25 Best Couples Therapy Techniques, Exercises, and Activities to Try in 2022
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Social media is an ongoing highlight reel, but having problems as a couple is common. Couples find comfort in guidance from a therapist.
If you’re interested in trying couples therapy or wondering whether it’s a fit for you, we rounded up the best techniques and exercises to get started.
Every relationship has conflict. Learning how to handle conflicts can make your relationship stronger.
In couples therapy, a licensed counselor works with two people to improve their relationship. Certain types of counselors are also specifically trained to work with couples, including marriage and family therapists.
Couples counseling requires a commitment and willingness to open up from both involved parties.
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, more than 98 percent of its clients surveyed reported marriage and family therapy services as good or excellent.
Counseling can be done in any way that is appropriate for the person. Couples therapy can help anyone in a relationship, regardless of their age or It was sexual. orientation.
“Couples can form a more secure bond with one another and be able to have vulnerable conversations without pushing the other person away,” says Dr. Annie Hsueh, PhD, of Hope and Sage Psychological Services.
When committing to couples therapy, come with an open mind, and be ready to break down the barriers of communication.
Online resources and telepresence have made therapy more accessible.
There are many techniques and exercises that you can use to improve your relationship.
1. Reflective listening
“Reflective listening is a highly beneficial exercise where the couple take turns being active listeners,” says Laura Louis, a licensed psychologist at Atlanta Couple Therapy.
Use phrases like “I” instead of “you” Say “I feel hurt when you do X” instead of “You\’re wrong for doing X.”
“When couples take turns being active listeners, it
2. Emotionally focused therapy
Many therapists use a method called emotionally focused therapy (EFT), which has been
The goal is for couples “to identify maladaptive patterns within the relationship that are interfering with secure bonds and attachments,” says Ansley Campbell, a clinical director at The Summit Wellness Group.
She says people learn and use techniques to heal or create safe and secure attachment.
3. Narrative therapy
Narrative therapy involves people writing their problems in narrative form and then changing their stories. This can help them see that there is no single story that can represent their experience.
“There will always be inconsistencies and contradictions,” says Sam Nabil, the CEO and lead therapist at Naya Clinics.
Narrative therapy may be helpful for couples who feel like their relationship is failing due to both of their faults. According to a 2016 study, it has even been shown to decrease conflict and increase cooperation among couples.
The couples often believe that they are subject to this romantic pitfall and emotional trauma because they have been a failure from the beginning.
4. Gottman Method
The Gottman Method is a popular method practiced among couples therapists. The technique is designed to help couples deepen their understanding of one another while managing conflict in their relationship. It may also
The institute has been doing research for more than 40 years. Many therapists have trained using the methods of the Gottman Institute, which provides live workshops and take- home training materials for couples.
5. Imago relationship therapy
Imago relationship therapy, developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980, emphasizes the connection between adult relationships and childhood experiences.
By understanding childhood trauma, the therapy is aimed at making couples more empathetic and understanding of one another.
6. Solution-focused therapy
If you’re dealing with a particular issue, experiencing burnout, or trying to work toward a specific goal, solution-focused therapy is a model to consider.
According to the Institute for Solution-Focused Therapy, the practice is “a short-term goal-focused evidence-based therapeutic approach which helps clients change by constructing solutions rather than dwelling on problems.”
7. Get crafty
Louis says that a vision board can help remind you of your goals when you are having issues in the relationship.
She suggests couples to write down their goals and collect pictures that represent their relationship desires.
She says that it is a reminder that a marriage is a work in progress and that it takes hard work and time on both ends to create a strong, healthy, and long lasting relationship.
8. Find deeper topics to engage with
Ask your partner questions other than what you are going to eat.
Kelly Sinning, a Colorado-based licensed professional counselor, likes to give her clients the homework of simply talking with each other.
“She says that sometimes we get so busy and caught up in the day-to-day needs that we don’t realize that we stop having conversations about anything else.”
9. Express appreciation
Communicating what works in your relationship can help strengthen your appreciation for one another.
“Make it a habit of expressing appreciation daily through in-person conversations, texts, or a sticky note in a place your partner will find it,” suggests Meagan Prost, a licensed professional clinical counselor at Center for Heart Intelligence.
10. Identify your partner’s love language
“It doesn’t mean you experience love in the same way as you do in a relationship.”
Gary Chapman wrote “The 5 Love Languages” to help couples identify what makes them feel loved.
The idea that each person has a preferred way of receiving love is one of the five love languages.
- receiving gifts
- acts of service
- Words of support.
- Quality time.
- Physical contact.
Take this online quiz with your partner to discover your love language and better understand each other.
11. Schedule important conversations
Are you looking to have a difficult discussion with your partner? Serious talks are best when you have a plan.
“We often engage in conflict because the timing is wrong, and we aren’t in a frame of mind where we can thoughtfully engage in conversation,” says Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, with Amethyst Counseling and Consulting.
She recommends scheduling tough conversations in advance so no one is left out.
12. Pencil in one-on-one time
“Don’t let outside pressures affect time with your partner.”
“Scheduling an hour of ‘couples time’ to get intimate is a great start. Scheduling an hour of time to focus on topics that will help improve the relationship can be done several times a week or once a week,” says Grazel Garcia, LMFT.
13. Fill your intimacy bucket
Understand that you both have intimacy needs.
Garcia calls this the “intimacy bucket,” which includes the following types of intimacy:
- It is experiential.
- It was sexual.
Find exercises in each bucket. You can explore a new hobby with your friends on a game night.
14. Practice partner yoga
Consider partnering up with your partner for yoga.
Partner yoga allows you to balance together with your partner, establishing and strengthening trust as you flow through tandem moves.
A 2016 study found an association between higher levels of mindfulness and higher levels of relationship satisfaction. By synchronizing your breathing, you’ll be one with your partner during your practice — and the benefits may even exceed your yoga class.
15. The 6-second kiss
Don’t knock this technique before you try it. Dr. John Gottman, the founder of the Gottman Institute, advocates for the 6-second kiss. It’s a way for couples to add a dash of romance seamlessly throughout the day.
The kiss is long enough to be passionate while also being a distraction from the busy day.
16. Show interest in each other’s day
When did you last ask your partner what they were most excited about?
“Spending a few moments talking about your partner’s goals and agenda will help support them and make them feel cared for in your relationship.”
Prost believes that curiosity can help your partner feel connected to you.
17. Share a list of things you want from your partner
Write down three things your partner could do that would make you happy. Share your list with one another.
The lists may not be something your partner can do every day, but a reminder of things they can manage to do once a week to help build trust and communication.
“The point is that we all show and need affection in different ways, and honoring those differences is essential to feeling heard and understood,” says Nyro Murphy, LCPC.
18. Use an icebreaker
You might remember the good old fashioned icebreakers from summer camp or work seminars, but this game may help reignite your relationship and teach you something new.
Reintroduce yourself to your partner by asking questions that dig beneath the surface.
19. Connect through music
Remember when you could make your school crush the ultimate mixtape?
A 2011 study found that shared music preferences create stronger social bonds.
“You can relive the moments you shared with your partner by listening to your own songs. You can swap your music and see the other person’s romantic side.”
20. Start a book club for two
You can share your experience with each other through reading. Pick a book that grabs your attention and set a date to discuss it over dinner.
21. Eye gazing
Initiating long-held eye contact with your partner may help you two feel a stronger connection.
Prolonged eye contact can help you recognize emotions,
A 2018 study associated eye gazing with “self-other merging,” reducing the boundary between yourself and the other person to feel unity.
The eyes are the window to the soul, so why not try it?
22. Practice gratitude
Gratitude has many benefits, including boosting well-being for yourself and your relationship.
At the end of the day, you should share three things you are grateful for.
23. Increase your cuddle time
There’s a reason why cuddling with your partner feels so good: Cuddling causes your body to release oxytocin and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
What’s more, according to
24. Invest in a therapy workbook
Take time each week to go through assigned activities with your partner, if you find a couples therapy workbook in a book store or online.
Hsueh recommends her clients read and answer the question prompts in “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson.
Hsueh also recommends “The Couple Home Lasting Connection System,” a workbook filled with exercises designed to help couples connect in “deeper, more meaningful ways.”
25. Unplug from your devices
According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 25 percent of participants in a serious relationship say cellphones distract their partner when they’re alone together.
Known as phone snubbing (or “phubbing”), focusing on your phone instead of your partner in a social setting could negatively
“If you feel like you’re missing out on something in your relationship, try to set aside time to communicate and fully disengage.”
If you need a relationship refresh, counseling may be a good option.
You can benefit from participating in couples therapy and acquiring a toolkit if you so choose.
The benefits to couples therapy are endless. The act of seeking couples therapy can be a demonstration of the significance and importance of your relationship.
She wants couples therapy to teach them how to navigate life together as a team, so that they can say hey, thanks for the support, but we got it from here.
The perks of couples therapy can be included.
- A third-party mediation can help facilitate conversations.
- finding new ways to communicate with your partner
- decreasing conflict in your relationship
- Being intentional with your time and words.
- Setting time to improve your relationship.
- Creating a calm space in therapy to discuss difficult topics is what it is about.
- Techniques can be used to enhance emotional and physical intimacy.
- You should make your relationship a priority.
- Identifying harmful or damaging patterns in your relationship is something you can do.
- Building trust with one another.
- establishing healthy boundaries in your relationship
- You might not know that a therapist can identify underlying issues and emotions.
- Developing skills to manage conflict.
- Learning to relate to each other in a loving, kind way is finding common ground.
- You are supported and listened to in your relationship.
- Skills to identify your needs and wants in a relationship are built.
Couples therapy can be started for any reason that causes conflict, distress or mistrust.
Couples may seek therapy.
- rebuild trust after infidelity or deceit
- “If you’re dissatisfied, you can enhance physical and emotional intimacy.”
- Overcome trauma.
- A big move or a transition like parenthood.
- There are conflicting views on how to parent.
- help manage substance use disorder recovery for one or both partners
- learn more about the relationship
- Gain stability when you feel lost.
- get support when grieving the loss of a loved one
- Have fun in your relationship.
- Conflict can be resolved in a rational way.
- Define the significance and seriousness of a relationship with the help of a third party.
- work through infertility
- Help with blended families.
- Career pressures and job changes can be difficult to navigate.
- Financial problems should be handled.
Couples wait to seek therapy until they reach a point of crisis in their relationship. Young says that this is a good time to seek couples therapy, but that you should consult with a provider to make sure couples counseling is the right avenue of support.
But in dangerous or dire situations, mental health professionals may advise another path.
There are times when couples therapy is not indicated, such as situations of domestic violence or an ongoing affair. She says that the therapist will likely recommend individual counseling in these situations.
Most couples can benefit from counseling to improve communication, overcome obstacles, and maintain a healthy relationship.
If you are dealing with infidelity, substance abuse, or infertility, couples therapy can help.
If you want to improve other aspects of your relationship, such as communication, intimacy, or conflict resolution, you may want to consider couples therapy.
It could be beneficial for couples to navigate other stress points in their lives, such as getting married, having a baby, moving, or changing career paths.
Before your first therapy session, your therapist may give you paperwork about fees, office policies, and other ethical or legal considerations.
You and your partner may be asked to fill out an intake form to provide basic information.
The first few sessions of couples therapy usually involve discussing the details of your relationship, along with what you hope to work on during therapy.
Your therapist will help you identify areas of improvement, set goals for your relationship, and establish a treatment plan to maximize your results from therapy.
It is important to discuss with your partner which factors are most important to each of you when looking for a therapist and whether or not you have any preferences regarding the gender, cultural background, location, or specialty of your provider.
Asking for a referral from friends, family members, or other medical professionals can be a great starting place to find a couples therapist.
There are also many websites available that provide lists of mental health professionals in your area, including the Healthline FindCare tool. These tools typically allow you to filter providers based on gender, language, the forms of therapy offered, and the types of insurance they accept.
You may also want to consider using an online couples therapy platform, which can be a convenient and affordable alternative to in-person therapy.
Some of our top picks are listed here.
- ReGain: a great option for flexible scheduling
- Talkspace:around-the-clock counseling through messaging
- Pride Counseling: specialist services for the LGBTQIA+ community
- Our Relationship: caters to military and veteran couples
- Couples Therapy Inc.: support for couples recovering from infidelity
- Bound Together Counseling: sex and relationship counseling
- Thriveworks: insurance may cover these services, and it’s in-network with most policies
Will couples therapists recommend divorce?
“Couples therapists don’t recommend divorce. A therapist wants to help couples work through their issues and improve their relationship by providing a safe space for communication, guiding them in conflict resolution and establishing emotional intimacy.”
After careful consideration, a divorce is a serious decision that should only be made.
Can couples therapy make things worse?
If the couple is not willing to address the issues that brought them to therapy, things can get worse. Couples therapy can be more harmful than good if one or both partners are not interested in resolving the issues.
It can be difficult to address anger, resentment, and bitterness between the couple in therapy if there is a lot of it. Therapy sessions can become frustrating and useless if people are unwilling to open up and share their feelings with each other.
Couples therapy can be an effective tool in helping couples resolve issues in their relationship if both partners are willing to work on the relationship and are committed to making things better.
What’s the difference between relationship therapy and relationship counseling?
Relationship therapy and relationship counseling aim to improve communication and resolve conflict in a relationship. There are some differences between the two.
Relationship counseling is usually focused on helping couples deal with present events and may also be used to prepare people for a healthy, strong marriage.
Relationship therapy can be useful for couples at any stage in their relationship. Some of the techniques are similar to marriage counseling, but people deal with problems that have a history and have created unhealthy patterns of relating. The therapists look for the reasons behind the emotions that drive the patterns and work with the couple to change them.
Relationship therapy can be an effective way to improve a relationship, but both partners must be willing to work on their issues in order to succeed.
No problem is too big or small for therapy with the help of an experienced licensed professional.
Exercise and techniques developed by licensed therapists can help rehabilitate your relationship and improve your communication skills.
Jillian Goltzman is a freelance journalist covering culture, social impact, wellness, and lifestyle. She’s been published in various outlets, including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Fodor’s Travel Guide. Outside of writing, Jillian is a public speaker who loves discussing the power of social media — something she spends too much time on. She enjoys reading, her houseplants, and cuddling with her corgi. Find her work on her website, blog, Twitter, and Instagram.