March 11, 2024

9 Frequently Asked Questions about Couples Therapy

Starting couples therapy can feel intimidating and stressful at the same time. Most couples wait way too long before beginning therapy. Why do we delay seeking help, and what is getting in the way of making our relationship better? Answering this question is complex because the hesitation varies between couples. In this blog post, we compiled a list of frequently asked questions that will help you determine if couples counseling is right for you. 


As mentioned earlier, the word “therapy” can seem intimidating, but at its core, couples therapy is simply a safe space where you and your partner can communicate more effectively under the guidance of a professional. In a supportive environment, therapists aim to create a balance wherein neither partner feels sidelined or overpowered. The main aim of couples therapy is to increase mutual understandingfondness, and hope for the future. Let’s dive into the common questions asked frequently. 

1) What is the Purpose of Couples Therapy?

Imagine couples therapy as a toolbox; inside, you’ll find many tools, such as conflict resolution techniques, empathy building, and active listening skills. Its purpose is to equip you and your partner with these tools so you can better understand each other’s needs and develop strategies for a harmonious life together. Not only does it seek to resolve immediate issues but also to fortify the relationship for the long term.


Couples bonding over a cup of coffee

2) What Is the Most Effective Form of Couples Therapy?

There are numerous approaches to couples therapy, from the structured techniques of the Gottman Method to the Emotionally Focused Therapy popularized by Dr. Sue Johnson. Therapists also incorporate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tools and Family Systems to explore family dynamics and upbringing. Each method has unique strategies, depending on whether you need more emotional support or seek something more evidence-based. A therapist who offers relationship therapy is trained in the mentioned methods, and it is helpful to ask before starting therapy.

3) How Long Do Most Couples Go to Therapy?

The duration of therapy can vary significantly based on the complexity of the issues at hand. Some couples find what they need in just a few sessions, while others benefit from long-term support. The point of reference remains the same progress toward a healthier relationship. 


Several factors may increase the length of couples’ therapy. For instance, the presence of infidelitylack of responsibilitylack of self-awareness, and explosive communication patterns can take time to break the pattern. The presence of opennessunderstanding, and empathy tends to increase the couple’s progress in therapy. 

Couples Therapy

4) Is Couples Therapy the End of a Relationship?

Sometimes, seeking couples therapy can seem like a last-ditch effort to salvage a sinking ship. Yet, it’s crucial to perceive it as an opportunity to reinvent your partnership, not as an admission of its failure. Many couples emerge from therapy with a renewed sense of purpose and love for each other.


The effectiveness of couples therapy lies in the intention of couples coming to therapy. Are both partner willing to work on their relationship? Are they willing to compromise? Are they curious about the needs of their partner? Do they seek to understand and be understood? For example, criticismcontemptdefensiveness, and stonewalling can significantly hurt the relationship. According to John Gottman, the presence of contempt can predict the future of the relationship ending in a breakup or divorce. Therefore, couples willing to make it work have a better chance of reenergizing their relationship with couples therapy.   

5) Why Do Some Couples Wait Way Too Long to Come to Therapy?

For some couples, the stigma surrounding couples therapy leads to postponed seeking help. Sometimes, couples perceive seeking help as a sign that their relationship is unsalvageable. This is far from the truth. Seeking help shows that you are invested in your relationship and willing to put in the effort to make it flourish. Moreover, couples may feel embarrassed or vulnerable discussing their issues with strangers. 


Another common reason for delaying therapy is the belief that couples should be able to resolve their problems on their own. While it’s true that communication and problem-solving skills are essential in a relationship, therapy provides a safe and neutral space for couples to explore underlying issues without judgment or bias. It also offers guidance from an experienced professional who can provide new perspectives and tools for effective communication.

6) Can Couples Therapy Make Things Worse?

It’s a common fear—one that often dissolves in the practicality of the therapy itself. While therapy may bring up uncomfortable truths, the process usually leads to resolution and understanding between couples. The goal of therapy is never to make things worse but rather to identify and address issues constructively. Couples who attend therapy report improved communication, a better understanding of each other’s needs, and a stronger bond.


It is important to note that the presence of ongoing dishonestyactive substance abuse, and domestic violence can make couples therapy difficult. Often, these factors make things worse for the couples.  

7) Are There Instances That Couples Therapy Is Not Helpful?

Of course, couples therapy doesn’t hold all the answers. As we mentioned earlier, in cases of severe abuse, ongoing dishonesty, active substance abuse, or when one partner is uncommitted to the process, therapy can be challenging. Consider asking yourself the following questions to determine if couples therapy can help your relationship. 


  • Am I willing to listen and communicate effectively?
  • Am I open to addressing my shortcomings and taking responsibility for my actions?
  • Do I have the intention of understanding and being understood by my partner?
  • Am I committed to putting in effort and making changes to improve our relationship?

Couples therapy can be a great resource, but it also requires commitment and effort from both partners. It’s essential to be honest with yourself and your partner about your willingness to work on the relationship before starting therapy. 


Couple going for a walk in nature

8) How to Find a Couples Therapist?

A reliable starting point is through recommendations from friends, family, or medical professionals. Researching online directories and reading therapist biographies and reviews can also provide insight into whether a particular therapist might be a good match for you. 


Consider asking if the therapist offers couples therapy during an intake call. Not all therapists are comfortable offering couples therapy, and you do not want to be the experimental case for them. You may also ask if they use  Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Gottman MethodCognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Family Systems in their treatment approach.  

9) Couples Therapy with Panahi Counseling

If you live in Illinois, Panahi Counseling offers couples therapy. Our clinicians working with couples provide treatment that is accessible and affordable through the use of your health insurance. We understand that life is busy, and our Telehealth service allows you to join your session from the comfort of your home. 


At Panahi Counseling, our goal is to empower couples to celebrate each other’s unique qualities and find growth in effective communication and conflict resolution. 

Final Words

Couples therapy, at its heart, is about building a bridge that can carry the weight of two individuals walking the same path, supporting each other, and collectively reaching the other side. It’s not always easy, but for many, it has been the difference between a relationship that survives and one that thrives. If you’ve been considering therapy, I encourage you to take the first step. Your partnership and, by extension, you deserve to explore the healing and growth that couples therapy can bring.

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