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  • Writer's pictureSpring Berriman

What to Expect from Couples Counselling

Frequently Asked Questions About Couples Therapy

couples therapy and counselling

If you are considering couples counselling, chances are you have some questions you would like answered before committing to the process. As such, here is a deeper dive into what couples counselling is, how it works, and what to expect from the process. Plus, we have included some other commonly asked questions.

What is couples counselling?

Couples counselling, or couples therapy as it is sometimes referred to, is a process embarked upon by partners in a romantic relationship, in an effort to enhance communication, resolve conflicts, and foster a healthier partnership.

Couples counselling involves meeting together with a therapist who helps people that are in a committed relationship address and resolve the issues affecting their partnership. Unlike individual therapy, which focuses on one person's mental health or personal challenges, couples counselling focuses on the relationship itself and the dynamics between partners.

What is the couples counselling process?

Couples counselling process typically begins with an assessment phase, where the therapist learns about each partner and their shared history. This stage is crucial for setting the groundwork for future sessions and includes understanding the nature of the relationship, the issues at hand, and the goals for therapy. Expect in-depth discussions about your relationship’s history, communication patterns, and areas of conflict.

Here are some key components of couples counselling:

  1. Setting Goals For Success

  2. Enhanced Communication Skills

  3. Conflict Resolution

  4. Emotional Exploration

  5. Nurturing Behaviour Change

  6. Rebuilding Intimacy

  7. Challenges and Setbacks

  8. Duration and Frequency of Couples Counselling

  9. Examining the Role of External Factors

Why do couples seek couples counselling?

Couples seek counselling for a variety of reasons. Here is a list of some common reasons. However you can bring to the sessions whatever issues or struggles you and your partner might be dealing with.

1. Communication Breakdown: When couples struggle to communicate effectively, misunderstandings and conflicts can become frequent, leading them to seek counselling to improve their communication skills.

2. Infidelity or Trust Issues: After an affair or betrayal, couples often turn to counselling to address the breach of trust, understand why it happened, and explore ways to rebuild their relationship.

3. Frequent or Intense Arguments: Couples who find themselves in a cycle of constant or escalating arguments often seek therapy to learn healthier conflict resolution strategies.

4. Emotional Distance or Disconnection: When partners feel emotionally disconnected or distant from each other, counselling can help them rekindle emotional intimacy and reconnect.

5. Life Transitions or Stress: Major life changes like the birth of a child, job loss, or relocation can strain a relationship, prompting couples to seek counselling for support and guidance.

6. Sexual Issues or Dissatisfaction: Couples facing problems with sexual intimacy, differing sexual desires, or other sexual concerns may start counselling to address these sensitive issues in a safe and supportive environment.

7. Parenting Challenges or Family Dynamics: Disagreements over parenting styles or difficulties blending families can lead couples to seek therapy for guidance and to establish a unified approach to family life.

8. Substance Abuse or Addiction: When one or both partners struggle with substance abuse or other forms of addiction, couples counselling can be an integral part of the recovery process, addressing the impact on the relationship and facilitating healing. Often, addictions in a relationship act like a third person in a relationship that creates strife and conflict within the relationship.

9. Mental Health Issues: Mental health challenges, either individual or shared, can profoundly affect a relationship. Couples may start counselling to learn how to support each other and navigate these challenges together.

10. Considering Separation or Divorce/ Conscious Uncoupling: Couples who are contemplating ending their relationship may seek counselling as a last effort to salvage it, or to explore if separation is the right decision, and if so, to do it amicably.

What counselling methods are used in couples counselling?

Psychotherapists use a variety of modalities (or therapeutic techniques) when conducting couples therapy. At our clinic we focus on the first two in the list below: Emotionally Focused Therapy and the Gottman Method, however other counselling professionals may choose to use other modalities we have included in our list.

These modalities are designed to suit different relationship needs and can be used in various combinations depending on the couple's specific challenges and goals. 

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): EFT is based on the premise that emotional responses shape behaviours in relationships. This approach aims to create and strengthen secure emotional bonds between partners by focusing on underlying feelings and attachment needs. Learn more.

The Gottman Method: Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, this method is evidence-based and focuses on increasing intimacy, respect, and affection. It helps to remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy and addresses conflict productively.

Narrative Therapy: Narrative therapy centres on the stories that couples construct about their relationship and individual lives. Therapists help couples reframe and rewrite these narratives in a more positive and empowering way. Learn more.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT): This therapy concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of relationship issues. It is goal-directed and focuses on the future rather than dwelling on past problems. Learn more.

Imago Relationship Therapy: Imago therapy focuses on creating a safe and understanding environment where couples can explore and understand each other’s feelings and childhood experiences. It aims to transform conflicts into opportunities for healing and growth. Learn more.

Psychodynamic Therapy: This modality explores how past experiences and unconscious processes influence current behaviours and relationship patterns. It can help couples understand the root causes of their conflicts. Learn more

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This modality focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that are affecting the relationship. CBT helps couples develop healthier ways of communicating and resolving conflicts. Learn more

Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT): IBCT aims to accept the differences between partners and improve their emotional understanding. It helps couples make sense of their complex feelings and behaviours within the relationship. Learn more.

Systemic Therapy: This approach views the relationship as part of a larger system, like a family. It explores how dynamics within this system impact the couple's interactions and behaviours. Learn more.

What is Premarital Counselling?

Premarital counselling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. It's designed to ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship before tying the knot. This process can help set the tone for a robust and satisfying marriage. Here's a detailed breakdown of what you can expect from premarital counselling:

  • Enhance Communication Skills: Learn how to effectively communicate, listen, and understand each other.

  • Identify and Manage Expectations: Discuss and align expectations about marriage, including roles, responsibilities, and values.

  • Conflict Resolution: Develop strategies for resolving disagreements constructively.

  • Financial Planning and Management: Address financial matters, which are often a significant cause of stress in relationships.

  • Discuss Family Planning and Parenting: Explore decisions around having children and parenting styles.

  • Address Individual Issues: Look into personal histories and how they may impact the relationship.

  • Strengthen Emotional Intimacy: Enhance the emotional bond and connection between partners.

To book a free initial premarital counselling session and get your questions answered, click here.

What is the biggest predictor of success in couples counselling?

The success of couples therapy largely depends on the commitment of each partner to the process and to making changes. When both partners are equally invested, the likelihood of positive outcomes increases exponentially. Here are some key factors for success: 

  • Mutual Commitment to the Process: Success is more likely when both partners are genuinely willing to participate and engage in the counselling process.

  • Openness to Change: Each partner's willingness to reflect on and modify their behaviors and attitudes is crucial.

  • Effective Communication: Honesty, openness, and active listening between partners are essential for addressing underlying issues.

  • Setting Realistic Expectations: Understanding that counselling is a gradual process and accepting that challenges and setbacks are normal.

  • Working Collaboratively: Approaching problems as a team and having shared goals for what to achieve through counselling.

  • Professional Guidance: Choosing a qualified counsellor who is a good fit for both partners and whose therapeutic approach aligns with the couple's needs.

  • Personal Accountability: Each partner should acknowledge their role in both the issues and the solutions, and be committed to making necessary changes.

  • External Support: Having a supportive environment outside therapy, including a robust support system and healthy lifestyle choices, can reinforce progress made in sessions.

Are couples counselling sessions possible using online technology or do we have to meet the therapist in-person?

The advent of web video technology has made therapy more accessible. Online couples counselling can be just as effective as in-person sessions, providing flexibility for those unable to attend traditional sessions and even working with those in a long distance relationship.

At our therapist collective, our couples counselling therapists offer meetings via Jane, a secure platform specific to health practitioners. We also use Zoom when needed.

What does couples counselling cost?

Couples counselling sessions in Ontario vary based on therapist qualifications, location, and in person vs online. However a typical range is $100 to $250 per hour. At our collective company, couples counselling sessions cost are on a sliding scale based on client need. The fee is $150-$180 per session. Each session is 60 minutes in length with the couples therapist. This includes HST.

What is the counselling session length and frequency for couples?

Most couples counselling sessions last about 45 to 60 minutes, and the frequency can be weekly, bi-weekly, or more sporadic, depending on the couple's needs and goals. Couples counselling sessions at our company run 60 minutes per session. 

How can we prepare for couples counselling?

Preparing for couples counselling involves several key steps:

  1. Identify Goals: Reflect on what you hope to achieve, such as improving communication or resolving conflicts.

  2. Open Mindset: Approach therapy with willingness to listen and consider new perspectives.

  3. Discuss with Partner: Talk about your reasons for attending counselling and what you both hope to gain.

  4. Identify Goals: Reflect on what you hope to achieve, such as improving communication or resolving conflicts.

  5. Manage Logistics: Sort out session times, locations, and any necessary childcare arrangements. Choose online therapy for time efficiency as there is no travel required. You can attend your counselling sessions from the comfort of your home.

  6. Financial Planning: Understand costs, payment methods, and insurance coverage.

  7. Complete Pre-Session Forms: Fill out any provided intake forms or questionnaires.Set Realistic

  8. Expectations: Acknowledge that therapy requires time and effort for gradual progress.

  9. Self-Reflection: Be ready to examine your own behaviours and contributions to the relationship's dynamics.

  10. Emotional Preparation: Be prepared for potentially intense emotional discussions during sessions.

  11. Confidentiality and Trust: Ensure a trusting environment with your therapist, respecting the confidentiality of your sessions.

  12. Commitment to Therapy: Both partners should be committed to actively participating in the process.

What outcomes can I expect from couples counselling?

The expected outcomes of couples counselling vary depending on the specific issues the couple is facing and their goals for therapy. However, several common outcomes are generally sought after and achieved through the process:

Improved Communication: One of the primary goals of couples counselling is to enhance communication between partners. This includes learning how to express thoughts and feelings clearly and effectively, and also how to listen and understand the partner's perspective. Improved communication can lead to better understanding and empathy within the relationship.

Conflict Resolution Skills: Couples counselling often focuses on teaching partners how to resolve conflicts in a healthy and constructive manner. This includes understanding each other's viewpoints, identifying underlying issues, and finding mutually acceptable solutions. The aim is to move from destructive patterns of arguing or avoiding conflicts to a more constructive approach.

Increased Emotional Intimacy: Through therapy, couples often develop a deeper emotional connection. This is achieved by addressing underlying issues, sharing vulnerabilities, and fostering a greater understanding of each other's needs and desires. Increased emotional intimacy can lead to a stronger, more fulfilling relationship.

Behavioural Changes: counselling can help partners identify and change patterns of behaviours that are harmful to the relationship. This might include addressing habits like criticism, defensiveness, contempt, or stonewalling, and replacing them with more positive behaviours.

Strengthening the Relationship Bond: As couples work through their issues and improve their interaction patterns, they often find that their overall relationship bond strengthens. This can manifest as increased trust, a renewed sense of partnership, and a greater commitment to the relationship. Personal Growth and Self-Understanding: Individual partners often experience personal growth as a result of couples counselling. They may gain a better understanding of their own emotions, behaviours, and needs, as well as how these factors contribute to the dynamics of their relationship.

Mutual Decision Making: For some couples, counselling helps them make important decisions about their relationship, such as whether to stay together, move forward with a commitment like marriage, or in some cases, to part ways amicably.

Improved Coping Strategies: Couples often learn new ways to cope with stress, both within and outside of the relationship. This includes managing external pressures like work or family and finding healthy ways to support each other during tough times.

Restoration of Trust: In relationships damaged by breaches of trust, such as infidelity, counselling can be a space to work on rebuilding trust. This is a complex and often lengthy process that involves understanding the reasons behind the betrayal, expressing and processing emotions, and taking steps to rebuild trust.

Enhanced Sexual Connection Relationship: For some couples, counselling can help address issues related to sexual intimacy. This might involve communicating about sexual needs and preferences, addressing sexual dysfunction, or working through emotional barriers to intimacy.

It's important to note that the success of couples counselling largely depends on the willingness and effort of both partners to engage in the process and make necessary changes. The outcomes are not always immediate and often require ongoing effort and commitment even after the counselling has ended.

What unexpected outcomes might occur in couples counselling?

Couples counselling, often embarked upon with specific goals and expectations, can sometimes lead to unexpected outcomes. While many couples enter therapy to improve their relationship, they often discover insights and changes that extend beyond their initial objectives. These unexpected outcomes can be both challenging and rewarding, shaping the partners and their relationship in unforeseen ways.

1. Realization of Deep-Rooted Personal Issues

One of the most common unexpected outcomes is the realization of personal issues or traumas that significantly impact the relationship. Individuals may uncover past experiences or unresolved emotional issues that they hadn't connected to their relationship dynamics. This revelation can lead to a deeper personal journey of healing and self-discovery, which, while beneficial in the long run, might initially be unsettling.

2. Change in Relationship Dynamics

counselling can alter the power dynamics within a relationship. As communication improves and partners become more aware of each other's needs and vulnerabilities, the balance of power and roles may shift. This can be disconcerting, especially if one partner was previously dominant in decision-making or if the relationship had a certain dynamic that felt comfortable, albeit unhealthy.

3. Increased Conflict Initially

Ironically, therapy can sometimes lead to an increase in conflict initially. As couples start to address underlying issues and communicate more openly, pent-up frustrations and unresolved problems may surface. This can lead to a period of heightened tension before things start to improve.

4. Greater Independence

Couples counselling can lead to partners becoming more independent. As they work through their issues, individuals often gain confidence and a better understanding of their personal needs. This newfound independence can be surprising, especially in relationships where co-dependency was an issue.

  5. Recognition of Incompatibility

While many couples enter therapy to save their relationship, sometimes counselling leads to the realization that they are fundamentally incompatible. This can be a painful but vital outcome, leading to decisions like separation or divorce. However, it can also be a positive development, as it allows both individuals to move forward in a healthier, more authentic way.

6. Unexpected Emotional Reactions

Engaging in deep emotional work can lead to unexpected emotional reactions. Individuals may find themselves experiencing intense emotions like anger, grief, or joy in ways they haven't before. These emotions can be surprising and may require additional support to process.

7. Shift in Priorities

Through therapy, couples often find that their priorities, both as individuals and as a couple, shift. What once seemed vitally important might take a backseat to new values or understandings about what they want from their life and relationship.

8. Impact on Other Relationships

Couples therapy can also impact other relationships, such as friendships or family dynamics. As individuals change and grow, their interactions with others may also evolve. This can lead to strengthened relationships with some and distancing from others who may not support or understand their growth.

What if my partner or spouse does not want to come to counselling?

If your partner is hesitant about couples counselling, patience and empathy are essential as you navigate this situation. Here are some ideas to consider. 

  1. Understand Their Hesitation: Try to empathize with their reasons for reluctance, whether it's fear of confrontation, skepticism, or discomfort with sharing personal issues.

  2. Communicate Your Perspective: Express your feelings calmly, highlighting that counselling is about improving the relationship, not placing blame.

  3. Offer Reassurance: Assure them that therapy is a neutral and safe space for both of you to express yourselves.

  4. Suggest a Trial: Propose starting with a few sessions to ease into the process.

  5. Consider Individual Therapy: If your partner remains unwilling, you might benefit from individual counselling.

  6. Provide Information: Sharing educational resources about the benefits and process of therapy can help demystify it.

  7. Choose the Right Time to Discuss: Approach the topic when both of you are calm and not in conflict.

  8. Respect Their Decision: While you can encourage them, it's important to respect their choice.

  9. Explore Virtual TherapyWeb Video Options: Suggest online or phone therapy as a less intimidating alternative.

  10. Emphasize Positive Outcomes: Focus on how counselling can strengthen your relationship.

What qualifications do couples counsellors have?

Couples counsellors, who specialize in marriage and family therapy, typically have a set of specific qualifications:

Education: Psychotherapists usually hold a master's in psychology or a doctoral degree in psychology, or equivalent training and education relating to counselling, social work, or marriage and family therapy. These programs cover human behaviour, psychological theories, and therapeutic techniques and modalities. To work with couples in our Collective, our couples therapists must also have taken additional training to work with couples.

Licence: In Ontario, psychotherapists Therapists are required to be registere dnad licensed with CRPO, which you can learn more about here: We always recommend that you check CRPO to ensure your couples therapist is registered and in good standing in Ontario.  which involves pa ssing an exam and completing supervised clinical hours.

Where can I find a couples therapist?

If you are looking for a couples therapist in Ontario, our therapist collective can provide couples counselling for you and your partner. We serve all the major cities - like Toronto and Ottawa - and all communities with postal codes in Ontario. If you are outside Ontario, try listing at Psychology Today.

We achieve this via virtual counselling sessions on Zoom or similar technologies. We also offer in-person couples therapy where available in select cities.

Can I ask a question about couples therapy?

Yes feel free to send us an email to to submit your question. You can also call us at 647-296-9235. You can also learn more on our couples therapy page.

Can I book a free couples therapy session?

Yes, we offer a free initial couples therapy session. To book yours, call us at 647-296-9235 or click here to find an available appointment.

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