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  • Writer's pictureHeather Gibson, MA, LMFT

What to Expect from Couples Therapy--13 Things You Should Know

Updated: Jun 13

By: Katie Mattea, AMFT

The decision to seek out couples therapy is one best done together with you and your partner. It takes the willingness of both partners, a common goal, and a mutual understanding of what to expect out of the process. While mainstream media may depict a limited and more stigmatized portrayal of what couples therapy looks like, by the end of this article, I hope to paint a more accurate picture of what the process of couples therapy looks like so you and your partner may be fully informed before making the decision to begin the journey together. 

What is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is a conjoint therapy, typically facilitated by one therapist for both you and your partner at the same time. A couples therapist invites both partners to collaborate to develop common goals they would like to work towards together. Some folks come to couples therapy to improve their communication and reduce conflict, while others seek to rekindle a connection that has dissipated over time. No matter what your common goals are, your therapist serves to be an ally that listens, facilitates conversation, illuminates patterns, and ultimately helps you and your partner throughout the process of making positive change towards those common goals.

What to Expect from Couples Therapy

Here are 13 more things you can expect from the couples therapy process:

  1. To Talk About Tough but Important Topics

Many couples come to couples therapy with a recent argument or a pattern of arguments in mind that may have been about a more sensitive topic such as infidelity, finances, extended family, intimacy, or parenting. Though these topics can be emotionally heightening ones that bring up big feelings, you can expect that they will be an important segue into the deeper-rooted patterns that underlie a disconnect in communication or connection between you and your partner.

  1. To Potentially Be Asked to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

As stated above, in your couples therapy sessions, some topics may arise that aren’t the most comfortable to discuss with your partner, let alone a third party. Your couples therapist will likely invite you to get out of your comfort zone in order to improve your relationship health. This may look like considering new ways of thinking, sharing new or sensitive things with your partner, considering past experiences and how they affect your relationship today, or breaking old habits to form new patterns of healthier connection and communication. Change is new and can sometimes be uncomfortable, but often contributes to long-term relationship health and satisfaction.

  1. Increased Self-Awareness

How we function in relationships is often a reflection of how we function internally as well. In couples therapy, you can expect to learn more information about yourself such as the way you think, why something about your partner may trigger strong emotions, where certain behaviors come from, how you prefer to be shown love, and/or what helps you feel safe. This knowledge of internal functioning is one of the keys to understanding how the relationship is functioning and will help illuminate a trailhead toward the path of a healthier relationship.

  1. To Learn More About your Partner and Their Feelings

Throughout the therapy journey, your couples therapist will invite both you and your partner to take a step outside your comfort zone. As you share some parts of yourself, you can expect that your partner will also be invited to share some sensitive information of their own with you. If receiving this information is something you are actively working on, your therapist will help guide you on how to receive your partner, their thoughts, and their feelings in a safe and supportive way.

  1. Crying

Often in couples therapy, the conversation isn’t just about the argument or topic that brought you both in. Couples therapists often encourage each of you to dive a little deeper, trust a little more, and share sensitive parts of yourselves with each other. Crying may happen, it’s only natural! Whether it’s tears of frustration, sadness, joy, or passion, there is a chance that one or both of you may cry. Your therapist is there to help facilitate a safe space for you to authentically express your emotions, with hopes that you and your partner can hold space and safety for each other as well.

  1. Obtain Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills

You can expect that the tone, words, body language, and compromise that make up healthy communication and conflict resolution will be addressed and if you and your partner don’t possess those skills yet, your therapist can help guide you through how to implement helpful tools to achieve safety and resolution. 

  1. Rebuild Trust

In couples therapy, after all of the feelings and thoughts are shared, the conversations are had, and the skills are learned, you can expect to embark on a journey to rebuild trust with your partner. Rebuilding trust can take many forms. As you navigate new ways of communicating and connecting, the trust rebuilding process may feel a little rocky. Your couples therapist will be there to observe you and your partner’s application of newfound skills and will guide you along the way, encouraging perseverance, faith, and grace for both yourself and your partner.

  1. Hopefully Grow as a Person and Partner

Since couples therapy encourages you to look inward while simultaneously making external changes in your relationship, you can expect newfound thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that only improve your ability to function both as a person and partner! Your couples therapist will likely encourage you to embrace this growth, and notice how it positively affects your life.

  1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

A healthy and fruitful relationship with your partner only enhances your individual life. While doing the work to restore a relationship back to health or possibly while developing that health for the first time, you can expect to experience a reduced amount of stress and anxiety. Through improved communication and increased understanding of one another, you are likely to experience a decrease in stressors and increase in relational satisfaction.

  1. Improved Communication with Your Partner

Communication is key! If there’s anything to expect from couples therapy, it’s that your couples therapist will address communication. Neither you nor your partner are mind readers, so you can expect that your couples therapist will help teach you the skills and guide you through how to communicate clearly, directly, safely, and assertively.

  1. Improved Intimacy

Once you and your partner have learned to engage in a healthier way, the newly established trust, safety, and improved communication will likely lead to improved emotional and physical intimacy. 

  1. An improved relationship with your partner 

With a little time spent out of your comfort zone, perseverance, and trust in the process, you can expect an overall improved relationship with your partner. Improved communication and understanding in one another typically leads to a deepened connection. A deepened connection and a mutual sense of safety can often lead to overall higher relationship satisfaction.

  1. Renewed Commitment

With more understanding and deeper connection following couples therapy, you can expect a fresh sense of what it means to be committed to one another. While it takes commitment to the couples therapy process to make progress, after your time in couples therapy, expect to see a renewed sense of commitment to upholding the work done together and renewed state of commitment to each other.

Does Couples Therapy Work? 

Now that you have a solid picture of what to expect in couples therapy, you may be wondering, does couples therapy work? There is a plethora of research that supports the efficacy of couples therapy. Couples therapy can lead to so many improved areas of your life and to read more about what those reasons are, click here!

Is Couples Therapy Worth It? 

Ultimately, couples therapy works. These 13 things you should know about couples therapy may seem new and scary at first. However, with a little trust in the process, a few steps outside of your comfort zone, and a common goal, you and your partner will likely experience changes that only enhance both your individual and shared lives together.  

How Much Is Couples Therapy?

Positive Change offers both private/self-pay and insurance coverage options for payment for couples therapy. While couples therapy sessions covered by insurance may help reduce the out-of-pocket copay you and your partner pay for each session, insurance companies are typically restrictive in choices of providers and numbers of sessions for a couple. Insurance companies typically also require a diagnosis to establish and continue treatment with your provider. On the other hand, selecting a self-pay option lends you and your partner the freedom of your choice of therapist, frequency and duration of sessions, and topics to be discussed. For more information on what or how to pay for couples therapy, you can submit a form here and our administrative team will reach out to you with more information.

Our therapists are trained in a variety of types of couples therapy and our administrative team can work with you and your partner to find you both a provider that best suits your relationship needs, specific issues, and individual schedules. Please reach out to, (619) 733-6414, or to take that next step.

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