Are you considering couples therapy but wondering how long it will take to see results? You’re not alone. But how long couples therapy takes to work isn’t a straightforward answer.
There are many factors that can impact the length of time it takes to see results, including the severity of your relationship issues, the goals of your therapy and your commitment to the process.
If you ask Google, “How long does it take couples therapy to work?”, you’ll probably see answers saying that 8-12 sessions of counseling are common. But the truth is much more nuanced.
Couples who have been struggling for years may need more sessions to work through deep-seated issues, while those with more straightforward concerns or who turn to therapy to help them make a specific life decision may see results more quickly.
In order to get a better understanding of how long you may be in couples therapy, keep reading to better understand how relationship therapy works and what can impact your length of care.
Understanding Couples Therapy
What is Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples resolve conflicts and improve their relationship. It is a type of therapy that is designed to help couples of all types, including married, dating, engaged, or cohabiting couples.
In couples therapy, you and your partner will work with a trained therapist who specializes in helping couples. The therapist will help you identify the issues that are causing problems in your relationship. They will also work with you to develop strategies to address these issues.
Types of Couples Therapy
There are several different types of couples therapy. The type of therapy that is best for you will depend on your specific needs and goals. Here are some of the most common types of couples therapy:
EFT is a type of couples therapy that focuses on helping couples identify and change negative patterns of interaction. The therapist helps the couple identify their emotional needs and teaches them how to communicate these needs to each other.
Imago Relationship Therapy is a type of couples therapy that focuses on helping couples understand the unconscious dynamics that are at play in their relationship. The therapist helps the couple identify patterns of behavior that are causing problems in their relationship and teaches them how to change these patterns.
Couples who try Gottman Method marriage counseling will start by learning how healthy couples communicate and treat each other. Then, they learn how to communicate more effectively with their partners by using specific communication techniques developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman.
By working with a trained therapist, you and your partner can identify the issues that are causing problems in your relationship and develop strategies to address these issues.
The type of therapy that is best for you will depend on your specific needs and goals. The type of therapy you choose can also impact how long couples therapy takes to work toward improving your relationship.
How Does Couples Counseling Work?
No matter what kinds of issues you have to work through in couples therapy, all therapy starts with two main steps. Getting through these steps typically takes at least one appointment, but could take longer.
Initial Couples Therapy Assessment
The initial assessment is the first step in couples therapy. During this step, your therapist will meet with you and your partner to discuss your relationship issues. The therapist will ask you questions about your relationship, your history, and your goals for therapy. This assessment helps the therapist understand your relationship and determine the best course of treatment.
The initial assessment typically takes one to two sessions. During this time, the therapist will gather information about your relationship. They’ll also help you and your partner feel comfortable in the therapy setting. It is important to be honest and open during this process so the therapist can accurately assess your relationship.
Couples Therapy Treatment Plan
After the initial assessment, the therapist will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. The treatment plan will outline the goals of therapy, the methods the therapist will use to achieve those goals, and the expected duration of therapy. The duration of couples therapy varies depending on the complexity of the issues being addressed.
Some couples may only need a few sessions to work through their issues. Others may need several months of therapy. Others may decide to see their couples therapist monthly to maintain their progress.
The therapist will work with you and your partner to create a treatment plan that is both effective and realistic – and based on your personal relationship issues.
How Long Should Couples Therapy Take?
Every relationship is different and has its own unique challenges. This is why it’s nearly impossible for a couples therapist to tell you exactly how many sessions you’ll need to work through your specific issues.
The duration of the therapy can vary depending on several factors, including:
The Status of Your Relationship
The nature of the relationship between partners can have a significant impact on the duration of couples therapy. For instance, if you and your partner have a strong bond and friendship, it may be easier for you to work through your issues and resolve them quickly. On the other hand, if you have a strained relationship, it may take longer to build trust and work through your issues.
The Couples Therapy Approach
Your therapist’s approach to couples therapy can also affect the duration of the therapy. Some therapists may use a more structured approach that involves specific techniques and exercises to help you and your partner work through your issues. Other therapists may take a more flexible approach and allow you and your partner to lead the sessions.
The Consistency of Sessions
The consistency of couples therapy sessions can also affect the duration of the therapy. If you attend sessions regularly and consistently, you may be able to work through your issues more quickly. However, if you and/or your partner miss sessions or are inconsistent with your attendance, it may take longer to make progress.
The Issues Being Discussed
The severity of the issues that the partners are facing can also influence the duration of couples therapy. If your issues are minor, it may only take a few sessions to resolve them. However, if the issues are more severe, such as infidelity or health issues, it may take longer to work through them.
So, what are some of the common issues being addressed in couples therapy? Keep reading to find out.
Common Issues Addressed in Couples Therapy
Couples therapy is designed to help partners resolve conflicts and improve their relationship. While every relationship is different, there are some common challenges that lead to couples seeking professional help. These include:
One of the most common issues that couples face is a breakdown in communication. This can manifest in a number of ways, including arguments, misunderstandings, and a lack of emotional connection. Couples therapy can help you learn how to communicate more effectively with your partner, express your needs and feelings, and listen actively.
Infidelity can cause significant distress in a relationship, and it can be difficult to restore trust after a partner has been unfaithful. Couples therapy can provide a safe space for both partners to express their feelings and work through the emotional fallout of infidelity. A therapist can also help you develop strategies for rebuilding trust and strengthening your relationship.
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, but it can become a problem when it is not resolved effectively. Couples therapy can help you develop problem-solving skills and conflict-resolution strategies that allow you to work through disagreements in a healthy and productive way.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD can put a strain on a relationship. Couples therapy can provide support and guidance for both partners as they navigate the challenges of mental illness. A therapist can also help you develop coping strategies and find ways to support each other during difficult times.
Substance abuse can have a significant impact on a relationship, causing trust issues, financial problems, and emotional distress. Couples therapy can help you address substance abuse issues and develop a plan for recovery.
What Can Make Couples Therapy Take Longer?
Couples therapy can be a challenging process, and it’s not uncommon for couples to face obstacles along the way. These obstacles can make your therapy journey longer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean couples therapy will be less effective for your relationship.
Here are some of the most common challenges you may encounter during your couples therapy sessions:
Resistance to Change
One of the biggest challenges in couples therapy is resistance to change. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable when you’re asked to change your behavior or thought patterns. This is especially true if you’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time. However, it’s important to remember that change is often necessary for growth and improvement in your relationship. Your therapist will work with you and your partner to identify areas where change is needed. They’ll also help you develop strategies to make those changes.
Resentment is a common issue in many relationships, and it can be a major obstacle to progress in couples therapy. If one or both partners are holding onto past hurts or grievances, it can be difficult to move forward and make positive changes. Your therapist will help you identify any unresolved resentment and work with you to find ways to address it.
Lack of Commitment
Another challenge in couples therapy is a lack of commitment from one or both partners. If one partner is not fully invested in the therapy process, it can be difficult to make progress. Your therapist may need to work with you to address any underlying issues that are contributing to the lack of commitment and help you find ways to increase your motivation and engagement.
Common Questions About Couples Therapy
How long should marriage counseling last?
The length of marriage counseling varies depending on the couple’s specific needs and goals. Some couples may only need a few sessions, while others may need several months or even years of therapy. It is important to work with a therapist to create a treatment plan that fits your unique situation.
How long is marriage counseling before marriage?
Marriage counseling before marriage, also known as premarital counseling, can range from a few sessions to several months, depending on the couple’s needs. It is important to work with a therapist who specializes in premarital counseling to address any concerns or issues before tying the knot.
How often should you go to couples therapy?
The frequency of couples therapy services varies depending on the couple’s specific needs. Some couples may benefit from weekly sessions, while others may only need monthly or bi-monthly sessions. It is important to work with a therapist to create a treatment plan that fits your unique situation.
If you’re dealing with an especially busy schedule or a long-distance relationship, online couples therapy could be a good solution to ensure you’re able to be consistent with therapy sessions.
Does couples therapy really work?
The success rate of marriage counseling varies depending on the couple’s specific situation and the type of therapy used. But research does support the effectiveness of couples therapy when it comes to keeping relationships together.
According to Psychology Today, couples counseling using Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) results in about 75% of couples no longer meeting the criteria for relationship distress. Approximately 90% of couples doing EFT see a significant improvement in their relationship.
When is couples therapy not appropriate?
Couples therapy may not be appropriate when one or both partners are not willing to participate, or when there is abuse, addiction, or infidelity present in the relationship. In these cases, individual therapy may be more appropriate before attempting couples therapy.
Do You Need Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy can be an effective way to improve your relationship and work through challenges. The duration of therapy can vary depending your goals and the severity of your issues.
That’s why it’s important to consider therapy early on in your relationship – either as a preventative measure or as soon as issues start impacting your partnership. Waiting too long can make it harder to work through issues and make the average length of marriage counseling much longer.
How to Find the Right Couples Therapist
If you’ve decided you need couples therapy, it’s important to find a therapist who is a good fit for you and your partner. Look for a therapist who specializes in couples therapy and has experience working with similar issues.
Explore the types of couples therapy they offer as well. This will give you a better idea of what to expect in couples therapy and how long couples therapy might take. Finding a therapist specifically experienced in Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy, Imago Therapy or Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a good place to start.
Consider how often you’ll go to couples therapy, too, and make sure the therapist you choose has a schedule that aligns with your availability. Will commuting to appointments every week (or even every month) be difficult to keep up with? Consider finding an online couples therapist instead. You can find online EFT, online Imago Therapy and online Gottman Method couples therapy, among many other modalities.
Remember that therapy is a collaborative process, and both partners need to be willing to put in the effort to make it work. With the right therapist and a commitment to the process, couples therapy can be an effective way to improve your relationship and build a stronger, healthier connection with your partner.