Couple counseling is a type of therapy in which both partners consult with the same counselor at the same time. The intent of couple counseling is to resolve problems in the relationship, which can sometimes include an addiction or substance problem that one or both partners have. Couples counseling can also be used for other topics and is particularly helpful when couples have conflicts or are thinking about a separation. Therapy is designed to improve the relationship even if the couple still opts for a separation or divorce.
What is involved in couple counseling?
This type of treatment involves both partners in an intimate relationship entering into a therapeutic relationship with a trained counselor during sessions of about an hour that they attend together, usually about once a week for several months. First, the couple must make an appointment with the counselor to talk about what brought them to treatment, what their hopes and goals are for the therapy, and whether both partners and the counselor want to continue working on the therapy together.
In this case, the counselor will help the couple identify goals for future meetings. Both partners have the opportunity to communicate their point of view and the counselor provides feedback and sometimes homework for the couple to do between sessions. This could be practicing a certain type of communication, or taking or resisting certain measures that were the cause of trouble.
What if we don’t like the therapist?
Sometimes one or both partners choose not to go into couple counseling. There can be several reasons for this. Sometimes the background or worldview differences between the counselor and the couple are too great for the couple to feel that they are really understood by the counselor. At other times, one partner likes the counselor while the other feels less enthusiastic. While couples counseling can be effective even when there is an imbalance in motivation between the two partners, when a person feels blamed and plays the role of a “bad partner”, couple counseling can feel more punishment than treatment to them and make it difficult to get any benefit from the process.
Sometimes a counselor may decide not to counsel a particular couple. If one or both partners are abusive and the couple does not seem to view this as a problem, a counselor may feel that they will make little progress. Similarly, if one or both partners have serious addiction problems, which they continue to deny or minimize, the counselor may feel like they are in a losing battle.
Since it is very important that the couple and therapist work together to address issues in the relationship, the process of finding a therapist suitable for the couple should be respected. This does not mean that the couple cannot be successful with another counselor, perhaps at a different point in time.
How it helps addiction
Relationship difficulties often underlie addiction problems – even if the relationship problems associated with addiction date back to childhood, they can continue to affect romantic relationships between adults. Likewise, addiction problems always affect the quality of a relationship.
Counseling can help both partners to become aware of these relationship patterns and learn new communication and behavioral methods that support each other in living without addiction.
Couples counseling is often an important part of effective addiction treatment, although not all treatment programs offer couples counseling. Usually, you can seek counseling for couples outside of your addiction treatment program. However, it’s a good idea to let your addiction counselor know so the two therapists can work together to work on complementary goals.
The focus of couple counseling is on improving the quality of the relationship for both partners. Couples counseling is about topics such as communication, honesty, shared responsibility, commitment and mutual support. Problems such as abuse are also addressed.
Many types of partnerships can benefit from counseling from couples, including married couples, couples preparing for marriage, couples living together, dating couples, couples who are separated, and couples preparing for divorce. Although originally developed as a family therapy, couple counseling now recognizes and works equally with unmarried couples as well as with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples.