When the relationship between you and your partner is in distress, it can be hard to know where to turn. You may have heard that there is no point to going to couples therapy because it “never works.” It is true that couples who go to therapy together often break up, but this is due to the fact that many couples wait until their marriage is already essentially over to try therapy. When couples counseling is properly structured and focuses on the correct goals, it can be very effective for restoring relationships. There are certain principles that should be present in any couples counseling session.


Couples counseling should seek to change the way couples view their relationships.

One goal of the therapist should be to teach the couple the skills necessary to view their relationship objectively. Instead of blaming each other for the problems in their partnership, each partner should be able to look at what happens when they argue, and how the context of their relationship affects them. For example, if they are struggling financially, they may find that money plays a factor into most of their arguments. By being able to look at the process of their disagreements objectively, couples will be able to see more clearly what is going on and reframe the conversation.

The therapist accomplishes this goal by first observing the way the couple interacts. Then, they determine a hypothesis as to why the couple interacts this way. From there, the therapist conveys this information to the couple in accordance with their speciality. For instance, a schema therapist would point out the schemas, or patterns of thought, behavior, and emotion, that contribute to the couple’s arguments. Regardless of the theoretical orientation of the therapist, the goal of the session should be to change the way the couple interacts.

Couples counseling should challenge and change dysfunctional behavior.

Another goal of the couples counselor should be to modify any dysfunctional behavior. If either partner is emotionally, physically, psychologically, or financially abusing their partner, the therapist must refer them to services that can help, such as a domestic violence shelter.

Couples counseling should encourage emotional awareness.

A common problem that occurs with couples is emotional avoidance. Instead of expressing their feelings, one or both partners will hide how they feel, and in turn, grow the emotional distance between them. An effective couples therapist will assist each partner in learning to identify, process, and express their emotions and thoughts. This in turn will give the couple the tools necessary to feel closer to each other.

Couples counseling should improve communication.

One of the major reasons marriages fail is a lack of clear communication. Effective couples therapists guide their patients to learn how to communicate in understanding and supportive ways. The therapist should educate the couple on what type of communication is most effective, and identify unhelpful patterns of communication. Skills the therapist should help couples develop include active listening and learning how to use “I” statements.

Couples counseling should build resilience in the relationship.

An effective couples therapist will help strengthen the relationship and make it resilient to future conflict. While couples therapy tends to focus on problems in the marriage, an effective couples counselor help the couple see the strengths of the relationship so they can see why they are putting the work into therapy.

With the right couples counseling, there is hope for your marriage. When you need couples counseling in Gaithersburg, MD, contact Kentlands Psychotherapy.