A Beginner’s Guide to Couples Therapy

Every relationship faces hardships at certain points. Some decide to end things. But others want to work through the problems and learn an even better, more fulfilling, and trustful way to communicate with each other. If you’re reading this article, you must be one of that second group we’ve described. And we’re glad about it.

Of course, you could try to solve the issues by yourself. But unfortunately, it often leads to a failure for two reasons: first of all, it’s hard to be unbiased about your relationship, and you don’t have the knowledge a therapist has. Therefore, the solution is to start couples counseling sessions. What’s the right way to do it? Our guide will help you figure it out.

When should you start seeing a specialist?

Many think that couples counseling is something only married ones need. But it’s not true. Any relationship can experience problems that a professional is able to solve. So keep it in mind —  couples therapy before marriage exists.

The best moment to start sessions is when you understand that you both lack the knowledge and psychological instruments to handle situations you constantly find yourselves in. The simpler rule is that you should start couples counseling when you fight too often or you don’t talk with each other enough.

How to find a specialist?

Couples psychology is a standalone division in psychological practice. So you should look for a professional that specialized in it. Everyone has their own criteria for the best couples therapist, so you need to understand what you want to get. Note that today you can get help both offline and online — through dedicated couples counseling apps.

What are the approaches to counselling for couples?

There are quite many different ways professionals use to solve issues in relationships. Couples psychology is a rather sensitive subject, and not every approach can fit all people. You should study the most popular methods before you start looking for a specialist. But remember that the approach you liked might be not the best one for your situation.

How to get ready for the first session?

Even if you find the best couples therapy, it won’t be as effective if you don’t prepare. First of all, you need to understand your goals and agree on them. Also, you should get ready to share rather intimate things, or even unpleasant details you’ve been keeping away from your partner. And obviously, you both should be ready and willing to start counselling for couples.

What if my partner is against it?

It’s a common story — one of you feels uncomfortable about couples counseling or doesn’t believe it will help. The best you can do is to me as empathetic with them as possible and understand their concerns and fears. Tell them that you understand them. Lay out all the benefits you both will get — from saving your relationship to solving some of your personal issues. And try to convince them that you’ll pick the best couples therapy that will definitely help.

How to understand your therapist isn’t helping?

Unfortunately, we can’t always choose the best couples therapy from the first try. If you both don’t seem to feel comfortable sharing things with the therapist, and if you clearly see no signs of improvement, maybe it’s time to find someone else. Just remember that this situation doesn’t mean couples counseling isn’t working for you. All you need is a better specialist.

What results will sessions bring?

You should expect them to let you both see each other’s perspectives better and improve communication. You should become more intimate and feel closer to each other. Finally, you will learn more about how relationships work. And most importantly, you’ll learn new instruments that will help you handle issues.

What education must a therapist have?

Obviously, you should look for a professional with a license. But note that there is a standalone marriage and family therapy degree that’s different from a common therapy degree. While a psychologist that offers a wide range of services might help you, it’s better to choose a therapist who specialized in relationships. Your counselor must have at least a Master’s degree. And you can look for a specialist with a Doctoral degree if you want to feel more secure.

How many couples are successful in treatment?

The success rate for couples counseling is from 70 to 80 percent. However, you should remember that sessions do lead to a breakup sometimes because during the therapy partners realize there is no reason for them to keep saving this relationship.

Can therapy save a helpless relationship?

Some couples think that their relationship is too broken, and even the best couples therapy can’t fix it. Yet, you always should try to save it. Experienced therapists often help partners who were sure they’re absolutely done. So don’t give up on your relationship.

What’s going on during a session?

During couples counseling, a therapist should listen to clients a lot to fully understand what they deal with and how they feel. Once the situation is clear to a specialist, they will help you see the problems from another angle and teach you useful psychological instruments that will let you work with issues. Ultimately, during each session, a professional should help you both understand each other better and communicate more effectively.

What is the best therapist?

The best professional would be the one you both grow to feel comfortable around. Of course, quite rarely clients can be completely open with a therapist during the first couple of sessions. But if you feel like you don’t trust your specialist, they might be not right for you. There is no one fit for all — you should be ready to change therapists a couple of times until you find the most perfect one.

When it comes to the methods of therapy, you can try choosing what you like. But remember that a professional knows better what will work for you, and how to approach different issues.


Kate Skurat
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-skurat-5348381b9/