A couples therapist is a counselor who focuses on helping two people in a relationship to work through their problems. These professionals may also be referred to as marriage counselors or marriage therapists. The couple being seen by the therapist may or may not be married.
Couples therapy is often seen as a drastic measure taken when a relationship is in serious danger. This is not always the case, however, as many couples elect to see a therapist prior to getting married. This is a good way to identify possible marriage conflicts before they occur. A few counseling sessions often prove invaluable to helping a new marriage start on the right foot.
A couples therapist may also help relationships that are going through a rocky spot. These counselors are specially trained to handle the unique conflicts that occur between two people in an intimate relationship. The therapist can offer valuable tools, exercises, and advice to help heal and improve the relationship.
The biggest difference between a couples therapist and a therapist who works with individuals is the focus of the treatment. In couples therapy, the most important client is the relationship itself rather than either individual. The therapist should always have the best interests of the relationship in mind.
Therapy for couples usually takes place in one hour sessions held once a week. Most couples find that a short-term stint in therapy over the course of a few weeks is sufficient. The couple may see their therapist for months if the situation is more serious. To achieve the best results, a couples therapist must feel that she is a good fit for her clients. If the therapist and clients do not have a comfortable relationship, a switch to another therapist may be in order.
In some situations, couples therapy is also combined with individual therapy for the best results. If one or both of the individuals in the relationship has deep-seated issues that must be addressed, these are often addressed separately from the relationship issues. Sessions may be held with the individuals, both alone and together, in this type of situation.
A master's degree and licensure or certification are required to become a couples therapist. Therapists, or counselors, usually do not hold a doctorate. Psychologists and psychiatrists, on the other hand, do hold a doctorate in their field and can provide more comprehensive care when needed.