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Effective Couples Therapy Best Practices

The de-stigmatization of mental and personal health has increased the number of people seeking professional help and treatments in recent years. While individuals are more likely to go to a therapist, an entire family nucleus can often benefit from therapy. Couples, especially, often benefit from listening to professional advice instead of settling for separation.

There are many types of marriage and family counseling techniques, and professionals in the field must be familiar with most of them — especially those deemed most effective. Some of the best practices in the field of couples therapy include the following:

  1. Emotionally Focused Therapy

EFT focuses on conflicts between partners arising from our less rational sides ruled by emotions. Treatments often encompass techniques to deeply analyze one's feelings and the unspoken connections that lead to conflict. Therapists frequently ask partners to be very precise when describing their feelings, what they have heard the other person say, how they have understood it or how they have reacted to specific actions.

  1. Solution-Focused

Sometimes, solution-focused therapy may be a good choice when there is a quite specific problem that disturbs household harmony. This short-term solution can bring a much-needed resolution to the problem. Couples may also find that their issues are related to other parts of the relationship after solving a specific conflict.

  1. Gottman Method

Created by a couple of psychologists, the Gottman method has proved to be quite successful for couples in long-term relationships whose dynamic is affected by destructive behavioral patterns. Adam Bulger from Fatherly describes the process of initiating into the Gottman method as follows: "Couples working with Gottman certified therapists first have to fill out an extensive assessment form that takes at least an hour and a half to fill out before meeting with the therapist. In the initial meetings, the therapist will continue to collect data, reflecting the deliberate, research-oriented roots of the Gottman method." After this initial assessment, therapists work in several areas, including disagreements and triggers, shared values and relationship history, conflict management and more.

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Quoting Rebecca Strong from Insider Health, "Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which was originally designed for individual use to treat such issues as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders, centers around the notion that your thoughts influence your behaviors." Unlike EFT, where emotion is the focus, professionals using CBT will attempt to uncover what both parts of the couple think about a particular situation. The process then proceeds with tools to change patterns of thinking and, therefore, build a tolerance to triggering situations.

  1. "DIY"

Of course, there are plenty of other tools and techniques that are effective in treating couples. But therapy is not "one size fits all." If none of the above fit the patients' wants and needs, there is also the option to get creative and combine a series of exercises. Jill Goltzman from Healthline offers a series of hands-on ideas, including creating vision boards with the shared goals, taking the time to show appreciation for the partner, making an "intimacy bucket" and filling it with ideas of how to spend time together, among other things.

The author reminds us that "no matter your situation, every couple can benefit from participating in couples therapy and acquiring a toolkit to deepen their connection with their loved one." Therapy professionals must be sensitive to clients' needs and respond to them with concrete action.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Master of Science in Education – Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy Track online program.

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