Types of Couples Therapy

Types of Couples Therapy: 9 Great Options to Decide Between

Find Out Which Type of Couples Therapy Is Best for You

Seeking help can be a challenging thing for some people. Whether it be pride, fear, or lack of knowledge about the subject, something prevents many people from attending marriage counseling. 

However, marriage counseling and couples therapy can be beneficial in all types of relationships. In fact, couples who participate in counseling together have a 30 percent higher marital success rate than couples who do not.

Most American adults place a happy marriage high on their priority list, and the data shows that couples therapy can help them achieve this goal. 

Whether you’re currently struggling in your relationship or you just want to explore the idea of professional help in your marriage, we can help you narrow down what types of couples therapy might work well for you. 

What is Couples Therapy?

In short, couples therapy is a specific kind of psychotherapy that focuses on helping couples in a romantic relationship with a goal or to solve a conflict. 

The goal of couple therapy can vary widely from relationship to relationship. Some couples may need help navigating one specific issue, such as jealousy or distrust, while others seek a total marriage makeover with a marriage counselor. 

Many couples therapies will include standard questions that help a counselor clarify issues, establish background information, and create relationship goals. 

Benefits of Couples Therapy

Because couples therapy is designed to treat, enhance, and improve relationships, couples can reap several rewarding benefits from giving it a shot. 

Even the most well-meaning couple of people can have a hard time working out various issues. A therapist or counselor can serve as a guiding force to facilitate challenging conversations. Not only that, but these professionals can equip couples with tools for navigating communication. 

Therapists also provide a safe, compassionate environment and encourage couples to open up about their thoughts and feelings while maintaining peace and respect. They offer unbiased empathy to both parties and ensure everyone is heard equally. 

Overall, marriage counseling can improve communication, enhance listening skills, resolve problems, strengthen bonds, and heal old wounds - to say the least.

9 Types of Couples Therapy

Many people believe that you get out of therapy what you put in, so it’s essential to choose a type of couples counseling that will serve a good purpose for you and your partner.

The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method approach to couples therapy was created by psychologist Dr. John Gottman who developed it by studying the patterns in happy and unhappy marriages. Through this research, he was able to put together the Gottman Method. 

This method focuses on improving empathy within a relationship and works to enhance overall communication and intimacy. It’s ideal for couples where one or both participants are unsure of counseling because it encourages couples to continue working on their relationship at home. 

The Gottman Method is different from other therapies because it remains flexible in addressing your relationship’s various and unique negative interactions rather than sticking to traditional routines. It works to strengthen three main areas:

  • Friendship
  • Conflict Management
  • Shared meaning

This therapy then works through these areas using nine concepts known as The Sound Relationship House:

  • Build love maps
  • Share fondness and admiration
  • Turn towards instead of away
  • The positive perspective
  • Manage conflict
  • Make life dreams come true
  • Create shared meaning
  • Trust
  • Commitment

Gottman claims that his method can manage both resolvable conflicts and perpetual conflict. This conflict can include continuous arguments, poor communication, emotional distance, infidelity, parenting, sex, and more.

Imago Relationship Therapy

Imago Relationship Therapy, or IRT, is centered around the way we see ourselves in our relationship. During this kind of therapy, a counselor will have you focus on your early childhood experiences, revealing them to your partner.

In doing this, you will be able to identify your relationship images and understand your subconscious expectations within your marriage. 

IRT will dig deep into the past of both parties in a relationship and may showcase some very personal information about your relationship as well as relationships with others, family, and trauma. 

IRT can feel very intimidating because it can mean reflecting greatly on how your family of origin interacted, recurring conflicts, abuse, or neglect you experienced. The goal is to give you and your partner a better understanding of one another and establish strong empathy. 

From there, you can move forward as a couple to promote healing, trust, connection, and communication. 

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) focuses on some essential core concepts:

  • Importance of emotions
  • Role of emotions in relationships
  • Strengthening attachments
  • Emotional regulation

EFT was designed to be a short-term couples therapy. Most couples attend a structured roadmap of anywhere from 8 to 20 sessions to facilitate a more safe and secure emotional attachment. 

Many couples seek EFT to help them navigate specific life events, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, infidelity, or chronic health conditions. 

However, some couples seek this kind of healing for something as simple as poor communication and frequent arguing. 

EFT holds firm to the idea that a life-long partnership requires a secure emotional attachment. It draws on examples from various stages of life, from infancy to adulthood, and values attachment as a primitive survival need. 

In EFT, isolation is viewed as traumatizing and damaging and leads to emotional disconnection. This therapy works to repair these connections by identifying patterns, promoting empathy, and focusing on interactions. 

Religion-Based Counseling

Those with a faith background may benefit from religion-based counseling. Religion has proven to be a very critical part of an individual or couple’s identity. In fact, many people of faith base their life roles, choices, and behaviors based on their religion. 

Faith-based counseling, also often called Christian counseling, implements religious aspects to its sessions. While traditional counseling focuses on the psychology and science behind human interactions, spiritual counseling guides couples to lean into their faith and values. 

Religion-based counseling exists on somewhat of a spectrum. Some secular providers may implement doses of spirituality for religious couples along with psychological theories. 

Other Christian counselors make faith the center of their sessions and share the same beliefs as the couples they counsel. 

If you’re a person of faith, you can consider various options depending on how much spirituality you’d like to incorporate into your marriage and therapy sessions. There is faith counseling available in all types of religions. 

Check with your place of worship to see if they offer counseling or recommendations. 

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy takes a unique approach to struggling relationships by hearing out and analyzing the stories that exist within them.

During narrative therapy, professionals work with couples through their stories to give power to the neglected areas and reveal hidden problems, including:

  • Disconnection 
  • Miscommunication
  • Blame 
  • Guilt 
  • Conflict 

This type of counseling eliminates the idea that these problems are a part of who they are as a couple, making it seem as if they will never go away. A therapist will help the couple reimagine their narrative together, treating the issues as separate from who they truly are. 

The various issues that come up in a marriage are often given different names, chosen by the couple, which provides the problem with its own identity instead of latching onto a relationship’s identity.

A couple can then deal with that object, move on, and create their own new narrative of what they want their relationship to be in a collaborative manner.  

Solution-Focused Therapy

Some couples come to therapy because they can’t figure out what the issue is or because they’ve lost hope in their marriage. Solution-focused therapy is best for couples looking to solve a specific problem or issue. 

In solution-focused therapy, small changes are usually what make the most significant difference in a relationship. This goal-oriented approach to counseling examines the good and the bad and uses the good to create new pathways of communication and problem-solving. 

This type of therapy is different from others in that it invites couples to establish goals and design their desires for the future. It typically sets out on an 8-session journey centered on solutions rather than problems. 

Solution-focused therapy achieves success by encouraging partners to actively look for signs of positive changes and looking for exceptions to their problems. Each session, the counselor will ask what has gotten better since the last session to reinforce and build.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you know anything about therapy, you may be surprised to see this one on our list for couples.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is best known for treating individuals with anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression. It homes in on the thoughts that influence behaviors.

CBT is not only tremendous for individuals but is also great for couples, as it works to identify the thoughts of each partner throughout the various conflicts in their relationship. 

The goal of CBT within couples is to challenge each individual’s beliefs to treat miscommunication, develop better communication, and promote conflict resolution. 

By examining how each partner thinks, you can better address their behavior and the “why” behind their actions. You can also strive to change your thought patterns for a more positive mindset. 

In more severe cases, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also help couples address behavioral interventions when dealing with anger, addiction, or infidelity. It is also an excellent tool for working through significant life changes, such as retirement, death, or illness. 

Individual Counseling

Some people view individual counseling for their relationship as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage and often choose this avenue because one party is unwilling to participate in therapy. 

Individual counseling can still help solve relational issues. Therapists can help an individual work through any problems that exist on their end. In some cases, improving one-half of the relationship can lead to improvement in the relationship as a whole. 

Additionally, one person committing to and going to therapy can sometimes warm their partner up to the idea. They may eventually decide to join in.

However, individual therapy can only go so far in a relationship. At a certain point, it may become apparent that the relationship cannot move forward if the other partner is unwilling to participate. 

Still, individual counseling can be very beneficial for the partner who chooses to give it a shot.

Discernment Counseling

No one gets married with the intention of having marital issues or thoughts of divorce, but it does happen. If you or your spouse are considering divorce, then discernment counseling might be an excellent place to stop along the way. 

Discernment counseling supports both parties where they are, whether they’re leaning towards divorce or striving to fix things. 

It recognizes that the two individuals may be in totally different places emotionally and mentally and starts from there, rather than working on the assumption that both people want the same thing. 

The commitment for discernment counseling is typically just one session. During this more extended session, both individuals will decide if they’d like to stay in their marriage as is, seek further counseling, or pursue a divorce.

The counselor’s job is to facilitate clear and peaceful communications and help the couple realize all of their options. The counselor can also analyze whether they believe the marriage is salvageable or not. 

If the couple decides to go through a divorce, the counselor can give them resources for lawyers and where to start.

Final Thoughts

Every relationship is different, and every relationship sees hard times. While it’s easy to commit to forever initially, things like miscommunication, assumptions, mistrust, money, kids, and other outside factors can significantly impact a marriage. 

Thankfully, there are several different types of couples counseling available today, with both tried and true methods and techniques that are constantly being developed, renewed, and refined. 

In addition to choosing a type of therapy that’s best for you and your partner, it’s also essential to select a professional with whom you feel comfortable. Couples therapy works best when you can share your most intimate thoughts, emotions, and problems, and you can only do that with someone you trust. 

Use this brief guide to help you choose the right path for you. We highly encourage additional research before selecting a method and finding a counselor. 

If you find yourself interested in couples therapy, reach out to us today!

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