Couples counselling, or marriage counselling, helps couples (married or unmarried) to understand and resolve conflicts and improve their relationship.
Couples therapy is designed, like individual therapy, to provide a safe and confidential space to explore challenges and to move beyond these to a healthier state of relationship. A couples therapist will ask questions and try to see that both parties have a chance to talk.
The initial sessions are an evaluation period where the therapist begins to formulate (come up with an greater understanding) of the couples difficulties. They will work to understand what has brought you to counselling, how therapy can best help your relationship, and what your expectations are. It will include asking your history as a couple, how long any problems have existed and what you might hope to learn from couples therapy.
Often people find talking therapeutic in its own right but after the first few sessions a couples therapist will be able to provide more guided steering and begin to actively help you to work towards managing your issues. Your following sessions will see your couples therapist helping you with your issues, such as:
Improving open communication
Recognising behavioural patterns
Understanding your feelings and actions
Seeing each others' perspectives
Managing expectations within the relationship
Finding useful ways of compromise that work for both parties
Finding new ways to move forward
Can marriage counselling really save a relationship?
Timing is everything. Unfortunately, lots of couples wait too long to get help to repair their relationship. Marriage counselling is hard work and there are no guarantees. But marriage and long term relationships are deep personal investments that can bring a huge amount of positives to your life when they are working healthily for both partners. For this reason, many couples invest the time needed to work through their problems in therapy together.
The effectiveness of marriage counselling is also related to the motivation level of both partners and timing. For some couples, marriage counselling may become more about divorce management, because they have already given up on try to make the relationship work. Sometimes, the problems in a marriage can be too embedded for the counselling to be effective. In some situations, couples don’t honestly share their concerns, hampering the results of the therapy.
Some of the ways that couples therapy can work include identifying toxic relationship patterns and helping couples to work on changing these, bringing a new perspective to issues and helping couples to understand each other’s perspectives, finding new ways to resolve conflicts, building trust and improving communication, and providing a safe space for both partners to work through their issues with the support of the empathetic ear of a professional therapist.
How do you know if you need marriage counselling?
You might be finding it difficult to understand your partner lately or perhaps you are missing the closeness you once had. Maybe you struggle to agree on anything together or an affair has put your future together in jeopardy. Money, sex, housework, parenting and family issues are also some of the typical concerns that bring couples to therapy. Some signs that someone is experiencing a relationship difficulty include being pressurised, feelings of being very stuck, a restricted social life, anxiety and depression.
Usually couples have reached a point where they are considering ending the relationship and marriage counselling is an attempt at saving it. On some occasions couples are looking to enhance their communication and deepen their understanding of each other in general.
A list of reasons to go to couples counselling might include:
Life changes, such as retirement
Losing a job
Physical or mental conditions
Same-sex relationship issues
Wider family issues
Conflicts about child rearing
How long does marriage counselling last?
Marriage counselling can be short term. It depends on how long the issues have been going on and what problems you feel you need to overcome. If you are going through a specific crisis, you may only need a few sessions to help you manage the situation. However, you may need marriage counselling for several weeks or months. Every counselling relationship is unique because it depends on the individual or couples taking part and the issues that need to be worked through. When meeting your couples therapist, it would be helpful to discuss how they think they could help you, their style of working and what you could expect to cover in the course of your therapy.
How can marriage counselling help?
Some of the benefits of couples counselling include:
Coping with changes
Managing conflict in a healthier way
Improving physical and sexual connection
Recognising abusive relationships.
The ultimate goal is to work towards a more successful relationship.
How to find a good marriage therapist or couples counsellor
In the UK, although it is not illegal for anyone to call themselves a marriage counsellor or therapist, licensed psychotherapists and counsellors will have studied at postgraduate level for a number of years and untaken hundreds of hours of practical, supervised work in order to qualify as therapists.
Many couples therapists will have done specific courses or specialised trainings in addition to their initial studies to work with couples specifically. It is important to choose a therapist who has experience working with couples and who is a good fit for both you and your partner. You can find out more about choosing the right couples therapist here. At Harley Therapy, we vet our couples therapists to ensure that they are registered and insured to practice as a therapist in the UK. We check that they are registered members of UK professional bodies, to ensure that all of our therapists have completed the professional training necessary to work as a licensed practitioner.
Recommended therapists working with couples available ASAP: