Relationship therapy is designed to help couples achieve happy, healthy relationships by improving their communication skills — and many couples agree that its benefits are well worth the effort. In fact, 70% of people who undergo couples therapy say that it positively impacts their relationships and well-being.
If your relationship has hit troubled waters, or you just want to strengthen its foundation, working with a licensed marriage and family therapist is an excellent option to consider.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the top benefits of couples therapy, how to find a good couples therapist, and tips for successful couples therapy sessions.
The benefits of couples therapy
Working with a therapist to resolve relationship issues can strengthen a relationship in numerous ways while also potentially eliminating stressors that are negatively impacting your mental health. If you are trying to decide if therapy is the right choice for you and your partner, here are a few of the benefits of couples therapy to keep in mind:
Offers a deeper understanding of your relationship
No two people are exactly the same, which means that every relationship is unique, as well. One major key to building a strong relationship is having a deep understanding of your partner and your relationship with them.
In the same way that a mechanic needs to know how an engine works before they can repair it, you need to understand your relationship — including its strengths and its weaknesses — before you can work to strengthen it.
A licensed professional can help you figure out these strengths and weaknesses along with all the other unique elements of your relationship in order to build a foundation of understanding and common ground between you and your partner.
Helps resolve relationship blockers
There are plenty of obstacles that can prevent couples from having a strong, healthy relationship. This includes common relationship blockers such as jealousy, silence, dismissiveness, and anger.
If left unaddressed, these relationship blockers will often become bigger and bigger problems in a relationship as time goes on. This is why relationship therapy often focuses on helping couples identify the obstacles in their relationship and employing evidence-based methods for eliminating relationship blockers.
Teaches strategic and effective coping skills
Like individual therapy, one emphasis of relationship therapy is to provide couples with the coping skills they need to handle issues on their own outside of therapy. Anger issues, for example, are one common issue that can cause problems in a relationship.
A therapist working with a couple whose relationship is impacted by anger issues will teach coping skills that can be used to deal with anger and other challenging emotions in a more positive way.
The strategic coping skills that couples therapy can often teach can provide couples with the tools they need to improve their relationships and themselves outside of therapy sessions. This enables couples to continue enjoying the benefits of couples therapy even after their time working with a therapist has concluded.
Improves communication skills
Without effective communication, there can be no understanding between partners — and this lack of understanding creates room for a range of relationship issues.
Couples therapists help couples communicate their feelings and concerns by guiding conversations between them and sometimes serving as a mediator to keep those conversations on track. A therapist will also work to improve a couple's communication skills and help them overcome communication issues so that they will be able to communicate effectively when they are on their own.
How to find a couples therapist
Mental health professionals who specialize in couples therapy are more widespread today than ever before. In fact, one in 10 U.S. couples who are living together currently attend couples therapy.
While the rising popularity of couples therapy has made this specialized type of therapy highly accessible, finding the ideal therapist for you and your partner can still often feel like a challenge. If you are looking for a therapist whose personality and methods are an ideal match for you and your partner, here are the best ways to begin your search:
1. Use an online therapy platform
One of the biggest reasons why couples therapy is more accessible today than it used to be is the rise of online therapy. Thanks to platforms that offer online therapy, such as SonderMind, couples have access to a wider range of therapists. Online therapy allows for more accessibility to therapy for couples.
With SonderMind, couples can also use advanced tools to find the ideal therapist for their preferences and needs. Based on your and your partner's responses to a short questionnaire, SonderMind will match you with an online or in-person therapist that is suited for you.
Thanks to the convenience, accessibility, and matching capabilities that online therapy platforms provide, these platforms are now one of the best resources available for finding the right couples therapist.
Match with a licensed therapist in as little as one to two days:
2. Get referrals from friends or family
Couples therapy has become much more common. If you are searching for the right couples therapist, getting referrals from friends and family members who have worked with a couples therapist before can be helpful.
Of course, anyone you talk to is likely only going to be able to offer feedback about one specific therapist. It’s important to remember that just because a therapist was or wasn’t a good fit for your friend doesn't mean the same will be true for you and your partner. However, talking with friends and family who have attended couples therapy before is still a great way to learn more about therapists in your area while also learning more about the process itself.
3. Always consider experience and check credentials
Any clinician practicing couples therapy should ideally have years of experience to showcase in addition to the proper training, education, and licensing.
Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT) are just one type of therapist that works with couples. LMFTs are required to earn a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in marriage and family therapy (or a related mental health field). They then must complete additional training programs and have supervised clinical experience before they can earn their certification.
Other types of therapists who work with couples include psychologists, licensed mental health counselors (LMHC), and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW).
Always check the specialties of any therapist that you are considering working with to make sure that they are experienced in working with couples. This will ensure that your therapist has the appropriate training and experience required to offer effective couples therapy services.
4. Check with your health insurer about coverage
Health insurance coverage for mental illness treatments, psychotherapy, and other mental health services has expanded significantly in recent years. However, couples therapy isn’t always covered by insurance, so it’s important to check with your specific health insurer to see if your plan covers couples therapy. Every plan is different, so it’s worthwhile to ask your insurer for a list of couples therapists in your plan’s network.
Tips for successful couples therapy
If you’re ready to work with a couples therapist, here are a few tips to help you and your partner get the most out of your sessions.
Clearly communicate your concerns
There are a lot of different reasons that couples might decide to seek couples therapy — from resolving trust issues to navigating major life changes to improving intimacy with sex therapy. During your first session with a couples therapist it’s important for both of you to communicate your goals and reasons for seeking therapy. This way, your therapist can align their recommendations to help achieve those goals.
Practice active listening and respect your partner's concerns
Active listening is a vital communication skill during therapy sessions and beyond. Active listening involves fully engaging with what your partner is telling you — without interruption or judgment — and actively seeking to understand what they’re saying.
Empathy is another key part of active listening. During couples therapy, you will need to respect the concerns that your partner communicates — even if you don't fully understand or agree with them. Trying to understand your partner's concerns and how to alleviate them is often an important part of couples therapy, and it begins with listening to those concerns.
Practicing active listening can help improve communication in your relationship even outside of therapy, but it’s especially important during couples therapy sessions. If therapy is going to be a safe space for you and your partner to share thoughts and concerns, then active listening, empathy, and respect are key.
Couples therapy can be especially beneficial when couples set specific goals that they hope to achieve from therapy. These goals can include improving communication, rebuilding trust, improving intimacy and emotional connection, or even strengthening parenting skills.
By determining the goals that you have for therapy and communicating those goals to your therapist, you can enjoy a therapy process designed to help you and your partner reach the goals that are most important to you both.
Practice what you learn
Most of the work involved with making couples therapy successful takes place outside a therapist's office. During couples therapy, your therapist will work to provide you and your partner with strategies and exercises that you can use to continue improving your relationship when you and your partner are alone. If you want to make the most of couples therapy, it’s essential for both partners to commit to practicing what they learn.
Be open and honest throughout sessions
Honesty is the most important ingredient for successful couples therapy. If you want therapy sessions to be beneficial, you must be open and honest with both your partner and your therapist. Honesty isn't always easy or comfortable, but the only way for issues to be fixed is if couples are open about what they are thinking and feeling.
A good therapist will work to create a space where you and your partner both feel as comfortable as possible being open and honest with one another. However, it will ultimately be up to you and your partner to ensure openness and honesty throughout therapy sessions.
Follow through after therapy
Couples therapy is a temporary process. But when couples commit to following through with what they learn during this process, it can have lasting benefits.
Over the course of couples therapy, you and your partner will learn a lot about each other, yourselves, and your relationship. You’ll also learn several communication strategies, coping methods, and other skills designed to improve your relationship. In both cases, this is the knowledge that you and your partner should commit to — even after the therapy process is over.
Find a couples therapist today with SonderMind
From helping resolve relationship issues to rekindling the romantic spark, couples therapy can provide a wealth of benefits to dating and married couples. If you and your partner would like to find a licensed marriage and family therapist that is ideally suited for the two of you, SonderMind can help.
At SonderMind, we work to match couples with therapists whose experience, personality, and approach are the right fit for them. To match with an online or in-person couples therapist that is the ideal fit for you and your partner, get started with SonderMind today.