What is Couple Therapy?
From: Couple Therapy: An information guide (© 1999 CAMH)
therapy is a means of resolving problems and conflicts that couples
have not been able to handle effectively on their
own. It involves both partners sitting
down with a trained professional to discuss their thoughts and feelings.
The aim is
to help them gain a better understanding
of themselves and their partner, to decide if they need and want to make
and if so, to help them to do so.
Are Children Involved in Couple Therapy?
Couple therapy involves only the couple. Children may be affected
either directly or indirectly by problems in their parents'
relationship, and to varying degrees,
depending on factors such as their ages and the nature and severity of
problems. They may, as a result, become
anxious and begin to exhibit their own problems, although not all of
necessarily stem from those of their
parents. The children's difficulties may improve as the couple's
or the couple may become more confident in
their own ability to help the children.
Therapy that involves both the couple
and their children is a different process called family therapy, which
on the relationships among family members
rather than solely on the couple's relationship. During the course of
however, the focus may shift to the
parental couple for a period of time. If this occurs, children would no
longer be involved
in treatment. If parents are wondering
whether their children should be involved in the sessions, they should
with the therapist.
What is the difference between couple therapy and sex therapy?
therapy focuses on the total relationship while sex therapy deals more
specifically with sexual dysfunction. Other
problems within a relationship often
affect the sexual relationship, and the quality of their sexual
relationship is important
to many couples, so this may be discussed
in couple therapy. However, a couple may experience sexual problems in
sound relationship. If this is the case,
sex therapy may be beneficial. This treatment recommendation would be
based on the
therapist's initial assessment of the
What kinds of problems do people usually bring to couple therapy?
seek therapy for a range of problems and every couple is different.
Some of the most common complaints include lack
of communication, frequent or constant
arguments, unfulfilled emotional needs, financial concerns and conflicts
You may be wondering why these
problems sound like common issues that many couples resolve without
professional help. Couples
often seek help not because their problems
are different from those of other couples, but because they are unable
them. Sometimes, this is because of a
buildup of frustration and disappointment over time, sometimes be-cause
there is some
other issue or meaning underlying the
conflict. Other couples seek help as a result of a crisis in the
as an affair or apparent loss of affection
and caring, or a traumatic event, such as an illness or loss in the
the Appendix for examples of the kinds of
situations for which couples seek help.)
What will the therapist do?
The therapist is a professionally trained, objective third party who will listen to both partners as they express their thoughts
and feelings and help them identify and clarify problem areas.
Most therapists start with an
assessment. In an assessment, the therapist asks about the problems and
how both people see
them, the history of the relationship, and
the individual histories of the partners. This enables the therapist to
a deeper understanding. Most therapists
will discuss their impression of the situation with the couple at the
the assessment. The couple then can decide
whether to accept the therapist's recommendations about whether or not
therapy and what kind of therapy to
Once the couple enters therapy, the
therapist's interpretation of issues may offer the couple a new
perspective, which permits
a change in feelings and behaviour. The
therapist may act as a mediator, attempting to clear up
misunderstandings in communication.
This is often difficult for people to do
themselves because they are emotionally caught up in the situation. The
may also help the partners consider
alternative ways of handling problematic situations.