Is it time for Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy is a well-known area in the field of psychology. However, it is often stigmatized and viewed as the last option to save a relationship. As such, couples often ask themselves if therapy is effective and worthwhile.
The good news is that research indicates that couples counseling can effectively improve a relationship's health. Benson (2021) noted that couples therapy results in positive changes for approximately 70% of couples when implemented empirically based strategies. Similarly, the Cleveland Clinic (2023) has found that couples therapy is effective for approximately 75% of couples. Benson (2021) also found that approximately 19% of couples choose to go to therapy at some point in their relationship. Furthermore, 37% of couples who do file for divorce report that they engaged in couples therapy.
Knowing that, generally speaking, couples therapy is beneficial, how do couples know when it is time to seek help? Benson (2021) suggests that the following should be considered “tell-tale” signs that it is time to seek help: increasing conflict, poor communication, emotional distance, feelings of loneliness, falling out of love, feeling unsupported, decreased sexual intimacy, affairs/infidelity, decreasing emotional intimacy, unfair divisions of labor, and financial stress. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list of reasons to seek therapy. Further, couples are encouraged to seek professional support for even “minor” concerns.
While the goals and outcomes of couples therapy will vary between couples, which can also contribute to hesitancy to seek help. However, there are some generalized themes and areas that couples can expect to experience improvement. McNeil (2023) states that couples can expect to reduce maladaptive communication patterns centered on criticizing, finding fault, and blaming their partner for conflict and/or the decline of the relationship. Similarly, the Cleveland Clinic (2023) notes that couples should expect to improve their emotional bond, increase cooperation between partners, and decrease relational stress.
While conflict is normal for even the healthiest and happiest of relationships, ongoing and critical arguments are usually a sign that it is time to seek professional help. However, it is important to consider that couples therapy is not just the last option to try and save a relationship. It can be helpful to assist couples in navigating difficult transitions, and decisions, or even to prevent future distress. No matter the reasons leading to initiating couples therapy, it is likely to benefit the health of the relationship over the longterm.
About the Author
Dr. Montes is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-owner of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Chesapeake, VA.
Benson, K. (2021, February 3). Is it time to go to couples counseling?. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/is-it-time-to-go-to-couples-counseling/
Cleveland Clinic. (2023, January 30). 5 signs you may need marriage counseling. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/marriage-counseling/
McNeil, D. (2023, February 2). What to expect when you go to couples therapy. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/what-to-expect-when-you-go-to-couples-therapy/