There’s been a renewed interest in couples therapy since Dr. Orna Guralnik’s docuseries of the same name debuted on Showtime in 2019. Viewers saw couples coming to Dr. Orna with concerns ranging from spending time with children to overcoming addiction, and with attitudes ranging from exasperation to indifference.
The show is a great introduction to the world of couples therapy, although of course real life is never quite like television. If you’ve ever wondered what couples therapy actually is and if it could be right for you and your partner, this overview will get you started in answering those questions.
Who goes to couples therapy?
Couples therapy is most often sought out by two people in a romantic relationship (although some therapists also offer this style of therapy to any two people in a close relationship, for example two people in a long-term important friendship). The relationship may be new or established, relatively casual or committed, monogamous or non monogamous.
Don’t be fooled by the myths about who goes to couples therapy, such as:
- It’s only for people who are legally married
- It’s only for heterosexual couples
- Couples only seek out couples therapy when they have a relationship-threatening conflict
Couples from all walks of life can benefit from the support couples therapy provides.
Why should I get couples therapy?
Broadly speaking, the primary goals of couples therapy are managing conflict and fostering connection.
All relationships involdve some share of conflict, but some problems feel too overwhelming for couples to handle on their own. Sometimes couples also find that conversations about a conflict they’ve had for a long time go stale, and they need help from the outside to stop just rehashing the same points over and over again.
Common areas of conflict couples come to therapy with include:
- Balancing time alone with time with friends, family, work, hobbies, etc.
- Managing finances
- Parenting styles
- A clash of values (ie: members of the couple have strongly differing points of view due to differences in culture, religious background, or political affiliation)
Even when a couple is not necessarily struggling with large, concrete conflicts, disconnect can arise from drifting apart, or a buildup of those little ways in which they don’t understand one another or see eye to eye.
You and your partner might want to consider working to strengthen your connection through couples therapy if:
- You’re looking to work on your sexual intimacy
- One of you has gone through a major life event – such as an illness diagnosis or a significant loss
- You don’t know each other as well after changing a lot over the years
- You struggle to communicate with one another
What do you actually do in couples therapy?
A couples therapist is not simply a referee for a couple’s arguments, or a judge who is there to decide which party is right and which is wrong. A couples therapist is there to help both of you identify what’s going wrong in your relationship (or what could be better), and support you in working together as a couple on making improvements.
Like individual therapists, couples therapists may prefer or employ a range of different styles or techniques. However, the basic building blocks are usually the same – your therapist will spend time getting to know you as a couple and as individuals, help you understand each other and your relationship better, and guide you through making changes.
Depending on your particular situation and your therapist’s style, your sessions may focus on:
- Understanding each other and your relationship better
- Building problem solving skills
- Finding ways to deepen your emotional bond
- Concrete exercises designed to address specific problems
If you have gone to therapy for yourself as an individual before, be prepared that couples therapy sessions are usually longer than individual sessions – often 60+ minutes. The session frequency is also more variable, you may meet biweekly or even monthly rather than weekly.
Give it a try
One of the most important ingredients for successful couples therapy is for both you and your partner to be at least open to the experience. If you and your partner have been thinking about what couples therapy might look like for you, I would love to tell you more about it and hear some of your story in a complimentary consultation phone call. Click the button below, and we can schedule a time to speak at your earliest convenience.