Couples Therapy:7 Types and Techniques in Detail

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It is often observed that problems in any relationship tend to stem from small misunderstandings. These hitches grow bigger and bigger and finally reach a point of no return. Differences between couples, whether married or not, are as common as in any other relationship. Maintenance to keep up a relationship from time to time at various stages is the basic requirement in such times. This can be done through counseling sessions in couples therapy. Couples therapy helps the partners understand the areas causing differences between them and provides them with the options to improve over their respective shortcomings. It has become quite common in recent times owing to its success.

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What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which a licensed therapist helps people involved in a romantic relationship gain insight into their relationship and improve relationship satisfaction utilizing a variety of therapeutic interventions. It mainly includes sessions designed to improve problem-solving, build communication skills, and identify life goals and relationship responsibilities. Other common issues also include infidelity, anger, financial problems, illness, or other life changes.

“Couples therapy can address a wide range of relationship issues, including recurring conflicts, feelings of disconnection, an affair, issues related to sex, or difficulties due to external stressors,” says Brian Mueller, PhD, a psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center who specializes in couples therapy.

What are the types of couples therapy?

1. Behavioral Therapy:

This form of therapy involves shaping the behaviour by reinforcing positive behaviours that promote stability and satisfaction while discouraging behaviours that foster negativity. Focusing on the goodness in the relationship, helps the couple feel more attached.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

This therapy centers around the notion of behaviours. Research has shown that CBT has been effective in treating communication difficulties as well as conflict resolution. The therapy involves identifying and changing thought patterns that negatively influence behaviour to amend them and make the relationship better. It is the best kind of therapy for people who are looking for more solution focussed methods to resolve their issues.

3. Emotion-focused therapy (EFT):

EFT is a therapy that is focused on identifying destructive patterns in a relationship that interfere with one’s attachments, thereby preventing two people from bonding. By focusing on those behaviours that create a disconnect in the relationship, two people can begin healing and bonding in a more positive manner. EFT is one of the most researched and tested types of couples therapy. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that EFT is effective and helpful for about 75% of couples who use it.

4. Narrative therapy:

The goal of narrative therapy is to help couples see that one single story on its own can’t truly encompass an entire experience together. Narrative therapy is typically helpful when both people feel they’re to blame for the demise of a relationship. This technique revolves around correcting self-defeating narratives that may be sabotaging the relationship dynamic by allowing each partner to rewrite their narrative of the relationship in a much more positive manner.

5. Solution-focused therapy:

Solution-focused therapy works best for couples who have a specific issue at hand rather than a variety of problems. It helps reduce “couple burnout” — a physical, mental, and emotional condition that involves a lack of interest and attachment to one’s spouse. For example, it is mainly a remedy for the people who quite frequently indulge in baseless fights with each other.

6. Gottman therapy:

Based on the findings from 40 years of scientific research about patterns of behaviour in successful and unsuccessful partnerships, the Gottman method entails honing in on destructive behaviors, called the 4 horsemen-

  • Criticism
  • Contempt
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling

7. Imago relationship therapy:

The Imago method views a couple’s problems as a result of unmet childhood needs and unhealed wounds that later become sensitivities, conflicts, or pain points in adult relationships i.e. the unsatisfactory past affecting the current relationship. Brown mentions that Imago therapy involves a three-step process of mirroring, validating concerns, and expressing empathy. After knowing about their partner’s traumatic childhood experience, the couple becomes more understanding and empathetic.

What are the techniques in couples therapy?

Couple Therapy is an integrated approach in which understanding, deeper connections, forgiveness, or any other issue one struggles with, in a relationship is dealt with using various exercises and techniques. A few of the methods are enlisted below-

  1. Identifying feelings: It is important and the 1st step for both the partners to understand each other’s feelings to resolve the conflicts between them.
  2. Focusing on solutions: Rather than feel bad, grieve and point out each other’s mistakes repeatedly, it is necessary to focus on the solutions to find a way out of the problems as an important step of couples therapy.
  3. Exploring the past: Understanding your partner’s past, experiences and hardships, makes us more sympathetic and helps us understand their current fears and insecurities. This, thus, becomes an important activity in couple therapy.
  4. Alignment: Try to agree with your partners in their problematic situations. Even if you disagree, help them to do things in the right manner. Leaving them in distress situations makes them feel lonely.
  5. Expressing gratitude: Do not ignore your partner’s small efforts. Feel thankful for every small thing your partner does to improve the bonding as this makes the bond grow stronger.
  6. Identifying each other’s love language: Not everyone is good at expressing love through words. Even small loving gestures of love need to be accounted for as they make a huge difference.
  7. Penciling in time together: Couples often find it difficult to manage time for each other and this increases the differences between them. Therefore, make it a routine to spare some time for your partner irrespective of your busy schedule.

What can you expect in Couples Therapy?

Before visiting a couple’s counsellors, people have many apprehensions like “What will it be like?” or “Will I be antagonized by the therapist or my spouse?”. They also tend to be sceptical of therapy even working for their relationship and are thereby hesitant to go ahead with this therapy. Here is a brief on what one might expect in their counselling sessions-

  • The session begins with some standard interview questions regarding the history of the relationship as well as deep-diving into each partner’s family of origin, values, and cultural background. The therapist, at times, might also use the initial sessions for crisis intervention if necessary.
  • For the next step, the therapist then assists the couple in identifying the issue that would be the focus of treatment, establishes treatment goals and plans a structure for treatment for each counselling session.
  • During the treatment, the therapist helps the couple gain insight into the relational dynamics that create the problems and guides both partners to understand their roles in the dysfunctional interactions. This greater understanding of the relationship issues helps the couple change the way they perceive the relationship and each other to focus on the mechanisms for improvement.
  • Apart from gaining insight, another crucial aspect of couples therapy involves actually changing behaviours. Couples therapists often assign partners homework to apply the skills they have learned in therapy to their day-to-day interactions.

These methodologies and changed perceptions about their partners help the couples gain better control over their relationship. They become well equipped to resolve their issues and be happy in their relationship after the couples therapy.

Another important issue that needs to be considered is that despite all the other things in place, a few requirements are also needed to be fulfilled on the part of both partners in order to benefit from this therapy. Couples therapy is just an external method to heal the issues facing the couple and it can be beneficial only once both the partners are willing to resolve the differences between them. It, thereby, becomes essential that before visiting a therapist, both the partners agree to follow the therapist’s instructions and be honest with him. It becomes the couple’s responsibility to adhere to the improvement mechanisms as per the therapist’s advice.

At times, the therapy also requires the coupe to follow a set pattern of behavioural activities and exercises to improve their bonding. Thus, only once the couple is ready to settle their problems, can the therapy help them make their relationship better.

Where can you find professional couple therapy?

Infiheal is here for your mental wellbeing. At Infiheal, we help you with Relationship Counselling by providing the best holistic care for you.

Online couples therapy is available here via audio/video call, google meet or chat as per the convenience of our clients. It also has several advantages over traditional face-to-face couples therapy. First, it provides the couples with the time and space to think better and reflect on their partner’s response. There is also the opportunity for much more communication given the ability to share as much as one wants, without any interruptions.

Online couples therapy is also an ideal platform for couples where one or both the partners frequently travel or they have different schedules and are unable to mutually identify a time to attend couples therapy sessions together. Additionally, Infiheal makes these sessions more secure and convenient through the availability of time-flexible slots.

Moreover, the couple therapy sessions here at Infiheal are much more affordable than most other face-to-face sessions out there. All our care here is tailored to fit your personality and provide permanent and real solutions to your deep issues.

Narcissism and Couple Therapy

A very essential issue to be considered when talking about Couple Therapy is Narcissism. People with narcissistic personality partners usually have the following experiences-

I am beginning to despair. My self-esteem is in shreds. I cry at all times. I am not sure that I can take this anymore. My partner criticizes me for everything I do—even the way that I load the dishwasher and wear my hair. When we are out in public, my partner puts me down in front of everyone. When I protest or try to defend myself, they somehow turn it around to show that they are the victim, and I am the bad one. I have invested a lot in this relationship, and I do not want to just walk away, if it can be saved. Nothing that I am doing to fix things is working. Do you think couples’ therapy will help us?

Though it is quite natural to think about couples therapy as a means of fixing such a problematic situation, narcissism is often an unavoidable hurdle in this path. A  narcissist partner has the tendency to portray as the victim while the contrary is true. They only care about how others’ feelings impact them.  It is very difficult for people with a narcissistic personality disorder to tolerate their mate’s normal flaws and mistakes without comment or criticism. As a result, once they develop a feeling of disgust towards them, it becomes very difficult to revert things back to a pleasant state. This makes it highly unlikely that they will actually be able to improve their approach to the relationship with the aid of coupes therapy. Thus, narcissism is a personality disorder that is a major obstruction in relationships and can severely impact it at times.


1. What is the difference between marriage counselling and couples therapy?

Both these terms are often confused but have quite striking differences.
Marriage counselling tends to deal with present-day events rather than the past. It focuses more on the ‘now’ and the challenges of married life. It is more solution-oriented to make a marriage work.

Couples therapy techniques are similar to marriage counselling, but the problems dealt with may have a history, creating unhealthy patterns of relating. Therapists here look for the reasons behind the emotions that drive these patterns and help overcome them.

2. How is couples therapy different from family therapy?

Couples therapy includes the two people who make up the couple and is used to resolve issues between them, family therapy includes more than just the couple( one parent and one child, both parents and one child or the entire family including uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc ) and it is used to make a happy place in the family so that all the members are comfortable and cosy with the others.

Not all couples who visit the therapist, succeed in resolving their disputes. This is quite natural and may stem due to the actual differences between the partners that cannot be effectively resolved at all. A few reasons for this may be-

  • When only one of the partners is willing to regain their bond and the other one cannot be made to understand the importance of therapy, no matter what. A relationship blooms only when both partners nurture it with their love and care. Singular efforts from only one of the partners always fall short and cannot fill in the void created by the other partner’s lack of efforts.
  • When the couple has already made up their mind to end the relationship and they use couple therapy only as the last resort. The things at this point already deteriorate to an extent that it becomes difficult to conserve them. Moreover, the partners are bent on the negatives of each other rather than trying to improve their bond.
  • When one of the partners is narcissistic drug abuse. This makes the relationship very sour and the one which loses its chances of being rebuilt. Many times, the unconscious and careless nature of the narcissist partner makes them incompatible with anyone else and this causes a relationship to worsen. It is better to let go of such relationships as it otherwise becomes torturous for the partner who’s trying.


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