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  • Writer's pictureJamee Leichtle

Strengthening Relationships: How Couples Counseling Works

Couples from many backgrounds seek counseling services at various stages in their relationships to gain support and guidance from a licensed clinician as they work through disconnection and rediscover intimacy and joy in their relationship.

Emotionally focused therapy in Colorado

Starting couples counseling can be daunting and intimidating to one or both participating partners, especially if there are differing levels of openness, understanding, and commitment to the therapeutic process. Fortunately, there are effective treatment modalities that counselors can integrate to fit a couple's specific needs.

For instance, Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples, an evidence-based model developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, focuses on healing and strengthening emotional bonds between partners. This treatment model aims to cultivate safety and security in the relationship and utilizes the attachment theory as a compass to discover patterns of interactions in relationships that create roadblocks and disconnects.

The Gottman method, an evidence-based practice popularized by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman, focuses on couples' interactions and ways of relating. This model offers interventions, principles, and skill-building practices prioritizing mutual respect, compassion, and understanding.

  • Broken trust as a result of infidelity or other form of betrayal.

  • Inability to productively resolve conflict. Struggle to lovingly and effectively communicate feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants.

  • Difficulty breaking free from co-dependency, unhealthy patterns, and problematic behaviors.

  • Difficulty navigating individual mental health challenges, significant life changes, and stressors.

Providing a safe therapeutic space is a top priority for the counselor when working with couples. A trusting environment becomes the soil where couples can vulnerably share their innermost experiences, learn to listen deeply, build empathy for one another, and grow. Counselors can establish a secure and supportive therapeutic environment in numerous ways.

The Gottman method relationship counseling in Colorado

During the initial stages of couples counseling, the counselor will begin working toward establishing a safe and collaborative environment by fully informing you and your partner about the therapeutic process while acknowledging and normalizing that it may take time to build trust with your counselor. This process includes discussing practice policies, reviewing limits to confidentiality, and answering any questions you or your partner may have about how couples counseling works. Counselors are likely to implement the "No Secrets Policy", a unique policy specifically designed to treat couples, as well as ground rules to facilitate emotional and mental safety further.

Session ground rules and boundaries may include:

  • No degrading language

  • No blaming

  • Not talking over or yelling

  • Equal speaking time

  • Time outs when necessary

Once policies are understood and ground rules are discussed and agreed upon, couples can share about their relationship and reasons for counseling.

The counselor will guide the couple through an assessment process lasting 2-3 sessions. During this phase, the counselor will ask questions about the history of the relationship, presenting concerns and relationship strengths to help identify roadblocks and potential goals for treatment.

  • What are the primary reasons that bring you here?

  • What outcome are you hoping for from couples counseling?

  • What are your biggest strengths as a couple?

  • What are your goals for therapy?

Once treatment goals are established, the counselor and couple will begin collaboratively working toward treatment goals.

Counselors in the couples counseling field have an ethical obligation to continuously enhance their knowledge and training to remain current with advancements in the mental health field to align with the couple. Staying up to date enhances the counselor's expertise and gives them the necessary abilities to address current concerns and effectively foster positive treatment results. Additionally, it is the counselor's responsibility to recognize and track personal biases and actively resolve them on an ongoing basis to prevent harm to the relationship or a participating partner. For example, having the skill set to intervene when a heated conflict arises during a session adeptly is incredibly important. When seeking a couple's counselor, it is essential to thoroughly research counselors who possess the necessary training and expertise to handle potential relationship crises.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship.

colorado couples therapy

Relationships naturally have high and low points - this is an important truth to acknowledge and normalize, as we are all beautifully flawed human beings. There will be challenges when two unique, multifaceted, imperfect human beings engage in a relationship. Healthy, functional relationships require effort, understanding, empathy, compromise, collaboration, intentionality, and a willingness to grow.

Couples counseling can be highly beneficial in many ways, providing couples with the guidance and tools to navigate challenging relationship dynamics.

  • Gain clarity about your relationship and how you desire to move forward.

  • Foster self-awareness and self-improvement.

  • Learn to navigate the crisis of betrayal, infidelity, and other breaches of trust.

  • Heal emotional distance, loneliness, and insecurity within the relationship.

  • Learn to communicate needs effectively and wants.

  • Develop communication skills to strengthen connection, deepen intimacy, and work towards a secure bond.

  • Develop productive conflict resolution skills that prioritize emotional safety.

  • Address and heal resentment.

  • Gain knowledge, acceptance, and understanding around you and your partner's mental health history.

  • Learn practical strategies to self-regulate and co-regulate amidst mental health struggles.

  • Reignite passion, excitement, and fun in your relationship.

  • Deepen intimacy, strengthen connection, and improve sex life.

Couples counseling can help you gain insight into your relationship, help heal heartache, and help you discover new ways to strengthen your connection with your partner. If you are seeking a safe and judgment-free space to explore your relationship, RFC Counseling & Wellness may be a great fit. We are a mental health practice providing individual, couples, and family counseling services to all residents in Colorado and California. Our specialties include treating trauma-related disorders, anxiety-related disorders, low self-esteem, difficult life transitions & relationship challenges. Our approach to treatment is trauma-informed, person-centered, strengths-based, and relational. We utilize a variety of theoretical perspectives to provide integrative and holistic treatment tailored uniquely to you.

Take a first step toward healing and positive change. Book a free consultation today!


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