couples therapist Qualified?

Although it is not mandatory, you should look for a qualified couples therapist. It takes between two and three years to qualify as a specialist couples therapist and many will have additional training as counsellors or sex therapists.

What Happens in Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is similar to individual therapy but with the main difference that the focus of the work is on your relationship. Usually, the therapist sees the couple together but you can be seen alone depending on the circumstances and willingness of both partners to attend the sessions.

After an initial consultation where you will identify what problems you face, you will usually see the therapist for weekly hour-long sessions, as previously mentioned this will usually be together but sometimes individual sessions may be appropriate.

The focus of couples counselling is on promoting open honest communication and subjects such as money issues, trust, the division of responsibilities, how to deal with childcare issues and the sexual relationship are common themes.

How long does it last?

Some couples find that the initial consultation is all they need to reconnect with each other. If, however, you decide to continue then the number of therapeutic sessions will depend on the nature of the couple’s difficulties.

Is couples therapy all about staying together?

No. Sometimes relationships do not work out and couples therapy can help couples separate amicably, this is particularly important where children are involved

Do we have to go together?

No. This is not necessary. You can go on your own so long as you are seeking help for your relationship.

Do we have to be married or in a heterosexual relationship to go to couples therapy?

No, it is available for all couples.

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