Couples Therapy & Marriage Counselling

Here at SolutionFirst Therapy, we know how crucial it is to build and maintain powerful, heartfelt bonds in relationships. When couples are unhappy, they’re more likely to split up or even divorce, and they might not be as healthy or happy. We’ve been able to help lots of couples, whether they’re married or not, to enhance their relationships. We do this using time-tested counseling methods that really work. Our couples therapists are specialized, who are experts in nurturing relationships. Using some of the most effective therapeutic techniques, they guide couples towards success.

What is Couples Therapy and Marriage Counselling?

Couples therapy, also known as couples counselling or marriage counselling, is a type of counselling specifically designed for two individuals in a deep, committed relationship. It’s a space where couples can work through issues that are causing tension, like lack of connection, love, understanding, trust, or even communication difficulties. It’s also an opportunity for couples to learn how to set healthy boundaries and find solutions that benefit both partners equally.

There are moments in every relationship where things might feel a bit rocky, such as when trust has been broken by an affair or when there is abuse. It’s during these testing times that couples often turn to counselling. Studies have shown that couples who seek help during these tough periods often end up better off than those who try to navigate through the storm alone.

But don’t be mistaken! Couples therapy isn’t just for those who are facing a crisis. You don’t have to wait until things are going downhill to seek help. In fact, many couples use therapy as a way to enhance what is already a loving and supportive relationship. They use it as a tool to boost their communication skills, helping to iron out potential conflicts before they occur. It can be particularly useful when preparing for big life changes, such as having children, buying a house, or switching careers.

Couples therapy isn’t only for those who are married. It’s available for all types of couples, whether they’re unmarried, about to get married, living together, or just dating. At our clinic, our team of psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers are experienced in assisting all kinds of relationships, including heterosexual and same-sex couples, as well as dyads and polyamorous relationships.

At SolutionFirst Therapy, we provide a range of approaches for couples therapy and marriage counselling. However, we tend to gravitate towards Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT Couples Therapy), often regarded as the “Gold Standard” for couples counselling. Research shows couples see significant improvement with EFT in 8-20 sessions. We offer a variety of tools and techniques to help couples navigate their relationship in a healthy, fulfilling way.

Who Attends Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy isn’t just for married folks, even though they do make up a big chunk of the people we see. Couples counselling is for any duo in a committed relationship, whether they’re married, unmarried, preparing to tie the knot, or living together, including same-sex partners. Interestingly, even platonic friends who are starting a business venture together often come in for sessions to help build strong communication and set clear boundaries.

Couples therapy can be a great way to enhance an already good relationship or to build better communication skills, especially before stepping into a big life event like marriage, having kids, buying property, or launching a business. It’s common for couples to excel in some areas like parenting or sharing chores, but find it challenging to discuss deeper, more emotional subjects like intimacy. Therapy can offer a safe space to navigate these more complex issues.

Why Attend Couples Therapy?

There’s a wide range of reasons why couples might decide to seek counselling. Some of the most common issues that bring couples to therapy include:

  • Struggles with communication: Misunderstandings can lead to conflict, and good communication is key to resolving these issues.
  • Changes in intimacy: When physical affection or sex decreases or stops, it can lead to feelings of disconnect.
  • Feeling emotionally distant: Feeling like there’s an emotional gap between you and your partner can be tough to handle alone.
  • Frequent arguments: When disagreements become the norm rather than the exception, it might be time to seek help.
  • Anger issues: Uncontrolled anger can harm a relationship deeply.
  • Infidelity or betrayal: Trust, once broken, needs time and effort to rebuild.
  • Division of labour problems: Fair distribution of chores and responsibilities is important to avoid resentment.
  • Parenting differences: Disagreements on parenting styles can cause tension.
  • Cultural or religious differences: Navigating a relationship with differing backgrounds can sometimes be challenging.
  • Major life transitions: Big changes like a new baby, retirement, or a death in the family can cause stress.

At SolutionFirst Therapy, we also specialize in dealing with more specific challenges, such as:

  • Interfaith, interracial, and interethnic relationships: Blending different backgrounds can sometimes bring unique challenges.
  • LGBTQ+ issues: We offer a safe and understanding environment to address these concerns.
  • Blended families and in-law relationships: Merging families can often require some guidance.
  • Differences in income or spending habits: Money can often cause tension in a relationship.
  • Open or polyamorous relationships: Navigating these relationships requires clear communication and understanding.
  • Major life changes: Events like retirement, menopause, or dealing with the ’empty nest’ syndrome can be challenging.
  • Substance abuse and recovery: This is a difficult journey that can put strain on a relationship.
  • Pregnancy, miscarriage, or adoption: These can be emotional times where support is essential.
  • Job loss: Especially in tough times like a pandemic, this can cause stress and uncertainty.
  • Chronic or life-threatening health diagnoses: Learning to live with these can put a strain on both partners.

How Does Couples Therapy Help?

Couples therapy can be a transformative tool that helps couples enhance their relationship skills and navigate disagreements more effectively. This form of counselling works by helping each individual become more aware of their unique communication styles and behaviours, as well as understand how these might contribute to misunderstandings or conflict in their relationship.

Without professional help, these negative patterns can grow and intensify, leading to avoidance, disagreements, constant arguments, or other forms of conflict. But with the help of therapy, understanding and reconciliation can be facilitated, paving the way for a more positive and harmonious interaction between the couple. Many who’ve undergone couples therapy have reported a noticeable increase in empathy and understanding in roughly 8-20 sessions, which ultimately leads to a stronger, closer relationship.

When a relationship is in crisis and a couple is contemplating a break-up, separation, or divorce, communication is often severely strained or even non-existent. It can be really tough to step outside of our own behavioural patterns, habits, and beliefs to truly understand our partner’s perspective. This is where couples counselling can be incredibly beneficial. It provides a supportive environment where couples can navigate these challenges and work on developing a path forward.

Improve Relationship Communication

The aim of therapy is to boost communication skills between partners and minimize disagreements. There are many advantages to enhancing communication, such as:

  • Grasping the dynamics of your relationship: Understanding how you and your partner interact can help you navigate your relationship more effectively.
  • Recognizing habitual patterns and limiting beliefs: Therapy can help you identify and break unhelpful patterns and beliefs that may be holding your relationship back.
  • Building a stronger emotional bond: Effective communication can lead to a deeper emotional connection and more support from your partner.
  • Creating opportunities for growth: Good communication can open up new avenues for personal and relational growth.
  • Learning your partner’s love language: Understanding how your partner gives and receives love can greatly improve your relationship.
  • Strategizing for long-distance relationships: Therapy can help you develop effective communication strategies if you’re in a long-distance relationship.
  • Identifying problem resolution: You can learn how to resolve issues in a more productive way.
  • Managing stressors more effectively: Whether it’s money, chores, children, in-laws, health issues or career concerns, therapy can equip you with the tools to handle these common stressors better.

Help with relationship sex and intimacy issues

Our Toronto and virtual clinic caters to a wide range of sex and intimacy-related issues. These may include challenges with sexual functioning like vaginismus or erectile dysfunction, infidelity, sexual dynamics, porn addiction, or the desire to explore open or polyamorous relationships. Even couples who have strong bonds can benefit from therapy to rekindle intimacy and sexual connection.

We adopt a bio-psycho-social approach to understand sexual intimacy issues. It’s crucial to first rule out any physical causes behind the problems. However, it’s important to note that even when there’s a physical explanation, psychological factors often play a significant role. These issues can either contribute to or result from physical problems, hence the need for a comprehensive approach.

Couples Therapy with Illness or Condition

When one partner is diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease, or autoimmune conditions like lupus, it can have a profound impact on the relationship with their partner. The healthy partner often takes on a caretaking role, which can lead to difficulties in communicating about their emotional and psychological well-being. In turn, this can strain the relationship between partners.

For example, the caretaker may feel guilty about taking time for themselves, as they feel they should be focused on their partner’s needs. Meanwhile, the ill partner may feel like a burden and avoid speaking up about their own needs and emotions. Additionally, partners may have different opinions on how to manage the illness, which can lead to further tension.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of research on effective coping strategies for couples dealing with chronic illness. At SolutionFirst Therapy, our couples therapists have specialized training in clinical health psychology, which allows them to offer targeted support for couples navigating the challenges of chronic illness. With our help, couples can learn to communicate effectively, manage stress, and support each other through their journey toward healing.

Couples dealing with differences

Every partner in a relationship is unique, and while similarities can be comforting, differences can add interest and challenges. This can be especially true for interethnic, interracial, and interfaith couples. However, couples therapy can help partners learn to accommodate and embrace their differences, whether they are related to personality, values, beliefs, or religious views. By working through these differences together, couples can build stronger, more resilient relationships that honor and celebrate each partner’s individuality.

Premarital Couples Therapy and Premarital Counselling

Many people believe that couples therapy is only necessary when problems arise. However, at our Toronto and virtual clinic, many couples seek our services before issues become unmanageable. In particular, engaged couples may want to learn effective communication skills and tools to help prevent problems in the future. They may have witnessed problems in their parents’ or friends’ relationships or recognize the importance of developing strong relationship skills.

Pre-marital therapy is similar to couples therapy but focuses on anticipating and discussing important issues before they become problems. Couples will discuss matters such as how they plan to raise children, where they want to live, and their respective values. They’ll also talk about their expectations around sex, money, in-laws, and other important topics. By learning effective communication strategies and skills, engaged couples can build a strong foundation for a healthy and happy marriage.

Does Couples Therapy work?

Couples therapy has been the subject of numerous studies, with researchers seeking to determine its effectiveness in improving relationship quality. In a recent meta-analysis conducted by Roddy and colleagues (2020), the data from multiple studies were analyzed to determine the impact of couples therapy on relationship quality. Their findings showed that couples who completed a course of couples therapy had statistically significant and large improvements in various measures of relationship quality compared to couples who had not yet sought treatment. This means that couples who engaged in therapy scored 80-95% higher on relationship quality measures, demonstrating the positive impact professional help can provide.

Interestingly, the study also found that couples who had not yet completed therapy did not show any significant improvements while waiting. This suggests that there is little benefit to waiting before seeking couples therapy, particularly for relationships in crisis.

At SolutionFirst Therapy, our therapists have extensive experience in couples therapy research and are knowledgeable in the key interventions that contribute to positive outcomes. We have engaged in research in areas such as online couples therapy, sex therapy, and cultural diversity, and are committed to helping couples improve their relationships. If you are experiencing relationship difficulties, seeking professional help sooner rather than later can make a significant difference in the quality of your relationship.

What is the best type of Couples Therapy?

There are many different models of couples therapy including the Gottman Method, EFT and Family Systems. However, our relationship specialist couples counsellors often utilize EFT as it is considered to be the “Gold Standard” for couples counselling. Our couples therapists are trained in multiple types of couples therapy. We believe in tailoring our approach to the unique needs of each client by incorporating effective tools from various therapy models. Some of the major models we typically work with include:

What is Emotion Focused Couples Therapy?

Emotion Focused Couples Therapy (EFT-C) is an approach we use that is focused on understanding how emotions fuel our relationship dynamics. This form of therapy helps couples identify and become more aware of negative interaction patterns and understand how their attachment histories contribute to these patterns. We help couples identify alternative, healthier ways of meeting their individual needs while engaging with each other in more empathic ways. EFT is often considered the “Gold Standard” for couples counselling.

How do I get started with Couples Counseling?

Choosing the right therapist for couples therapy can be a challenging task. It’s important to work with a therapist who is trained and experienced in working with couples, as not all psychologists, psychotherapists, or social workers specialize in this area.

At SolutionFirst Therapy, our clinicians have significant training and applied research in couples therapy, specifically in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). This means that our therapists have the necessary skills to help couples navigate their relationship challenges effectively.

When you contact our clinic, our clinic coordinator (who is also a therapist) will match you with an associate who is best suited to your specific needs. We will answer any questions you may have and ensure that you receive the appropriate level of care. This call is free and you can ask any questions you would like about therapy and couples counselling.

Should I choose a psychologist, psychotherapist or social worker for couples therapy?

While all three designations – psychologist, social worker, and psychotherapist – can provide couples therapy, it’s essential to ask your therapist about their training and experience in this area. At SolutionFirst Therapy, our therapists have substantial training in individual psychotherapy, as well as couples therapy and its specific models. We ensure our therapists are “solution-focused” meaning that they are driven to help you reach your desired outcomes.

How many sessions does couples therapy take?

In a study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, researchers found that couples who completed EFT therapy showed significant improvements in relationship satisfaction after an average of 8-20 sessions. Another study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that 70-75% of couples who completed EFT reported significant improvements in their relationship after just 10-20 sessions.

The duration of couples counseling is influenced by the nature of the issue, the goals of therapy, and the commitment of each partner. Personality traits can also play a role. Our therapists provide an assessment to estimate the length of therapy required. Initially, the first few appointments serve as a consultation where we gather information, understand the issue, and answer any questions about the process.

Do both partners need to attend therapy sessions?

In couples therapy, it’s usually best for both partners to attend sessions. This allows for a balanced environment where both partners can feel heard and understood without blame or judgment. However, you can always give us a phone call or text us (both free) to hear our recommendation on your best course of action.

Is virtual couples counseling available?

Yes! We offer virtual couples therapy using a secure and encrypted online platform. This means that we can provide services to partners who do not live together, while maintaining your privacy and security.

References

Johnson, S. M., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L., & Schindler, D. (1999). Emotionally focused couples therapy: Status and challenges. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 25(3), 355-372. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1999.tb01173.x

Roddy, M. K., Nowlan-Suart, S., & Doss, B. D. (2020). Emotionally focused therapy for couples: A review of the empirical research. Family Process, 59(1), 194-219. doi: 10.1111/famp.12455

Snyder, D. K., Wills, R. M., & Grady-Fletcher, A. (1991). Long-term effectiveness of behavioral versus insight-oriented marital therapy: A 4-year follow-up study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59(1), 138-141. doi: 10.1037/0022-006x.59.1.138