Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a therapist helps a romantically involved couple improve communication, resolve conflict, and strengthen their relationship. The therapy is effective for couples regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.
A couples therapist is often a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) who is specially trained to guide couples through the rebuilding of a damaged or unhealthy relationship. If the relationship cannot be saved, the therapist helps guide the couple through that process, as well.
Couples therapy is often short-term but may last for 12 to 24 sessions. While sessions typically include both partners, in some circumstances, the therapist may work individually with one of the partners.
In addition to working on communication problems, couples therapy may focus on sexual difficulties, domestic violence, anger issues, substance abuse, parenting, blended families, money issues, infidelity, and more.
The following are a few of the many effective techniques used by couples therapists:
Used successfully for over thirty years, the Gottman Method helps couples increase both friendship and intimacy, repair past hurts, improve communication, and increase mutual respect.
The Gottman Method helps couples build love maps, helping each partner understand the other’s hopes, stressors, history, and what makes them happy. The couple learns to express their trust, appreciation, and long-term commitment to one another. Partners also learn to manage conflict in a constructive way while increasing empathy for one another.
Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago Relationship Therapy uses a combination of spiritual and behavioral counseling techniques to help couples uncover the source of their disharmony, enabling them to relate in a more positive manner. This approach helps couples identify the source of their negative emotions, often through examination of early childhood relationships, to understand and repair current communication issues.
Although they may meet privately with the couple, Imago therapists often work with couples in group workshops, which typically take place over a weekend. The goal of the therapy is to help couples replace blame and criticism of the other with empathy and understanding. Couples bond as they increase communication and learn to manage conflict more constructively.
Every person has a story they tell about themselves, based on experiences and circumstances that influence the way they interact with the world. Narrative therapy helps couples identify the origin of negative parts of their story while identifying personal strengths and the ability to retell their story in a more positive light.
Through personal narratives, partners explore how past experiences affect current behavior that is contributing to problems in the relationship. As couples rewrite their narratives, they learn new ways to deal with their problems and improve the relationship.
While there are many effective approaches used in couples therapy, sometimes one partner refuses to participate. In these cases, the other partner may seek individual counseling. Although that may help the person attending counseling to plant some seeds of change in the relationship, research shows that both partners need to attend couples therapy for significant change.
However, individual therapy can help a person consider their options, including whether they want to continue in the relationship. Individual therapy can also help the person determine their next steps.
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