Couples Counselling is a type of talking therapy that some couples use to to improve their relationship, reach compromises or talk about their future.
This therapy can be very helpful for some couples. It may also be called Couples Therapy, Marriage Counselling or Relationship Therapy.
How Does Couples Counselling Work?
Couples Counselling has been around for a long time. Unlike many talking therapies, which have seen an improvement in popularity in recent decades, there has always been interest in helping two people in a relationship.
The divorce rate is very high. It could be argued that humans simply aren’t by nature typically able to remain with one human for life. But for most, divorce is something they wish to avoid. This is what Couples Counselling can help with.
It usually involves a couple who are going through some difficulties having a discussion with a trained therapist. The difficulties may involve factors like finance, health, jealousy, anger problems, communication, compatibility or marriage plans among other areas.
Whatever the cause, the therapist will hear opinions from both, and encourage better communication from the duo. They will be encouraged to listen to their partner’s perspective.
Discussing negative cycles, reasons for the problems, analysing emotions and improving intimacy are all commonly done.
Couples Counselling will normally involve psychological elements to it. Low mood, negative thoughts and impulsive behaviour can all be treated as part of it.
When is Couples Counselling Useful?
Couples Counselling has the potential to be useful for many people. It is limited to couples. Family Therapy can be useful for families, and there are a range of different types of therapy for individuals.
As anyone that has ever been in a relationship before knows, conflict can be caused by a range of issues. These may be minor disagreements, full-scale arguments or anything in-between.
Relationship problems can take their toll on a person’s mental wellbeing. If it is causing problems that are linked to conditions like Depression or Anxiety, it is important to seek help.
Moreover, those with mental health conditions like Substance Related Disorders, trauma-related conditions or Personality Disorders that typically involve tumultuous relationships, may find Couples Counselling very helpful.
Advantages of Couples Counselling
There are a few advantages to Couples Counselling:
- Having a neutral person to mediate a discussion between a couple who have been having some disagreements or quarrelling can be very useful. It can help both parties to see perspectives from their partner’s side.
- Relationships are so important for humans. Therefore, Couples Counselling has the potential to give relationships a new lease of life, and improve the happiness of those partaking.
- Couples Counselling can help both parties see an improvement in their mental wellbeing. Working through difficulties together can be very therapeutic, and improve mood.
Disadvantages of Couples Counselling
There are a few disadvantages to Couples Counselling:
- Sometimes, Couples Counselling can actually worsen relationships. It is important to remember that couples can take home what they’ve discussed during a session, which can lead to further arguments.
- For some couples, therapy will seem to provide strong results. However, once the duo do not see a therapist any longer, they often fall back into negative habits.
- In order to get the most out of Couples Counselling, both parties need to be fully committed. Unless both parties are, they will struggle to find it beneficial. If a couple are struggling from the start, even agreeing to therapy can be difficult.
How effective is Couples Counselling?
Couples Counselling can be effective for some, but not for others. There is both positive and negative evidence of Couples Counselling.
Perhaps the biggest study into Couples Counselling involved 134 couples that received a form of Couples Counselling. Five years after, the research team followed-up with each couple to see how they were doing. 48% had improved, 38% had gotten worse, with the remaining 14% unchanged . This points to Couples Counselling being effective.
Other studies have showed that Couples Counselling can improve relationships to a moderate extent, including in relationship quality and communication .
However, it has also been noted that any possible resistance from either member of the couple can have a negative impact . This can result in poorer outcomes.
It is very difficult to know if Couples Counselling will be effective. Each couple has different dynamics, and will benefit from different interventions.
How to find a therapist?
It is recommended that you contact your GP and inform them of your problems. They will refer you to the relevant mental health team.
If you are aiming to use the private sector, you could ask your GP or someone you know for a recommendation. You can also look online – the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have a therapist directory on their site.
- List of Therapy Types
- Therapy Home
- Everything You Need To Know About Talking Therapy
- Talking Therapy or Medication: Which is Better for Mental Health Problems?
- FAQ’s About Talking Therapy
- What To Do When Therapy Isn’t Working: Alternatives to Talking Therapy
If talking therapy alone hasn’t worked, then your Doctor may suggest adding a medication.
There are many other types of therapy, you can see an exhaustive list of them here.
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 Christensen, A., Atkins, D.C., Baucom, B., & Yi, J. (2010). Marital status and satisfaction five years following a randomized clinical trial comparing traditional versus integrative behavioral couple therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 78 (2): p225-235.
 Blanchard, V. L., Hawkins, A. J., Baldwin, S. A., & Fawcett, E. B. (2009). Investigating the effects of marriage and relationship education on couples’ communication skills: A meta-analytic study. Journal of Family Psychology. 23 (2): p203–214.
 Muntigl, P. (2013). Resistance in couples counselling: Sequences of talk that disrupt progressivity and promote disaffiliation. Journal of Pragmatics. 49 (1): p18-37.