Couples counseling is a form of relationship counseling which is addressed specifically at people who are involved in romantic relationships. Both married and unmarried couples may seek couples counseling, and there are a number of approaches to couples counseling. Many communities have listings of counseling services which may include couples counselors, and people seeking counseling can also ask for referrals from doctors, regular therapists, and clergymembers.
The goal of couples counseling is to understand the relationship dynamic of the couple, and to identify areas of strain and frustration which add stress to the partnership. In a series of counseling sessions which often include private as well as group sessions, the couple can explore their perception of the relationship, their expectations of each other, and the situations which may be causing them to feel alienated from each other. The counselor acts as a mediator and facilitator to keep discussions on track and to guide the conversation to specific points.
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Every relationship is different, and everyone has different expectations from romantic relationships, so it should come as no surprise to learn that couples counseling can be quite diverse. A devout Christian couple, for example, might have very specific needs and desires which an unmarried atheist couple might not relate to, but relationship counseling is available to both couples, sometimes even from the same therapist. In all cases, confidentiality is an important part of couples counseling, and the counseling is also usually non-judgmental, with the goal being a frank discussion of emotions in a supportive environment.
When choosing a therapist, the couple should do some research. For example, many religious couples may be able to receive couples counseling from a member of the clergy, and this may be the most appropriate form of relationship counseling, since the counselor understands the mindset of the couple and the specific issues they face. Other people may be better-suited to meeting with a psychologist, therapist, licensed counselor, or psychotherapist. Many therapists are happy to provide basic information about their approach to counseling and their experience, and this information can be used to select the best match. Sometimes, it takes a few tries to find the right fit, and couples should remember that couples counseling can take weeks or months of work, and it is rarely finished in one session.
Couples counseling requires work from both parties. While one person may initiate the counseling sessions, without cooperation from everyone involved, the counseling will not be very productive. It can also require a lot of effort, and while this effort can be rewarding, it can be very frustrating while counseling is in progress. Committing to finishing a set series before deciding to give up on couples counseling is a very good idea, as couples often find that once they reach the mutually-agreed finishing point, they want to continue with the counseling.