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4 min read

Couples Counseling Methods That Can Strengthen Your Relationship

A couple in therapy

Couples therapy, also known as couples counseling, is a form of talk therapy that helps romantic partners improve their relationship. The purpose of couples therapy sessions is to address any challenges in the relationship, improve communication skills, and strengthen the bond between partners.

Benefits of Couples Counseling

It can be difficult to approach relationship problems from your own particular perspective--few of us can be objective when feelings are involved. Couples therapy offers the assistance of a professional to help facilitate understanding, respect, affection, and intimacy between partners. A couples therapy counselor also helps educate on conflict resolution skills, uses communication exercises to improve self and other awareness, and can overall increase relationship satisfaction.

Types of Couples Therapy

Emotionally focused couples therapy (EFCT) is a common approach to couples therapy that helps partners identify and change negative patterns in their relationship. This type of relationship counseling is based on the idea that relationships are shaped by emotions, and that understanding and changing these emotions can improve relationship issues.

The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is another popular type of couples therapy that focuses on strengthening relationships in three areas: friendship, conflict management, and shared meaning. Gottman Method couples therapy emphasizes the importance of managing conflict, rather than resolving it, and addresses relapse prevention.

Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT)

Imago relationship therapy (IRT) helps couples identify childhood experiences that have created an impact on their adult relationships, including romantic partners bonding behavior. The couples therapist then guides the couple through addressing these challenges that are factors in commitment issues or relationship anxiety to facilitate healing and a healthy relationship together.

Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-focused therapy is a type of short term therapy that is very goal-based. It can help couples create a solution to relationship issues they’re having instead of sitting in the same place and dwelling on the same problems over and over again. Solution-focused therapy is most helpful when a couple is working toward a short-term, easily definable relationship goal.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is a type of therapy that involves both partners describing their relationship problems in narrative (or story) form. This type of therapy allows couples to see their partner through the lens of a story and build empathy and perspective. By sharing narratives with each other, they can see that one single story alone can't truly encompass an entire experience together.

Working with a Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are trained to work with individuals, couples, and families to address relationship issues. An MFT will have a master's or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field.

Therapeutic Approach and Style

MFTs use various therapeutic approaches and styles, including emotionally focused therapy, the Gottman Method, imago therapy, and solution-focused therapy to help heal relationship distress, disarm conflicting verbal communication, address negative behavior patterns, improve relationship satisfaction, unravel sexual difficulties, manage conflict, and address mental health for both partners. Which therapeutic approach and style a couples therapy practitioner will use depends upon the couple's specific needs and goals.

Personal Connection and Comfort Level in Couples Therapy

In couples therapy, it can be essential to find an MFT with whom you both feel comfortable and connected. A strong therapeutic alliance can help both partners feel comfortable, which allows them to share more openly and can increase the effectiveness of therapy.

Effective Communication in Couples Counseling

Reflective listening is a technique used in couples therapy to improve communication how partners communicate with one another. Reflective listening involves rephrasing statements using "I" phrases instead of "you" statements. For example, one partner may tell the other "I feel sad and neglected when you aren't home when you said you would be" rather than "You're always late."

Identifying and Expressing Feelings

Identifying and expressing feelings can be an essential part of effective communication in couples therapy. Couples may practice identifying and expressing their feelings in a safe and healthy environment.

Active Listening and Clarification

Active listening and clarification are crucial components of effective communication in emotion focused therapy and other kinds of couples therapy. Couples can practice active listening and clarification to ensure they understand each other’s needs and feelings.

Conflict Resolution Strategies in Couples Therapy

Identifying patterns and triggers is an essential part of conflict resolution in couples therapy. Working with an MFT can help to identify patterns and triggers that contribute to conflicts.

Practicing Empathy and Understanding

Practicing empathy and understanding is a key component conflict resolution in couples therapy. Couples therapy exercises can allow partner to practice empathy and understanding by putting themselves in each other's shoes.

Resolving Conflicts through Effective Communication

Another important aspect of resolving conflicts is through learning effective communication techniques. An MFT will work with couples on skills that can improve communication and help to resolve conflicts in the future.

Building a Stronger Relationship through Couples Counseling

A gratitude and appreciation practice can help couples to build a stronger relationship. By expressing appreciation and thankfulness for actions both great and small, both partners can improve their own mental health and build a sound relationship for each other.

Scheduling Quality Time Together

Many people in relationships can get out of the habit of enjoying themselves with their partner. Scheduling quality time together can help couples build a stronger relationship. As part of relationship homework, a couples therapist may encourage couples to schedule regular date nights or activities to spend quality time together.

Fostering Emotional Intimacy through Vulnerability

In all forms of couples therapy, but especially in sex therapy, fostering emotional intimacy through vulnerability can help couples build a stronger relationship. By sharing their feelings and desires with each other, people experiencing relationship difficulties can reignite the spark of their love.

Overcoming Challenges in Couples Therapy

Relationship conflict can often have deep roots in the past. Addressing past trauma and insecurities can be a challenging part of couples therapy, and with the help of an MFT it can be easier to address any past trauma or insecurities that may be affecting the relationship.

Managing External Pressures and Stressors

Managing external pressures and stressors can be another key issue when it comes to marriage counseling or couples therapy. Often friends or family members, or job stress can create relationship difficulties and negative emotions. Working with an MFT can allow a couple to develop strategies to manage these external pressures and stressors.

Measuring Success in Couples Counseling

As with any type of therapy, setting realistic goals and expectations is essential for measuring success in couples therapy. Before getting down to business, an MFT will work with the couple to set realistic goals and expectations moving forward. They will then periodically revisit these goals to check progress.

Tracking Progress and Celebrating Successes

Tracking progress and celebrating successes is crucial for measuring success in couples therapy. Taking time to revisit the positive aspects of their progress and celebrate success can keep those who seek couples therapy motivated and encouraged moving forward.

Building a Sound Relationship House in Brooklyn

It's not uncommon to feel that your relationship is running into challenges at times. Many of us are unsure of how to manage conflict, and sometimes we can forget about the positive aspects of our partner and relationship in times of trouble. Therapy can help.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer evidence-based therapeutic approaches for behavioral couples therapy that can help increase intimacy and build healthy relationships through emotional connection, and a deeper understanding of your partner.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right therapist to offer emotional support as well as tools and strategies to help you build strong communication skills, resolve conflict, and build the foundations of a happy life together. 

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