One of the many types of therapy offered is couples counseling. This may be an effective intervention for traditional marriages, as well as for dating relationships and same sex couples. Couples counseling is often preferred to individual therapy because having both members of the couple in the session may provide for a more direct and rapid intervention. Understandably, people are often reluctant to come for couples therapy, because of concerns that their relationship will be judged or the therapist will assign blame for the problems in the relationship. However, the purpose of couples counseling is not to figure out who is at fault, but rather to help the partners develop whatever skills they may need to forgive past pain and have a close, trusting and supportive relationship.
The work of couples therapy can take many different paths, depending on the types of problems the couple are experiencing, and the quality and developmental stage of the relationship. For example, a newly married couple may need assistance discussing expectations of marriage and learning to negotiate new living arrangements; another couple may be working to rebuild trust following an affair; while a longer term relationship may struggle to regain lost passion or excitement. There are some common elements found in most types of couples counseling, however. The therapist will work to create a safe setting for individuals to express their emotions. Sessions are not used for fighting, as if each person is presenting his or her side in a courtroom and the therapist is acting as judge and jury. Rather, sessions are used for resolution of problems. Problems in the marriage will be examined in new ways, to help couples understand what bad habits they bring from the past into their current relationship, and what new skills they can develop to produce a more satisfying relationship. These skills may include clear communication, emotional expression, listening, fighting fair, forgiveness, and conflict de-escalation. The emphasis is always on enhancing the friendship and mutual respect of the partners, as well as each person’s sense of self-esteem and control in the relationship.