How Couples Therapy and Marriage Counselling work?

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Couples therapy and marriage counselling

Couple therapy is a means of resolving problems and conflicts that couples have not been able to handle effectively on their own. It involves both partners sitting down with a trained professional to discuss their thoughts and feelings. The aim is to help them gain a better insight understanding of themselves and their partner and gain an understanding of negative patterns within the relationship. The therapist will provide a neutral safe space and use their skills to carefully feedback the dynamics that they observe and experience within the session and guide clients to a mutually respectful understanding of each other’s experience.

Couples therapy (also known as couples counselling or marriage counselling), is about exploring patterns with a professional therapist so as to help the couple understand each other better. Relationship choices are arguably the biggest that we make in our life, and building one is something that takes time and effort. When a couple chooses to live together, marry or to have children, it brings enormous extra demands which impact on a relationship. Couples can find themselves unhappy within their relationship and this can be extremely stressful to cope with and talking these difficulties through can help enormously.

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What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is about talking through the issues to help explore relationship problems. By examining difficult feelings and emotions, problems can be shared. It can help partners to identify areas that can be worked on enabling a better relationship and a way to move forward. The process has traditionally been referred to as marriage counseling although modern lifestyles means that committed couples are no longer necessarily married.

The process of relationship therapy involves attending sessions with a qualified relationship counsellor who is experienced in this particular field of therapy. Although it is occasionally initiated through online therapy, it generally involves meeting with a therapist for face-to-face therapy sessions.

Every relationship is different and therapy sessions will explore this. Sometimes both people in a relationship are willing to attend therapy sessions together. But it can also start on an individual basis, usually when one partner is unwilling to undertake therapy. They may choose to join at a later time or start on an individual basis. Different therapists have their different ways of working and will guide you through the process. The UK Therapy Guide helps you to find the best couples therapist.

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How will a couples therapist help relationship problems?

A couples counsellor or relationship therapist is trained to help resolve relationship issues through couples communicating. They act as an unbiased, neutral third party who seeks to provide an objective view on issues that are discussed. There is no judgement and definitely no ‘taking sides’ so this should not be a cause for concern for either partner considering relationship therapy. A relationship counsellor ensures that both parties in the relationship have the opportunity to talk and listen. The relationship therapist carefully guides you through issues and helps you to reach a conclusion about the best way forward. This may involve learning new behaviour and taking on assurances or maybe even separation. Such major life decisions deeply affect a couple and their family which is why couples therapy provides a structured space where things can be brought into the open and discussed in a careful and considered way.

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How do I find the right couples therapist?

It is incredibly important that the therapist you choose to work with is properly trained in couples counselling. It is a specialisation that requires a unique set of skills and experience. The UK Therapy Guide represents over 350 of the countries most trusted therapists. All are qualified and accredited with major UK professional bodies including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). All adhere to the UK Therapy Guide’s strict guidelines covering therapy and confidentiality. Our relationship counsellors also belong to the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT) and operate within their ethical codes and guidelines. You can make a search for a couples therapist near you, or alternatively send us an enquiry and we will get back to you with the best option.

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At what point should I go for couples counselling?

The fact that you have started to consider couples therapy is itself an indication of a need for help. Seeking counselling for couples is a positive sign that you want to try and resolve issues within your relationship. Every relationship is different; it has different strains and stresses and it is worth noting that relationship therapy is a helpful way of getting through a difficult period. In addition to couples therapy, you may discover that you need other therapy to cope with contributing factors such as  depression, trauma, work stress, bereavement or addiction.

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What relationship problems can therapy help with?

Every relationship is unique, but relationship therapy can provide a way of dealing with all sorts of issues including:

  • Communication breakdown

    If communication has stopped, become negative or simply isn’t as it was, it is important to improve this. Therapy for couples is by nature a positive way of getting two people to start communicating again. Communication is vital in expressing feelings and emotions that are integral towards building a positive relationship.

  • Out of couple relationships

    Out of couple relationships can be extremely difficult to talk about. They may pose questions of trust and betrayal. Often they bring emotions of anger and guilt to the forefront. Communication can be extremely difficult. By working with a couples therapist, these feelings can be discussed and dealt with. This may be the first step towards gradually coming to terms with these events.

  • Breakdown of trust

    Trust is integral to a happy relationship. There may be many underlying reasons to explore which explain such feelings, perhaps past experiences or behavioural patterns that can be broken.

  • Money problems

    Financial problems in a relationship can be a major cause of stress and strain. Income, outgoings, debt issues and redundancy can seem insurmountable and become an enormous burden within a relationship. They can impact on self-esteem and self-confidence. A relationship therapist will help you to bring such subjects to therapy sessions in order to discuss them in a calm and controlled way.

  • Work related issues

    Work related issues can cause anxiety making it feel impossible to relax and enjoy your relationship. Balancing family life with a career is not easy. Finding quality time and space with the family and allowing yourself to be yourself is something that can be explored through couples counselling.

  • Abusive behaviour

    Abuse such as shouting and swearing or ‘putting the other partner down’ can be closely linked to relationship problems and frustration. It can spiral out of control and become a regular pattern. Relationship therapists will encourage you to talk in order to understand where this anger is coming from. Trained counsellors can help you to deal with the trauma of abuse, but the first point for anyone in a physically abusive relationship is to seek help via any of the following organisations:

    For those with anger management issues, the UK Therapy Guide can help you to find a specialist therapist to deal with this.

  • Child and parenting related problems

    The addition of a child brings enormous extra pressures to a relationship, both practical and emotional. These may involve the pressures of being a ‘good’ parent, and differences of opinion in what is best for your child. Suddenly the freedom you once had is taken away as you become a carer. Perhaps there are issues related to post natal depression. All these things can have an impact on your relationship. For many, issues may arise regarding parent-child relationships. The UK Therapy guide can help you find a specialist therapist to deal with this.

  • Extended family issues

    Family issues is an all-encompassing term. The issues may revolve around extended family, or perhaps in-laws or siblings. There may also be issues regarding access, interaction, and feeling judged. All these type of problems can impact on a relationship and can be explored via therapy.

  • Life changes and life goals

    Common goals once shared by a couple can change, and this can bring dissatisfaction into a relationship. Resentment and anger can prevail. Couple therapy allows you to bring this to a safe and calm space, so that all points of view may be considered and a way forward reached.

  • Sexual problems

    Sexual problems in a relationship are only made worse by not discussing them, yet by their nature, they often prove difficult to talk about. A change in sexual desire, changing ability or addictive cybersex, amongst other things, can heavily impact a relationship. This can make couples anxious and reluctant to discuss their feelings. Though seemingly counter-intuitive, discussing sexual problems in a relationship with a third party through relationship counselling can be liberating. It allows couples to explore what will work best for them.

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The benefits of couples therapy and counselling

A relationship is made up of past events that form how you look towards the future. A relationship counsellor can help you to recognise what has impacted you in the past, how it is affecting the present, and what this means for the future. Couples therapy is often the best way to help you resolve issues with your partner, in a calm and mindful way. It is not about apportioning blame; it is about understanding things that impact on your relationship and finding a way that will create better harmony going forward.

A couples counsellor can help you in many ways and at the same time monitor progress, mediate conflict and give you objective feedback. Benefits include:

  • Better communication between you and your partner

  • Identifying issues and resolving them in a safe environment

  • Hearing and understanding your partners needs without resentment or anger

  • Feeling more valued and a deeper connection

  • Renewed physical and emotional intimacy

  • Moving away from the past to a brighter future

  • Better understanding of yours and your partner's needs

  • Establishing whether you can continue within your relationship or marriage

You can browse our couples counsellors by using the UK Therapy Guide’s advanced search function.

Alternatively send us a request for a relationship therapist and our dedicated support team will connect you with details of the best therapist to suit your needs. If you have any other questions, please contact the UK Therapy Guide on 0800 024 8088.

How Couples Counselling Works

Nowadays marriage and relationship counselling is easy. You and your
partner will usually both meet with your Therapist, although the occasional
session may be individual if necessary, and together you can discuss any
issues and what you’d like to achieve as a couple. 

Your session will be arranged in advance at a time to suit you and your
partner, and you can decide together if you would like an in person session
or do this remotely, either via an online platform or over the phone.

Learn more about Couples Sessions

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