Inclusive Couples’ Therapy and Relationship Counseling
Relationship counseling can sound intimidating, but it’s something even healthy couples use to strengthen their relationship and improve communication. What is relationship counseling, and how do you know if it’s right for you?
What is relationship counseling?
Relationship therapy can take many forms. Essentially, it is a safe space for partners to talk about and explore their behavior and how it can affect the other person and the relationship.
Commonly known as couples therapy, relationship counseling is when a licensed therapist works with couples and couples’ issues. The therapist can help talk through a variety of issues and relationship obstacles. Those can include physical and psychological problems or anything that can affect the couple as a unit. This can include conflicts, happiness in the relationship, sexual issues, substance abuse, grief, eating disorders, child behavioral problems, and broader family issues.
Counselors are trained to work with a wide range of intimate relationships, which may or may not be in crisis mode. Relationship counseling can be preventative. Therapy before marriage or the birth of a new child can help strengthen bonds and prevent major tension from occurring. Relationship therapy can reveal underlying issues, past trauma, or help each person prepare for upcoming challenges.
Which therapists offer relationship counseling?
Successful therapy often starts with identifying the right kind of therapist for your situation. Not every therapist specializes in marriage, relationship therapy, or divorce counseling, but any licensed therapist can offer relationship therapy.
Licensed marriage and family therapists
Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT) are mental health clinicians with a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy (or a related field). They also complete hours of supervised clinical experience as required by each state. Licensed therapists must also pass a state or national licensing exam before practicing independently.
Counselors, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other therapists
Many licensed social workers, psychologists, and counselors are all trained to provide relationship counseling. Each therapist’s experience with will differ, so take time to review their profile and ask questions.
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Who should consider relationship counseling?
Many couples can benefit in some way from relationship counseling. New parents may seek therapy to help prepare for raising a child. Many couples seek counseling when they find themselves fighting or feeling resentment. Others use it to support life transitions, such as getting married, ending a relationship, or navigating coparenting. Therapists can also specialize in relationships and issues in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Relationship counseling can help improve any stage of a relationship. It also allows couples to direct their energies and frustrations in a productive way. Some healthy couples just want to work on communication and conflict resolution, which a professional can assist with.
What to expect in relationship counseling
Couples heading into their first therapy session should expect an adjustment period. A therapist will take time to get to know both partners. Sometimes, a therapist may ask to speak to each member separately.
Once the therapist understands the history, details, and challenges of the relationship, they may help the couple set some goals for what they want to accomplish with therapy.
Finding a couples’ therapist
Finding the right therapist can involve some work, as each member wants to find someone they feel comfortable talking to. Couples should also consider if they need a therapist with specific training on a particular issues, such as substance use or depression.
Friends and family members will likely recommendations to help you start your search. Therapists should have an online profile detailing their areas of focus and experience. Narrowing down the list by filtering for specialties, background, and accepted insurances can help when looking for the right therapist.
Can my regular therapist also be my relationship therapist?
A couples’ therapist can fulfill many roles and address a wide range of issues that can affect a relationship. For that reason, a couples’ therapist is usually different from a patient’s regular therapist. This can also help avoid conflicts of interests, reduce the chances a therapist will take one person’s side, and preserve patient confidentiality. While a couples’ therapist might meet separately with each partner, this is not the same as individual therapy.
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