Relationships are challenging. You have two individual people with different wants, needs, patterns of behavior, styles of communicating, and approaches to conflict. Although you may love one another, you inevitably face stumbling blocks as you merge those two separate lives into one. Couples therapy can help you at any stage of a relationship. There are different types of therapy for couples and you might find that one approach works better than another at any given time.
Pre-Marital Couples Counseling
You don’t have to wait to have problems before you seek help to improve your relationship. Anytime that you’re going to take your relationship to the next level, therapy can help. That’s why pre-marital counseling is so popular.
Before you get married, you want to make sure that you’ve set a solid foundation for your relationship. You want to talk over important issues in detail which might include your hopes, expectations, dreams, and fears around:
Family planning and parenting styles
Traditions, holidays, and culture
Wedding planning including issues arising with extended family
Through therapy, you can identify potential areas for conflict so that you can start nipping issues in the bud before they arise. You can learn to improve your communication skills so that you can navigate future tricky waters more effectively.
Counseling in Other Transitional Times
Pre-marital counseling is one of the most popular forms of couples counseling. However, it really points to something that’s useful for all couples, married or not, which is that therapy helps support you during times of transition. Whenever there is a change in one or both of your lives, it can lead to issues in the relationship. You can turn to couples counseling to get through those issues, emerging strengthened on the other side.
One common transition in the modern world relates to divorce and remarriage. If you are co-parenting, then you might have multiple adults and multiple children in your blended family. Birth and adoption can also change the family dynamic. While at times these transitions might be better dealt with in family counseling, couples counseling can also help you focus on your relationship as the family goes through such changes.
Other transitional times include children starting or finishing school, either parent getting further education, changes in job status, moving to a new location, and changes in the extended family (such as an older parent moving in with you). If something has happened in your life that causes a shift in your relationship, then couples’ counseling can help you work through that.
Crisis Counseling for Couples
Sometimes a transition is just a bumpy time, but other times it may lead to crisis. Couples can also find themselves in crisis because of trauma (death or loss in the family, natural or manmade disaster, a child’s illness diagnosis, unemployment, etc.) When a couple goes into crisis, they need a very specific form of therapy to help them through this time.
Couples in crisis tend to go one of two directions. Some couples find themselves fighting constantly, potentially even to the point of domestic violence. On the other hand, couples may get remote and distant from one another, co-existing but interacting as little as possible. In either case, couples in crisis may feel hopeless about the relationship, disconnected from their partner, and overwhelmed.
Crisis counseling for couples is about resolving the immediate issue. It helps you find your way back to stability. Later on, in therapy you could decide if you want to work further on the relationship (or separate) and can develop new skills accordingly. At first, though, therapy just gives you a safe space to rest while you try to get back to a regular level of functioning as both individuals and as a couple.
Approaches to Couples Counseling
Many couples come to therapy during times of crisis or at least during times of transition. However, you can seek help from a therapist at any time in order to improve your relationship. There are many different approaches to couples counseling, so you’ll want to explore the types of therapy that work best for you. Examples include:
Emotionally-Focused Couples’ Therapy, in which you and your partner share emotions and improve interactions with one another to secure your bond
Gottman Method, which is one of the most popular forms of modern couples’ therapy, utilizing specific techniques for relationship building and improving communication
Intimacy-focused therapy, focusing on exercises to improve sexuality and intimacy in the marriage Imago relationship therapy, in which the therapist encourages communication between the couple to help each see how what they perceive as their partner’s flaws is actually based in part on their own behavior and choices
Non-traditional couples’ therapy for people in open, poly, or non-monogamous relationships Religious-affiliation therapy for couples who are part of a specific tradition and want that to play a key role in their counseling
You can ask your therapist about their approach to make sure that it’s the right one for you before moving forward with couples’ counseling.
Kathryn McNeer, LPC specializes in Couples Counseling Dallas with her sound, practical and sincere advice. Kathryn’s areas of focus include individual counseling, relationship and couples counseling Dallas. Kathryn has helped countless individuals find their way through life’s inevitable transitions; especially that tricky patch of life known as “the mid life crisis.” Kathryn’s solution-focused, no- nonsense counseling works wonders for men and women in the midst of feeling, “stuck,” or “unhappy.” Kathryn believes her fresh perspective allows her clients find the better days that are ahead. When working with couples, it is Kathryn’s direct yet non-judgmental approach that helps determine which patterns are holding them back and then helps them establish new, more productive patterns. Kathryn draws from Gottman and Cognitive behavioral therapy- when appropriate Kathryn works with couples on trust, intimacy, forgiveness, and communication.