Couples Therapy: Definition & Techniques

Instructor: Manuela Heberle

Manuela has master's degree in counseling and has taught psychology, social psychology, and a tests and measurements course.

In this lesson, you'll learn what couples therapy is, how it can be useful, and some of the techniques that are used. Once completed, you can take a short quiz to gauge your level of understanding.

What is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is for couples who are in a relationship, married or not. It is often referred to as marriage counseling. The goal of couples therapy is to improve the couples' relationship. This type of therapy can also help couples decide whether or not they should continue staying together. Although the focus of couples therapy is on the couple, there are times when the individual psychological issues of one or both parties need to be addressed.

Therapy often includes sessions designed to improve problem solving, build communication skills, and identify life goals and relationship responsibilities. Other common issues include infidelity, financial problems, illness and other life changes, and anger.

Depending on the level of distress in the relationship, therapy can be short term or over a period of several months. While a licensed therapist can counsel couples, marriage and family therapists specialize in relationship issues.

How Can Couples Therapy Help?

Image of couple in therapy session

Let's say that you and your partner are having problems because every time that you disagree, you end up in a huge argument and resolve absolutely nothing. In fact, the two of you are growing apart because of the constant stress in the relationship. You've actually thought about leaving your partner, but decide to try couples therapy first.

Once in therapy, you learn that both of you need help with the way that you communicate, and with your problem solving approach. You also learn that you are actually repeating a style of interaction that your parents displayed: they yelled and solved nothing, and finally grew apart and divorced. With your new-found knowledge that part of the problem is that you are imitating what you saw your parents do, you can now change your behavior. Using respectful communication techniques and a problem strategy that works, you improve your relationship over time. The positive emotions for your partner resurface and you can't imagine that you wanted to end the relationship.

What Are Some Common Techniques?

While some therapists use an eclectic mix of techniques, others use only specific therapeutic approaches. This really depends on the therapist's training, experience, and philosophy. What follows are some common techniques that are used to help couples resolve issues and improve their relationship.

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