Going to therapy can be intimidating in and of itself, but it can be especially daunting to take on with a partner. Many people have the misconception that going to couples counseling is a sign your relationship is doomed, but there are so many benefits for couples who go to therapy together. Couples therapy can't guarantee your relationship will survive, but it's definitely not a sign your relationship won't make it either. In fact, you might be surprised by how many ways it can actually improve your life.
Psychology Today reports that couples therapy is currently 75 percent effective, based on 25 years of research by the American Psychological Association. The APA measures the effectiveness of couples therapy by tabulating the number of complaints people have about their relationship, and studies show that the number of complaints usually decreases for at least two years after a couple attends counseling.
The 25 percent who don't benefit typically have toxic relationships that won't improve with or without therapy, according to research, or one or both partners is struggling with an individual issue. As Dr. L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., MEd, LMFT of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC tells Romper via email, "If someone is suffering from addiction and/or some other sort of significant mental illness, individual therapy is a good first course. But since it always affects the relationship, couples therapy is usually necessary eventually."
Therapy can't magically solve all of your problems, but it can give you and your partner tools for better coping with issues you have together, or individually. Read on to find out some of the lesser known benefits of couples therapy.
1. It can improve your sex life
Issues in a relationship can often play out during intimacy, so seeing a therapist can help you work through them in a safe space and in turn improve the quality of your sex life. "I tell couples that when the sex they're having is worth having, they'll have more of it. And so we need to explore what blocks exist to creating that place between them," Michael Moran, a certified sex therapist, told CNN. A therapist's office might be the safe space you and your partner need to even be open to discussing what those blocks may be.
2. You might end up working out your own issues
"Usually, it's the unresolved individual difficulties that make the relationship problematic," Dr. Michael Aaron, a licensed psychotherapist, sexologist, and certified sex therapist tells Romper via email. "Often people may be surprised that they end up working on individual problems, even though they thought the would be focusing only on couples issues." So don't be surprised if you start unpacking something that happened way before your relationship even started if you and your partner opt to give couples therapy a try.
3. It can help you see patterns in your relationship
"Couples therapy is about helping a couple see the interaction patterns they might be stuck in and how they can change those interactions," Dr. Brewer reports. "I tell couples all the time, 'I could really care less about WHAT you are arguing about, but what I am really more interested in is in HOW you argue.' When those patterns are changed, so does the relationship." A therapist can better identify your patterns since they're a third party observer, helping you move forward from your conflicts.
4. It can help you figure out what your issues even are
"Just as with individual therapy, sometimes couples therapy is useful not only for solving problems, but also for identifying them," Andrea Bonior Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, explained to Psychology Today. So talking to a therapist can help you and your partner determine what's wrong amidst the chaos of everyday life. But, Bonior added that "the longer a pattern sets in, the more energy and time it will take to change it." So if you notice something is wrong, even just based on a gut feeling, it's best to act quickly.
5. It makes change less stressful
Times of transition are always stress inducing, whether the change is one partner getting a new job, getting married, or having a baby. Adjusting to these new phases of life can lead to hardship in the relationship, so discussing them with a therapist can help couples ensure they aren't taking the stress of the change out on each other. "Therapy affords couples an opportunity to negotiate these transitions with as little disruption as possible and to explore and honor what a particular transition means to each partner," psychotherapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson told CNN.
6. It can help you become more comfortable with conflict
Couples therapy won't remove all conflict from your relationship, because it's normal to have disagreements with a partner and express those differences of opinion. "People need to learn that conflict is normal and healthy, it's just a matter of how they handle it," says Dr. Aaron. "Cooperating to resolve conflict is different than 'fighting'."
7. It can make you a better parent
As Dr. Brewer explains, "One of the most important things a parent can do for a child is to model healthy relationships. And it is so important for parents to be 'on the same page' about being a parent in order for things to go well with kids." Couples therapy can help you and your partner work through your different perspectives on parenting, ensuring you can find common ground. Plus, "If the marriage is healthy, parenting generally falls right in place and is much easier," says Dr. Brewer.
The moral of the story is if you're considering couples therapy, it can definitely help you with a wide range of issues. Dr. Brewer recommends you make sure you find a counselor who specializes in couples work: "A lot of therapists can do great individual work with people, but if they have not learned or been trained in couple's therapy, it will not be as effective." So make sure you do your homework before making an appointment.
Edit note: This post has been updated from its original version.