Couples counseling techniques are diverse, and what works for one couple may not work for others. Most couple therapy techniques in some ways parallel individual therapy, and focus on individual characteristics and personalities, and how they interact in a family and relationship setting.
Family/Genogram Counseling Style
Couple therapy questions often begin with the origins of the family. The genogram technique obtains names, dates of marriage, divorce dates, or other genealogical information, which may uncover an underlying reason for the conflict in the marriage.
The family floor plan is another way to learn dynamics and relationships of the immediate family. In this technique, an actual floor plan of the home is drawn with each room labeled; the therapist paying particular attention to the comments of each partner during the process, and how they view their family.
Communication-Emphasis Couples Counseling
One technique implemented in couples relationship counseling is to focus on communication skill building. Listening techniques including reflection of feelings, restatement of content, nonjudgmental brainstorming and taking turns expressing feelings are some of the methods used.
An extremely effective way in couples therapy exercises is to ask each partner to take a negative comment, made by their partner, which might have irritated them and to re-framing it in a positive manner. In this way, what may have seemed to be questioning or prying becomes a loving, caring inquiry.
Empty Chair Counseling Technique
The “empty chair” is a popular communication-focused technique. It requires one partner to leave the room, while the other partner addresses the chair with anything they want to vent regarding the relationship. The first partner is then sometimes asked to sit in the chair and answer as they think the other person would answer. Therapists use their judgment as to whether or not to bring in the removed partner to hear any portion of this session.
Couples Counseling Techniques for Families with Children
- Family sculpting is used in couples therapy techniques when children are involved. Teens in particular are great sculptors, when asked to arrange the family’s chairs as they see the family a great deal can be learned.
- Family choreography takes this technique one step further by asking the teen to arrange the family as they would like it to be.
- Family council meetings technique: Council meetings, which are attended by all members of the family, are prescribed, rules of conduct are given and a time is set. Any member who is absent will have to abide by any rules made by attending members. Family issues are discussed and solutions determined during the meetings with each member participating. These meeting provide structure for family interaction and help with communication.
A strategic alliance is often formed when a therapist feels that a change in one partner’s responses or attitudes can affect all family members. The alliance is a supportive system for that partner to make a change with the help of the therapist.
Stress Reduction Counseling Techniques
Prescribing indecision is basically giving the couple who is stressed about making a major decision the prescription to not decide for a specific time frame, using that time to research and discuss a caring informed solution.
Relationship/Romance Improving Counseling Techniques
Mini outings, special days, or date night is a good technique used by almost all therapists. Even if a couple cannot get away, a time is set aside for caring time. Couples are asked to show their caring and may even be given specific actions to perform.