Everything You Need to Know About Couples Therapy

Published on: 20 Oct 2020
Clinically Reviewed by Bisma Anwar, LMHC
couples therapy

Updated 8/18/2023.

We all know romantic relationships are hard work. Like cars, they require regular maintenance to keep them running well. So if there is a problem, you want to have things repaired immediately to avoid further complications.

Often we can do some of the basic maintenance and repairs ourselves. Other times, behavioral therapy for couples with the help of a licensed professional may be the best for the relationship. Couples counseling focuses on improving relationship satisfaction and conflict resolution between couples. Whether through in-person or online couples therapy, the ultimate goal for a counselor is to help build a healthy relationship and solve any possible issues. 

What is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy). A licensed therapist with clinical experience — often a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) — works with couples in romantic relationships. 

Couples Therapy Online

Strengthen your relationship through couples therapy you can participate in together or apart, at your convenience.

“Couples therapy is where a professional assists in resolving problems, independent of how big or how small. Couples can develop habits that change over time and no longer work for them. Resolving the problems on their own feels insurmountable.”

Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC

During therapy, partners gain insight into their relationship, resolve conflict, and improve relationship satisfaction using various therapeutic interventions. Although behavioral relationship counseling techniques can vary depending on a therapist’s experience and the needs of the couple, most involve the following general elements:

  1. A focus on a specific problem (i.e., sexual difficulties, Internet addiction, intimacy, jealousy)
  2. Active participation as the couples therapist treats the relationship as one, rather than everyone separately
  3. Solution-focused, change-oriented interventions early on in treatment
  4. A clear establishment of objectives

Is couples therapy worth the time and effort? Studies show it is. Research conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family found that over 97% of surveyed couples believe they got the help they needed from couples therapy. In addition, 93% of couples said therapy gave them more effective tools for dealing with conflict.

What to Expect in Couples Therapy

Most couples come away from a therapy session with a greater understanding of their relational patterns and the necessary skills to effectively communicate and problem-solve with their partners. Not sure what to expect from therapy? We broke down the process for you.

Getting started

Typically, the first counseling session begins with standard interview questions about the relationship’s history. You’ll likely also deep dive into each partner’s family of origin, values, and cultural background. The therapist or marriage counselor might use the initial sessions for crisis intervention if necessary.

A therapist might also begin identifying any issues that will be a focus during treatment. This is an effective way to establish treatment goals and the structure for each counseling session.

Ongoing sessions

During treatment, your therapist will help you gain insight into the dynamics causing problems in your relationship. They’ll guide you and your partner to understand your roles in dysfunctional interactions. This greater insight into relationship issues and distress will help change how you perceive the relationship and each other.

Couples therapy exercises outside sessions

Although gaining insight is important, another critical aspect of couples therapy involves changing behaviors. Couples therapists will often assign partners homework so you can apply the skills you learn in treatment to your day-to-day interactions.

Benefits of Couples Therapy 

Couple therapy can be a powerful way to change the course of your relationship so both partners can be happy, fulfilled, and satisfied in the relationship. Other benefits of couples therapy include:

  • Improved communication skills: Learn how to communicate effectively in healthier ways. 
  • Strengthened bond: When your bond is strong, you feel like you’re part of a team. You can feel empowered and able to take on anything that comes your way with the support of your partner. 
  • Build (or rebuild) trust: Trust is essential to a healthy relationship. Whether it’s broken or you simply haven’t connected on the deep level you want to, emotionally focused therapy can help you build or regain trust in each other. 
  • Find a better relationship dynamic (in less time): Trying to “fix” things on your own can be frustrating, stressful, and often time-consuming. A therapist can help you improve your relationship in less time than it’ll take if you try to go through the process yourself. 

“In couples therapy, people can learn to communicate effectively, take ownership, reflect on what they bring to the relationship, and get closer for higher levels of intimacy.”

Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC

Types of Couples Therapy 

Several types of couples therapy techniques can help people searching for a better relationship.

Types of couples therapy

 Some of the more popular modalities include: 

  • Gottman method: The Gottman method helps you and your partner understand each other on a deeper level, even when there’s conflict. It focuses on problem-solving skills and intimacy. Done initially as a workshop, the Gottman method is now more common in private sessions. 
  • Imago relationship therapy (IRT): Imago therapy focuses on childhood experiences that might impact relationships you have as an adult.
  • Motivational interviewing: Using your motivation for change, motivational interviewing uses four principles to guide therapy sessions.
    • Resist righting reflex
    • Understand motivations
    • Listen while remaining empathetic
    • Empowerment

“Motivational interviewing is reflective listening, where the couple practices taking turns and listening intently.” – Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC

  • Solutions-focused therapy: Solutions-focused therapy can be a great tool when couples have an identified issue or conflict they want to resolve healthily. 

“Different components of brief solutions-focused therapy have tasks in order for couples to get on track rather quickly.” – Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC

Who Should Consider Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy can be beneficial for any relationship, including:

  • Straight or gay relationships
  • Interracial relationships
  • Young teen or college relationships
  • Relationships with a significant age gap
  • Relationships at any stage — dating, engaged, or married

For example, a recently engaged couple might find premarital counseling services an invaluable opportunity to address relationship expectations before marriage. Another couple, together 25 years, may discover marriage counseling as an effective way to regain a sense of excitement and romance in their relationship.

Therapy for couples can resolve a current problem, prevent problems from worsening, or provide a “check-up” for a happy couple experiencing a period of transition or increased stress. 

Common issues addressed in couples therapy include: 

  • Money
  • Parenting
  • Sex
  • Infidelity
  • In-laws
  • Friends
  • Chronic health issues
  • Infertility
  • Gambling
  • Past trauma
  • Substance use
  • Emotional distance
  • Frequent conflict

Why Do Couples Delay Receiving Therapy?

Too often, couples wait to try therapy until the relationship is severely damaged. This is not to say that couples therapy won’t be effective at a certain point. However, the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to repair a relationship. There are many reasons why people might put off getting therapy. For example, they may:

  • Have misconceptions about what couples therapy is 
  • Not understand the purpose or importance of seeking help early on
  • Believe couples therapy is only beneficial for severe issues such as infidelity or addiction
  • View it as a last-ditch effort before deciding to end the relationship
  • Be afraid of the therapist “taking sides”
  • Think it’s a way to force their partner to change because “they are the problem” 
  • Not truly understand the benefits couples therapy can offer in treating a wide variety of relational issues
  • Be unaware of how instrumental therapy can be in improving relationship satisfaction, something that can ultimately affect mental health

Online Couples Therapy vs. Traditional Couples Therapy

At Talkspace, we’re not just revolutionizing how therapists practice couples therapy. We’re also seeking to reduce the stigma of receiving couples counseling and make couples therapy more accessible and affordable.

Online couples therapy has several advantages when compared to traditional face-to-face therapy. The most obvious benefit is the convenience factor. Time saved by not traveling to and from appointments can be a huge plus. A comfort level also comes with relaxing in a safe space during sessions. Additionally, online therapy can be more flexible in terms of access. Because you don’t have to get to the therapist’s office, you can even dial in from separate locations and still have access to valuable, essential guidance.

The format also provides each partner the time and space to process responses and reflect on what they’ve heard rather than only focusing on what they’ll say next. Some people even find they can explain themselves better, allowing for more open and honest emotional expression. Talkspace couples therapists find the virtual format allows for productive conversations, often resulting in quick treatment progress.

Online couples therapy can be ideal for couples where one or both partners frequently travel or have very different schedules. It removes the barrier of needing to coordinate a time to attend couples therapy sessions together. Couples with children who have difficulty finding childcare can significantly benefit from the accessibility of Talkspace.

You might be wondering, “Does insurance cover therapy?” In-person couples therapy generally isn’t covered by insurance. As a result, it can be quite costly for many families after only a few sessions. Talkspace’s online couples therapy can be a much more affordable alternative and its couples therapy options are covered by insurance.

Get Started with Couples Therapy Through Talkspace

Couples therapy can be the game-changing difference you’ve been looking for in your relationship. Whether you’re seeking ways to overcome challenges in your marriage or relationship or just hoping to strengthen the bond with your partner, Talkspace can help. 

Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes getting couples therapy simple, affordable, and convenient. Our skilled and fully trained therapists are ready to help. Get started today. 


  1. About Marriage and Family Therapists. About marriage and family therapists. https://www.aamft.org/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists.aspx. Accessed October 23, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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