Does Couples Counselling Work?

If your relationship is struggling it would make sense for you to wonder does couples counselling work?

Couples counselling is not cheap, requires you to find a good couples therapist and then make time for the sessions – all demanding.

So does couples counselling work?

“Yes”

and also

“No”

well actually it’s “It depends”

Confusing?  Let me explain.

Going to the gym

Does couples counselling work?

Our Kev

Imagine you decided you wanted to get super fit.  You signed up to the local gym and you met Kev the gym coach.  Kev is ripped.  This man knows what he is doing.  Kev is the sort of bloke who bangs out 100 press ups before breakfast whilst wearing a 200lb rucksack on his back.

Kev talks you through an exercise program and gives you clear instructions on how to use the equipment and what to eat to get you beach ready.  He says it will take time, sweat and the willingness to put up with discomfort.

You thank Kev for your his excellent instruction and then promptly spend the next few weeks sitting on your couch eating Doritos and watching Netflix (seen Better Call Saul?  It’s excellent!).

Does the gym work?  Nope it was rubbish!  In fact you’ve even put on a few pounds since you signed up!

This is what people do with couples counselling.

How to get to “Yes, Couples counselling does work”

In order to have effective couples counselling you are going to have to learn to sit with discomfort.  You are also going to have to own your stuff and take responsibility for your part in the mess.

Couples who improve their relationship through coming to couples counselling are willing to behave differently and change the negative patterns of behaviour they have gotten into with their partner.

These couples tend to listen to the advice they are given by the couples counsellor and, most importantly, put it into action.

Moreover, they start listening to each other and begin to validate their partner’s perspective, to see it from the other side even if they don’t agree.

As a result of this there is a shift in the relationship dynamic.  They feel closer, which breeds more willingness to do things differently and the whole thing snowballs in a positive loop – awesome!

Where are the pitfalls?

People who don’t tend to benefit from couples counselling often get stuck in the following places:

  1. They think there’s nothing wrong with them but their partner needs to sort themselves out.  They imagine that the couples therapist will see it the same way and “fix” their other half.
  2. They listen to what the therapist has to say then just go do what they’ve always done (and get what they’ve always got).
  3. They will not listen to their partner in the session and end up having the same sort of experience they have out of the session.
  4. They make changing their behaviour conditional on their partner changing too.

Why couples get stuck

All of the above strategies make sense.  Doing things differently in a stuck relationship is a stretch.  It can mean that you have to sit with the feeling of sadness, anger, worthlessness, fear or confusion.  You have learnt to get rid of uncomfortable feelings by carrying out your survival behaviour.

When you feel frustrated with your partner and you have a good shout at them it probably helps that feeling of frustration to go away.  Or it might be that withdrawing from your other half when they are complaining soothes you a bit.

These strategies work great short term, but long term dig you deeper into your stuck relationship hole and take you away from what you really want.  A close, loving relationship.

If you want to get fit you’ve got to lift those weights.  If you want a loving relationship you’ve got to act in a loving way, even if you don’t feel like doing so!

So, does couples counselling work?  It sure does if you’re willing to put down those spicy corn based snacks and get stuck in!

What do you think?  Does couples counselling work?  Has it worked for you?  Has it been a terrible failure?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

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