What Are the Different Types of Couples Counseling

Relationships, no matter how strong they may seem at the beginning, can sometimes hit a rough patch. Couples counseling is a way to seek professional help when you and your partner are facing difficulties in your relationship. It is a safe space where you both can communicate and work on resolving conflicts together.

Today, we will go over what couples counseling is and the various types of couples counseling available today. From the Gottman method to Imago Relationship Therapy, we will explore each type in detail so that you can choose the one that fits best for you and your partner.

We will also discuss the factors that need to be considered before choosing a couples counselor. Lastly, we will touch upon the benefits and effectiveness of couples counseling and how you can prepare for it to make the most out of every session.

What Is Couples Counseling

Couples counseling is a type of therapy designed to help couples work through their problems and improve their relationship. During sessions, a licensed therapist will guide the couple through conversations aimed at identifying and resolving underlying issues. This can range from communication problems to infidelity, trust issues, or even differences in parenting styles.

According to the American Psychological Association, Counseling for partnerships concentrate on difficulties such as role distribution, shared outlooks for the future, and unions. Couple counseling can be short-term and problem-oriented, as it can consist of several different approaches to such problems as company responsibilities, wishes for the future, and ties.

The goal of couples counseling is to help the couple develop better communication skills, gain insight into each other’s perspectives, and find solutions to their problems.

Types of Couples Counseling

Types of Couples Counseling

When it comes to couples counseling, there are several different approaches that therapists may use.

1. The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method of Couple Therapy is a highly effective approach to helping couples create a deeper understanding of each other, even during times of conflict in their relationship. This approach is based on the research of Doctor John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, who have spent over four decades studying couples and their interactions.

The primary goal of the Gottman Method is to help couples develop specific problem-solving skills that enhance intimacy and friendship between partners. This is achieved through a variety of techniques that focus on building a strong foundation of trust, understanding, and empathy.

Traditionally, the Gottman Method utilizes live workshops and homework in the form of take-home training materials to help couples develop these skills. However, many therapists have adapted these techniques for use in a private setting during therapy sessions.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that targets an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is a goal-oriented and structured approach that aims to help individuals recognize negative patterns of thinking and behavior that contribute to their emotional and psychological difficulties.

Research has suggested that CBT can assist a diverse range of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. It is a short-term treatment that typically lasts between 12-20 sessions.

In addition to treating individuals, CBT can also be effective in improving relationships, especially for couples. The therapy works by identifying the thoughts of each partner during conflicts and addressing the underlying reasons for their behavior.

The goal of CBT for couples is to challenge each partner’s beliefs, promote better communication, and develop conflict resolution skills. By examining how each partner thinks, they can better address their behavior and the “why” behind their actions. This approach can help couples build stronger and healthier relationships.

3. Discernment Counseling

Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is a short-term restorative procedure that can help couples that are contemplating divorce make an informed decision about the future of their marriage. This type of counseling is usually conducted by marriage and family therapists who have specialized training and experience in working with couples in crisis.

Discernment counseling typically involves only a few sessions, ranging from one to five, depending on the couple’s needs and goals. The therapy sessions are focused on helping the couple clarify their thoughts and feelings about their marriage and explore whether divorce is the best option for them. The therapist encourages both partners to express their concerns, fears and hopes for the future of their relationship.

At the conclusion of therapy, the couple may decide whether to get a divorce after therapy or continue on to six months of marriage counseling. If the couple decides to pursue marriage counseling, they will work with the therapist to address the underlying issues in their relationship and develop strategies to improve their communication and strengthen their bond.

4. Emotion-focused Couples Therapy (EFCT)

The primary goal of EFCT is to create a secure emotional bond between the partners, which is essential for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Through the therapy process, couples learn to identify their emotions and express them in a safe and constructive manner.

One of the key features of EFCT is the identification of negative patterns in the relationship that create a disconnect between the partners. These patterns can be caused by a variety of factors, such as unresolved conflicts, past traumas, or communication difficulties. By identifying and addressing these patterns, couples can begin to heal and bond in a more positive way.

The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes EFCT as an effective therapy for couples. Research has shown that EFCT can help about 75% of couples who use it. EFCT has also been found to be effective for couples dealing with a variety of issues, including infidelity, depression, and anxiety.

5. Solution-focused therapy

Solution-focused therapy is a brief and goal-oriented form of therapy that helps individuals and couples identify their strengths and resources to find solutions to specific problems they are facing. This approach is particularly effective for couples who have a single problem they want to address in their relationship.

In addition, this approach is often short-term, making it a more affordable option for couples who may be working within a budget. Overall, solution-focused therapy can offer couples a practical and goal-oriented approach to improving their relationship.

6. Narrative therapy

Narrative therapy is a therapeutic technique that focuses on the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and relationships. In this approach, couples are encouraged to describe their relationship problems in narrative form and then rewrite those stories in a way that is more empowering and positive.

The aim of narrative therapy is to help couples see that there is not just one single story that can fully capture the complexity of their experience together. By examining their stories from multiple perspectives, couples can gain a better understanding of their relationship dynamics and begin to create new narratives that are more reflective of their shared goals and aspirations.

7. Imago relationship therapy

The Imago therapy is designed to help couples understand how their childhood experiences impact their current adult relationships. Often, past traumas and unresolved emotions can cause difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

IRT uses a process of “mirroring” and “validating” between partners to help them become more aware of their own emotional triggers and to communicate more effectively with each other.

This process can help individuals gain a deeper understanding of their own behavior patterns and emotional responses in relationships and, in turn, develop more empathy and understanding toward their partner’s behavior.

How to Prepare for Couples Counseling

Preparing for couples counseling is an important step toward improving your relationship with your partner.

First, it’s essential to discuss what you hope to achieve from therapy with your partner. This communication will help both of you identify the key issues that need addressing in the sessions. To get the most out of counseling, be open and honest with your therapist about your relationship challenges.

Active participation is also necessary, including listening and communicating effectively. Couples counseling may involve exploring difficult emotions and past experiences. Remember that it is a collaborative effort between you, your partner, and the therapist to overcome these challenges and build a stronger relationship together.


Is there a difference between short-term versus long-term couples therapy, or should I try both to see which works best for us?

There is definitely a difference between short-term and long-term couples therapy, and which one you choose may depend on your specific needs and goals. Short-term therapy typically involves a set number of sessions (usually around 8-12) and is focused on addressing specific issues or problems in the relationship, such as communication difficulties or conflict resolution.

Long-term therapy, on the other hand, may continue for several months or even years and is often more exploratory in nature, delving into deeper emotional issues or patterns that may be contributing to relationship challenges.

If you are unsure which type of therapy would be best for your situation, it may be helpful to speak with a therapist who specializes in couples counseling. They can help you assess your needs and goals and determine which approach might work best for you. Ultimately, the most important factor in any type of therapy is finding a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who can provide the support and guidance you need to strengthen your relationship.


Couples counseling can be a powerful tool to help you and your partner navigate relationship challenges. There are several types of couples counseling, each with its own approach and focus. It’s important to consider your goals for therapy, your budget, and the specific issues you’re facing when choosing a type of counseling.

With the right counselor and approach, couples counseling can be highly effective in improving communication, deepening intimacy, and resolving conflicts. To prepare for couples counseling, be open to the process, willing to listen, and communicate honestly with your partner.

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