Content note: This article uses the term “couples therapy,” but that term applies to all relationships.
Decades ago it seemed like therapy was just for urban intellectuals who had the extra time and money to sit on a tweed-wearing person’s couch, talking about their childhoods. Now, we live in a different world that increasingly recognizes that everyone could benefit from a little talk time.
Social isolation and loneliness are recognized as one of the biggest mental health impacts of the pandemic. So, it’s even more important to nurture relationships now. And for those who are currently in relationships, therapy might be just what you need to battle the stress of loneliness.
Couples therapy is a type of psychotherapy when people are supported by a licensed therapist who specializes in relationships. Couples therapy might seem like you’re on the road to a breakup, but it’s a tool to communicate and grow closer. There’s no shame in working on love game!
If you’re often at odds with your partner(s), therapy is an obvious option, but there are lots of other reasons you might want to try couples therapy:
- You’re just not understanding each other. Obstacles in communication can lead to frustration, hurt feelings, unresolved problems, and arguments.
- You’re not connecting in the bedroom. Some couples therapists specialize in helping you sort out your sexual differences.
- Life is happening to your relationship. Other issues like kids, health problems, substance use, work drama, or global pandemics may weigh on relationships.
- The old unfaithful. If one of you cheated, you may need help restoring trust.
Besides helping with the obvious problems, couples therapy can also provide the following:
- time together that’s focused solely on your relationship(s)
- effective communication skills to use down the line
- methods to handle conflict without hurting each other
- a stronger emotional connection
- more overall satisfaction with your relationship(s)
- prospective for the specific problems you and your partner(s) face
You don’t have to be married for many years to benefit from couples therapy. You don’t have to be married at all! New relationships need nurturing too.
Couples therapy is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Your therapy should be as unique as your relationship(s). Here are some of the most popular kinds of couples therapies to help you figure out the best fit.
The Gottman Method
The Gottman Method starts with assessments to help people develop a plan for therapy. The goal is to improve communication, increase intimacy, develop respect and affection, and create understanding in the relationship(s).
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago (it means “image” in Latin) digs into childhood experiences to help people resolve conflicts in their relationships. Understanding and empathy are the key skills used to stop negative relationship cycles.
You may not feel comfortable asking friends and family for therapy recommendations, but there are other sources for finding a good relationship therapist.
Tips for finding a therapist:
- Ask your healthcare provider or individual therapist for recommendations.
- Check with your insurance company for a list of covered providers.
- Dig into some online directories.
- Tap into Google to search for “couples therapy” + your location. You might also try “relationship counseling” or “sex therapy.”
Can you do couples therapy virtually? You can, and for now, you should! In the time of physical or social distancing, the need for therapy is still strong, and therapists are meeting that need safely and virtually.
In a research review of 25 articles on virtual mental healthcare (internet or telephone-based), researchers concluded that virtual or phone therapy is effective and comparable to in-person mental healthcare.
According to a small study, couples had a positive experience doing therapy via video chat.
What about the cost?
Therapy can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If your insurance covers couples therapy, take advantage of your good fortune and many blessings!
If you are paying out of pocket and money is tight, many therapists charge on a sliding scale depending on income. It never hurts to ask! Check out popular therapy apps to see if they offer relationship counseling. They are often less expensive than traditional therapy.
Once you determine your goals for seeking therapy for your relationship(s), the next step is research, research, and research. Start by reviewing mental health providers’ websites.
See what your prospective therapist is blogging about and what techniques they specialize in. Your comfort level will tell you a lot about which therapist may be right for you.
Ask for a short consultation with the ones that interest you. Treat it like a job interview and hire the one that can do the work you and your partner(s) need. Be honest about your relationship issues so you can gauge how the therapist responds.
Questions to ask a prospective therapist:
- What are your rates and do you accept my insurance?
- How many sessions will we need?
- Do you offer virtual sessions and how does that work?
- Do you specialize in working with LGBTQIA relationships?
- What are your licenses and certifications?
- What is your therapeutic style?
- What is a typical session like with you?
- How do you approach issues like ours?
- What training do you have with social justice issues and racism, working with sexually diverse or gender-expansive clients etc.?
Whether you’ve been together for months or years, couples therapy is an effective way to learn some relationship-building skills. Investigate the types of therapy offered and start looking at qualified therapists in your area.
Once you know what you need and what your priorities are, you can determine which therapist will work best for you.