What is couples therapy?

​What used to be called marriage guidance is now called couples therapy and open to any gender or sexuality. The aim of couples therapy is to resolve problems and find better ways of communication between a couple. Although the couples therapist might see one or other of the couple alone during the therapy period, it is generally a service for couples to undertake together.

Short-term counselling may be for between one and three sessions whereas long-term couples therapy may be for between 12 and 24 sessions. Couples therapy is more about seemingly intractable problems within a relationship history, where the aim is to deal with damaging emotions and long-standing ways of relating. Clients may be given homework or tasks, such as conversation topics, to complete between regular sessions.

While many therapists will agree to see couples, actual couples therapists have been specifically trained in working with this dynamic. It is an unusual balance, where the therapist must be trusted by both members of the couple. If looking for a couples therapist, check their training or membership of the relevant organisations below.

Who benefits from couples therapy?

Couples therapy is often perceived as difficult and embarrassing for clients, but having a neutral person assess the situation and give advice on how it could change can be enormously helpful to a couple. People decide to seek counselling for a number of reasons; there may be a change in their situation, such as a betrayal, loss of job, birth of a child, bereavement, that has unsettled them. For others, long-term differences may have come to a head, and they may be considering separation or divorce.   

Relevant organisations




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Last updated on September 10 2015