If you have been married for a long time, you’re probably familiar with the idea that marriage is hard work. It can be challenging to communicate your needs and even more challenging to meet them. Or, maybe you’ve just been in the relationship game for a couple of years. Either way, you may be experiencing trouble communicating your wants and needs as a couple. You might consider relationship counseling with a therapist before things escalate if this is the case.
Relationship counseling has been around for ages. Today, it is considered one of the most potent and effective therapy for couples. So, if you have thought about what relationship counseling is or considered it, but are wondering what exactly it is, then you’re in the right place. In this article, let’s learn everything you need to know about relationship counseling.
What Is Relationship Counseling?
Relationship counseling is a process where one or more professional counselors help individuals, couples, families, and groups to improve their relationships. In therapy, clients can improve their communication skills, resolve conflict and develop healthier ways of interacting with their partners. Relationship counseling also works well for couples who have chosen to see a therapist to improve their relationship, not in crisis.
It can address depression, anxiety, sexual problems, and various personal issues in the relationship. In addition to helping couples discover areas where they may need marital help, this kind of counseling, can also help individuals learn how to deal with relationship problems created before the couple was together.
In short, relationship counselors help guide partners through the steps needed to make their relationship healthy again. Day by day, the session hopes to improve communication skills, empathy, self-knowledge, and mutual respect’s needs and expectations.
When Do You Need Relationship Counseling?
Whether you’re just dating, engaged, or married, there are many reasons to seek relationship counseling. When do you know it’s time? Here are four signs that say it may be time to get outside help with your relationship:
- You and your partner can’t agree on the direction of your relationship. If one of you wants to break up and the other wants to work things out, you might want to consider a third-party opinion.
- Something happens that brings underlying issues in your relationship to light. Maybe one of you cheats or says something hurtful, which can be a good reason for couples counseling, depending on the circumstances.
- You start having problems with communication and intimacy. This is a big sign that things aren’t going well and may require more than a few talking sessions to fix.
- Either of you has a severe mental illness like depression or anxiety that affects your ability to function in a healthy relationship. If either of you is dealing with a mental health issue, it’s time to talk with a professional counselor about handling this challenging situation.
- You’re having trouble communicating with each other. If you’re feeling frustrated because you can’t seem to get through to one another, then it might be time for some help from an expert with the experience and resources needed to get the two of you to communicate better.
When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to assume everything is fine. If you’re having problems communicating with your spouse, it might be time to see a relationship counselor. As mentioned, a therapist can help you improve communication and develop strong relationship skills.
Premarital Relationship Counseling
A common misconception about relationship counseling is it is only meant when things go wrong. It can be easy to think of counseling as a last resort. And while there are many cases where couples go to counseling only after experiencing significant problems in their relationship, this type of counseling can also be used proactively before marriage.
Couples that seek relationship counseling even before they begin experiencing serious problems can lay a solid foundation for their relationship and become better communicators and partners. For example, many counselors suggest that couples attend pre-marriage counseling sessions before tying the knot.
These sessions can help couples develop communication skills, learn how to resolve conflicts, and identify potential problems that could impact the quality of their marriage. This proactive approach can help couples set healthy boundaries from the beginning. Hence, they never feel like they have to go to counseling because their relationship has become unhealthy or abusive.
Benefits of Premarital Counseling
Premarital counseling can be beneficial to couples who are considering marriage. It can help people assess their compatibility and change how they communicate and problem-solve if necessary. It can be an excellent way to start a marriage on the right foot. Studies have shown that couples who take the time to participate in counseling programs before getting married have happier marriages than those who do not.
Here are some of the relationship issues that might be addressed during premarital counseling:
Effective communication is a cornerstone of any healthy relationship. Couples may discuss how they handle conflict, what techniques they use to resolve disagreements, and how they can better listen to each other’s needs and wants in conversation.
Couples should feel confident about their ability to manage finances together. Premarital counseling sessions may address how each person manages money and their views on spending and budgeting.
Family values and individual goals.
A couple should have similar family goals and visions for their life together after marriage. Before tying the knot, premarital counseling allows couples to explore these values and goals.
Premarital counseling can also allow couples to talk about sexual history, expectations, and desires to build trust and intimacy with each other. This session might include information about birth control methods, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual abuse.
Briefly, the most common issues that premarital counselors address include:
- Discussing your expectations for the relationship’s health in the short-term and long-term.
- Exploring your dreams for the future together, including your hopes and fears.
- Learning more about what it means to share finances and communicate more effectively with your partner.
- Discussing how religion may affect your relationship.
- Practicing compassionate confrontation skills.
- Acknowledging that disagreements will occur as part of a healthy relationship, learning how to resolve them constructively, so they don’t become arguments or bitter battles.
- Understanding that communication is key to building a solid relationship. The more you can talk openly with each other, the better you will resolve conflict and problems as they arise in your marriage.
Premarital counseling allows couples to discuss and resolve relationship issues before they become a source of conflict in marriage.
How to Find a Relationship Counselor/Therapist?
Finding a relationship therapist can be stressful, but the process doesn’t have to be. You can go through finding a therapist in general and then specifically ask if they have experience with relationships or are a good fit for you. In most cases, professionals with a designation, such as a clinical psychologist, licensed counselor, and licensed clinical social counselor, can help you. You could also look for therapists that specialize in couples counseling. You can also ask friends and family for recommendations.
The most important thing you want to do when deciding on a therapist is to make sure that you and your partner feel comfortable with the therapist and that they are the right fit for both of you, individually and as a couple.
Ensuring that both partners agree on the same therapist is critical because it will help ensure both partners feel comfortable and open up during sessions. If only one partner feels comfortable with the therapist, they won’t be able to open up as much in sessions, making them less effective at helping you resolve your issues.
Choosing a relationship counselor/therapist who is a good fit for you is essential. Here are some questions to ask that will help you while deciding on the therapist:
- How long has the therapist been in practice? A new therapist may not have the experience you want. On the other hand, a therapist who has practiced for many years may be more set in their ways and unwilling to try new methods.
- What kind of training and experience does the therapist have? Are they certified by a professional organization?
- How will you be charged for sessions? Some therapists charge by the session, while others charge a flat fee for an agreed-upon number of sessions, regardless of how many sessions occur.
- Is there anything that would prevent you from working well with this therapist?
Should You Try Online Relationship Counseling?
Sometimes it’s challenging to carve out the time to see a counselor together when you’re both working long hours and balancing family responsibilities. This can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless. Online counseling is an excellent alternative for couples because it allows you to discuss issues without worrying about scheduling time off from work or child care.
There are many reasons why you might want to try online relationship counseling:
- Relocation – if you need to move miles away, having an online therapist means you can continue treatment without interruption.
- Lack of childcare – online counselors are available whenever needed, meaning that sessions can be held at your convenience.
- Time – online counseling saves time because sessions are scheduled around your schedule.
- Shame or embarrassment – if talking about your personal life and feelings makes you uncomfortable, an online therapist can allow you to discuss your problems in a safe environment.
- Sensitive issues – sometimes, it is difficult to discuss specific problems in person due to cultural or religious reasons. Online counseling can provide a platform for people from all backgrounds to discuss their issues while finding unique solutions.
Online relationship counseling is a form of virtual treatment for your relationship problems that are becoming more popular each year, especially with today’s technology that allows you to connect virtually from anywhere on the planet via your computer or mobile device. It offers individuals access to a therapist who can help them solve their relationship problems from anywhere, even if they cannot afford traditional face-to-face therapy sessions or live in a remote area where no qualified therapists are available.
What Can You Expect From Relationship Counseling?
In a few words, relationship counseling aims to help you become aware of how your behavior affects others. You learn how to interact with your partner in a respectful and supportive way rather than defensive and blaming. Your counselor may also help you become more aware of which beliefs and attitudes contribute to your relationship’s difficulties.
Treatment for couples can take many forms. But whatever form it takes, counseling will probably include some combination of:
The counselor will help you identify problems in your relationship and understand how they developed. This exploration might include looking at family histories and current events, such as stress at work or financial difficulties. You can use this information to understand each other’s needs, beliefs, and attitudes better.
Counseling techniques vary widely depending on the counselor’s education and training. Some methods are directed toward helping both partners communicate more clearly and effectively. In contrast, others focus on changing negative patterns of interaction between the two of you (such as fighting over money or criticizing each other). These strategies should help you develop a clearer sense of what kind of relationship you want together — one that meets your needs and respects your partner — and then find ways to get there.
When you arrive for your first session, it’s a good idea to bring some personal information, such as a list of symptoms you’ve noticed and any concerns about your marriage and relationships. Your therapist will likely ask about any problems or concerns bothering you in the relationship.
They will also want to know more about each partner’s family and upbringing, how the two of you met, what your relationship is like now, and how it got to where it is. In some cases, therapists also invite couples to do exercises during sessions, such as playing word games or simply talking about their feelings toward each other.
The therapist may also want to meet with both partners individually before meeting with them, allowing them to learn more about each person’s thoughts on the relationship. In addition, many therapists prefer to meet with just one partner because they find it easier to establish a therapeutic relationship with one person rather than two.
There are no set rules on how relationship counseling should be conducted. The process is tailored to meet the needs of each couple. Some couples prefer individual sessions, while others do better with joint sessions. Whether you and your partner like to sit side by side, next to each other, or in separate chairs depends on what makes you feel comfortable.
A counselor is less concerned about how you interact with each other during the session than he is about the overall state of your relationship. He may ask the two of you to take turns talking about specific topics and pay attention to how your partner responds.
A counselor’s role is to help you communicate your feelings and concerns without blaming or attacking your partner, who will do the same in return. Suppose a counselor observes that one partner holds all the power in a conversation or is unresponsive to the other person’s words. In that case, he may call that out as a red flag and suggest ways to communicate better.
How to Make Relationship Counseling Effective?
Relationship counseling is an essential step toward personal growth and development. It helps people improve their relationships with their family, friends, spouses, and children. Here are some guidelines to make the process work:
- A relationship counselor should be impartial and not involved in the relationship between two people. The counselor should provide objective feedback and advice regarding the relationship.
- The two people should share a common goal of improving their relationship. They should have a shared vision for the future of their relationship.
- Agreements about the problems that require intervention should be made before starting the counseling process.
- The focus of the counseling sessions should be on solutions rather than assigning blame or attacking one another’s character.
- There should be a sense of trust and openness between both parties to express themselves without fear or embarrassment, enabling them to resolve issues more efficiently.
- Both parties should agree to accept responsibility for any problems in their relationship and work together towards finding solutions rather than blaming one another or looking for alibis or excuses to avoid taking responsibility for them.
- Both parties must practice practical communication skills to resolve conflicts effectively during counseling sessions.
In short, effective counseling is not about finding a magic solution to your problems. Instead, it’s about learning to communicate better and respect each other’s feelings and opinions.
What to Do When Your Partner Refuses Relationship Counseling?
When your partner refuses to go to relationship counseling, it’s natural to feel frustrated and disappointed. But the most effective way to deal with this situation is not to pressure your partner into going but focus on yourself and take steps toward improving your own life.
Trying to persuade your partner to change their behavior isn’t likely to work. Your partner will almost certainly continue behaving as they have been, even if you try arguing. And if you can get your partner into therapy, there is a good chance they will suit going after a few sessions. If you try forcing your partner into therapy without their agreement or cooperation, you set yourself up for failure and frustration.
Your best chance for success lies in focusing on yourself and becoming a better version of yourself. When you do this, your partner will be more likely to notice how much happier you are and start feeling some of the positive effects of those changes themselves by becoming the kind of person you want your partner.
In conclusion, a strong relationship is one of the most precious things many people have in their lives. If you or someone you know are in an unhealthy or toxic relationship, it may be best to seek the help of a relationship counselor. They can help you in numerous ways to help you deal with your situation and develop a healthy way to proceed going forward. Remember, having professional advice from a relationship counselor is entirely accessible.
- Schofield, M. J., Mumford, N., Jurkovic, D., Jurkovic, I., & Bickerdike, A. (2012). Short and long-term effectiveness of couple counselling: A study protocol. BMC Public Health, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-735
- Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. (2014, October 17). Couples Therapy for Adults Experiencing Relationship Distress: A Review of the Clinical Evidence and Guidelines [Internet]. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK253328/