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A couples counselor can help people who are in committed relationships, whether married or not, improve the strength and happiness of a relationship and increase understanding and communication. In some cases, couples counseling helps one or both members of a couple make the difficult decision to end the relationship.

Although most people only consider couples counseling once already having serious relationship difficulties, couples counselors can also help people in healthy relationships get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of an already solid foundation, and in some cases, couples counselors can also help people who are thinking of increasing their commitment to a relationship (marriage, for example) make smart decisions about the future.

Couples counseling is also sometimes called couples therapy, relationship counseling or therapy or marriage counseling or therapy.

Why Get Couples Counseling?

Some of the reasons why people choose to get couples counseling include:

  • To receive outside help in resolving relationship problems (infidelity, financial problems, parenting issues, lack of communication and many others)
  • To get help with sexual problems (problems with intimacy, libido, etc.)
  • To enrich an already fulfilling relationship
  • When considering marriage, or in preparation for married life
  • To help facilitate the difficult experiences of trial separations, separations or divorce1

Where Do You Get Couples Counseling?

Masters or doctoral level clinical social workers or counselors trained in couples counseling provide this type of therapy. Some of these counselors may be members of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). For membership in this association, counselors must have a minimum of a master’s degree in a related field and a least 2 years of clinical experience. 2

How Long Does Couples Counseling Take?

According to the AAMFT, a typical marriage counseling intervention occurs over an average of 11 sessions. These sessions may involve both members of the relationship, or sometimes only one member.

Marriage therapy is rarely ‘open ended’. Typically a marriage counselor helps a couple to define goals for treatment and then works quickly towards the fulfillment of these goals. People go to a marriage therapist to solve a relationship problem and so the work of therapy is focused on bettering this problem. 3

Does My Partner Need to Agree to Participate?

Although the participation in counseling of both members of a couple is preferable and demonstrates the resolve that both people feel about bettering the situation, couples counseling can be effective even when only one member of the relationship participates.

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Page last updated Jun 25, 2011

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