Couples Series Part I: What Is Marriage Counselling?

Nov 18, 2022

By now, most people have watched enough TV to have seen a married couple on a couch talking to a therapist. Sometimes the counsellor or psychologist is serious—holding a notepad and casting intense glances at the nervous couple. Other times, they’re inept and goofy—agitating the couple and making things even worse. What both have in common, however, is that they do very little to help us understand what marriage or couples counselling is actually like.

Given the outrageousness of TV and movies, I think today it would help to answer a completely reasonable and common question:

What is Marriage Counselling?

Marriage counselling is a service where you and your partner meet with a therapist in a soundproofed consulting room with the goal of bettering your current situation. The therapist commits to listening closely to understand the uniqueness of your situation while at the same time comparing it to the many different trends and outcomes they’ve experienced with other couples.

Though there are many approaches to working with married couples, what they all have in common is that they aim to support a healthy and well-communicated relationship. Whether they approach the problem through communication, emotions or actions, all services in this area seek to reduce arguments and resentments while increasing harmony and collaboration.

At Thrive, marriage counselling takes a strong focus on what sort of predictable and repetitive cycles of interaction you both keep enacting. A Thrive Counsellor sits with you as a kind, non-judgmental, yet confident professional whose job is to slow you down, observe and reflect back specifically on what repeating blind spots you are acting out.

After a series of sessions, you will begin to ‘lengthen your fuses,’ noticing with increased awareness just what is happening with moments of fear and anger that typically would happen within seconds. Marriage counselling is the process of expressing feelings that have been swept under the rug while committing to the compassion, patience and humility it takes to send each other messages of how much you matter to each other (despite that, this is also why you are likely so hurt and angry).

Effectiveness of Marriage Counselling

Marriage counselling helps couples improve their relationship satisfaction and reduce distress. However, each relationship is unique and individual circumstances may influence the outcome.

A study by the American Psychological Association shows that couple therapy practising Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), developed by Dr Sue Johnson, is the most effective form of therapy. In fact, according to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the success rate of marriage therapy is around 70%.

At Thrive, we have witnessed positive outcomes for couples who engage in marital therapy, with many reporting improvements in communication, relationship quality, and overall well-being.

When to Seek Marriage Counselling?

Couples often find themselves contemplating whether they have to seek couples counselling or not. It could be because they do not want to involve a third person and feel these issues should be fixed by themselves. The truth is even the couple having healthy relationships seek marital therapy, as it helps strengthen their bond.

We recommend visiting therapy as early as possible and not waiting until things deteriorate and your marriage is on edge. Here are the top 5 signs that indicate you should seek marriage counselling.

5 Signs of Marriage Counselling Infographic

Communication Issues

Meaningful communication is key. Lack of communication leads to misunderstanding, conflict and resentment. It indicates severe communication breakdown if you struggle to have a normal conversation without fights or arguments. Getting too loud or giving silent treatment to one another is not a healthy sign. It starts with small, but it can eventually lead to couples avoiding communication altogether. 

Emotional Disconnection

Relationships are filled with passion and love. However, everyone feels emotionally dissociated at times. But having that “spark” alive between you and your partner is crucial. Emotional disconnection can manifest in a lack of intimacy, affection, and understanding and strain the relationship. If both of you feel like you’re living as roommates with minimal chemistry rather than spouses, it is one of the signs that you must seek marriage counselling.

Trust and Infidelity

Infidelity and breaking trust can severely damage your marriage. And to rebuild that trust is a long and challenging process. It involves complex emotions and a healing process. You may even end your relationship. The ultimate call is yours. However, couple counselling can provide both of you a safe space to address the betrayal and work towards your own healing. 

Growing Apart

It is common to experience changes over time that may feel like you are growing apart and may not share the same vision with your partner. This can happen due to individual growth, different priorities, and a lack of shared experiences. If it feels like you are drifting apart and have lost the sense of connection you once had, assistance from a marriage therapist can help you find ways to reconnect.

Financial Conflicts and Stress

Financial stress can take a significant toll on a marriage. Excessive spending habits, different financial priorities, and disagreements on budgeting can cause constant tension in your relationship.

Seeking marital counselling can help you manage and prevent these issues from escalating into larger ones.

What Types of Marriage Counselling Are There?

Based on when couples seek marriage counselling, there are two types:

Pre-marital Counselling

Couples who want to prepare for marriage and establish a strong foundation for their marriage go to premarital counselling. They learn each other’s expectations, values and goals as individuals and as a couple. This typically includes family dynamics, finances, and plans for children. They also learn effective communication skills and marital conflict resolution strategies to maintain healthy communication.

Post-marital Counselling

Post-marital marriage counselling, also known as couple therapy, helps married couples address issues after marriage. This counselling addresses any issues that are fresh or have been piled up for years. Couples explore ways to enhance their emotional and physical intimacy, deepen their bond, and manage their life stressors.

Different Approaches and Techniques in Marriage Counselling

Marital counselling technique solely depends on your specific issues and needs. There are plenty of therapy techniques, and your therapist will use the best approach that will work for you. 

Some of the best couple counselling techniques include:

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was originally for individual use to treat eating disorders, anxiety, depression or substance abuse. These centre around your thoughts and behaviours that contribute to relationship problems. Couples therapists use this method to help you recognize irrational thoughts and behaviours and replace them with more rational ones. It encourages you to look for mutually beneficial solutions and view relationships as opportunities to grow and learn.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) is a short-term therapeutic approach that helps couples recognize and understand their emotional needs and negative communication patterns. It can be challenging to show vulnerability when stuck in apathy or resentment.  Therapists provide a safe space for emotional connection to share problems and work closely with them to identify underlying emotions.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, Gottman Method Couples Therapy is based on extensive research on couple’s dynamics and behaviours. It is designed for couples at any relationship stage, focusing on improving communication, managing conflicts, and building trust.

Usually, the Gottman method is for couples who don’t feel the conflict is problematic but want to understand their relationship better. Initially, you and your partner meet a therapist for a joint assessment, then an individual assessment. Additionally, you may complete questionnaires developed as part of the Gottman Method.

This will allow your therapist to gain a thorough understanding of the relationship to provide feedback on the stability of your marriage and recommend the best interventions for them.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) focuses on finding solutions and setting goals for the future rather than being stuck on past issues. SFBT is best if you are trying to reach a goal or overcome a problem. Through it, you and your spouse can identify the strengths, build on them, and overcome challenges practically.

Imago Relationship Therapy

Imago Relationship Therapy focuses on understanding the unhealed wounds and explores the childhood experiences and past relationships that shape how individuals relate to their partners. It helps you acknowledge and understand how your childhood experiences made you respond to your spouse. Imago therapy aims to foster understanding, empathy, and growth within the relationship.

Approaches of Marriage Counselling Infographic

Does Marriage Counselling Really Work?

Yes, it works only if you’re willing to fix your marriage. It is not just sitting back for one or two sessions and assuming the therapist will fix you. It works when both of you approach counselling with an open mind, engage actively and commit to equal efforts.

How Does Marriage Counselling Work?

Marriage counselling involves a series of psychotherapy sessions with a trained counsellor. Here is how counselling works:

  • Initial Assessment: Your counsellor will make you take an initial assessment to understand your relationship dynamics better and tailor the sessions accordingly.
  • Identification of Issues: The therapist will work with you to identify the main issues, such as communication problems, conflicts, emotional disconnection, etc.
  • Goal Setting: After identifying your issues, you will establish goals as a couple for therapy. Clear goals such as rebuilding trust, improving communication, developing marital conflict resolution skills or enhancing intimacy will help measure your progress.
  • Intervention and Techniques: The therapist will utilize various techniques, exercises, role-playing, or other therapeutic techniques and strategies for facilitating emotional expression and connection.
  • Homework and Practice: Be ready for homework! Your marriage counsellor will provide exercises that include communication techniques and implementing marital conflict resolution strategies. The assignment aims to reinforce learning, promote skill development, and apply what you have learned in therapy in your daily lives.
  • Ongoing Support and Evaluation: You’ll receive guidance, time-to-time evaluation and feedback from your therapist. They are here to help you navigate challenges to sustainable positive changes. Moreover, they will also review the progress made and evaluate any necessary adjustments to ensure your goal has been addressed.

How Many Marriage Counselling Sessions Should You Have?

While providing a precise duration for marriage counselling sessions is challenging, a typical range is around 8 to 12 sessions, assuming you have a weekly or bi-weekly session. 

Overall, the duration of the session depends on you as a couple. However, there are factors that may influence how long your counselling will last:

  • The complexity of the issues
  • Level of commitment and motivation
  • Consistency
  • Therapist’s approach and techniques

What to Expect From Marriage Counselling?

In our marriage therapy sessions, you work with trained marriage counsellors who specialize in relationships and give you a healthier direction. Your therapist will provide you with a safe and supportive space for you to express what you have piled up within you.

As you progress through the sessions, you will develop a deeper awareness of the dynamics within your relationship. This increased awareness may bring moments of fear or anger to the surface as you confront and address underlying issues. These emotions are a natural part of the healing process and an opportunity for growth and positive change in your relationship.

These are a few things that you can expect from marriage counselling:

  • Neutral Perspective
  • Improved communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Identification of patterns
  • Comprehensive understanding of the dynamics
  • Emotional support 

Benefits of Marriage Counselling

1. Improved Communication

Talking is not communication. Marriage counselling lets you express your thoughts and feelings healthily and constructively while improving your listening skills. You’ll feel you have a better understanding, empathy and cooperation in your relationship. 

2. Rebuilding Trust

Well, rebuilding trust is a bit of a challenging process. You may love your partner, but the betrayal can forever stick with you. However, marriage counsellors can provide a supportive environment to address the betrayal and proceed toward your healing.

3. Restoring Intimacy

By addressing emotional issues, you can work together to rebuild the emotional and physical closeness that may have been lost.

4. Goal Alignment

Because two personalities are coming together for a relationship, sometimes you must have different visions for the future. Couple therapy can facilitate the discussions so you have a shared commitment to one another. 

5. Financial Harmony

We have seen many times relationships being strained because of financial issues. There have been cases where only one partner makes financial decisions. In such situations, couple therapy can be crucial in addressing imbalances and challenges. It can help both partners develop effective money management strategies, and facilitate collaborative decision-making, ensuring that both individuals have a voice and feel empowered in the financial aspects of their relationship. 

Learn more about it in our comprehensive post, “Benefits of Marriage Counselling.”

What Happens in Marriage Counselling?

Initially, you’ll typically have a 50 to 75-minute session with your marriage counsellor every week or two. Then eventually, your therapist will provide you with practices to implement in your relationships. 

During sessions, your therapist will create a space where you can slow down and collaborates with you as a team. They help you break free of negative interactions that may be causing tensions and conflicts in the relationship. By bringing awareness to these blind spots, you and your partner can gain valuable insights and work towards breaking free from destructive patterns.

How to Prepare for Marriage Counselling?

Marriage counselling can be overwhelming, and you may even feel an overflow of emotions. However, keep in mind that this counselling is for you. Here are some steps to help you prepare for marriage therapy and maximize your sessions. 

  • Reflect on your feelings: Take some time to reflect on your feelings and concerns about the relationship. Consider what issues or challenges you would like to address in therapy. 
  • Communicate with your partner: You must have honest communication with your partner about the next steps. Discuss why you want to attend marriage counselling and encourage your partner to share their feelings. 
  • Keep an open mind: Know that there is always a new perspective different than yours, even better. Be open to new strategies and feedback from the therapist that your therapist will suggest. 
  • Be prepared for emotional moments: Counselling sessions bring intense emotions and discussion. Remain open, and practice active listening and empathy to create a safe space for you and your partner.
  • Be committed and consistent:  Consistency and commitment are key in marriage counselling. Therefore, the session is for you to attend sessions regularly and participate in the process.
  • Have patience: Remember that changes take time and patience. Rebuilding your relationship also takes time and effort. Trust this process and your counsellor in your growth and healing journey. 

Finding the Right Marriage Counsellor

Each counsellor has different approaches to their sessions. Finding the right marriage counsellor may require some trial and error. Don’t hesitate to seek a different one if you aren’t connecting well with a particular counsellor.

Here are the top 3 strategies which can help you find the right marriage counsellor:

Researching Marriage Counselling Services

Always take the time to research different marriage counselling providers in your area. Look out for their backgrounds, expertise, and therapeutic approaches to see if they can deal with the issues you both are facing. 

Considering Personal Compatibility

The therapy won’t work if you sense incompatibilities with the counsellor. It is important that you and your spouse feel comfortable sharing your issues. Consider factors such as their communication style, personalities and approach.

You can even sign up for initial counselling sessions with the counsellor to assess if you feel comfortable, heard, and understood.

Seeking Referrals and Recommendations

Referrals and recommendations help. Ask if you can get referrals from your friends, families or anyone with experience with particular marriage counsellors. However, remember that what worked for them may not work for you. Consider your unique needs and preferences as well. 

How Much Does Marriage Counselling Cost in Canada?

On average, a marriage counselling session in Canada costs $150 to $250 per session. However, it depends on various factors, such as the qualifications and experience of the therapist and the duration of sessions.

Some marital counsellors may even provide package deals for multiple sessions. We recommended that you also reach out for any potential insurance coverage or assistance that may be available.

At Thrive Downtown, we offer couples counselling sessions with our registered counsellor at $200 plus GST. However, if you’re seeking a more budget-friendly alternative, our intern is available to provide counselling services at a significantly reduced cost of $80 plus GST.

To ensure that you choose the right counsellor for your needs, we’re happy to provide a free 15-minute phone consultation. During this call, we can answer any questions you may have and gain a better understanding of your specific requirements.


Marriage counselling can help couples with various issues such as communication breakdown, emotional disconnection, trust and infidelity, growing apart, and financial conflicts. Remember that active participation and commitment from both of you are essential for successful outcomes in marriage therapy. However, finding the right marriage counsellor is equally important for effective counselling and thriving in your relationship. 

Embark on a journey with us to deepen your bonds and cultivate a sense of safety and intimacy in your relationships. With our Counselling Vancouver services, you are not alone in your journey towards stronger and healthier relationships.

Book your free consultation today to learn more about marriage counselling. 

Marriage Counselling FAQs 

How can I save my marriage?

Saving your marriage takes time, effort, and a genuine desire to work together toward a healthier and happier future. Yet, you can recognize the root issues and acknowledge and address them. It’s always better to seek professional guidance from a licensed marriage counsellor that can help you in this process.

How long does it take for couples counselling to work?

Couples counselling can last anywhere from 3 months to a year or longer. It depends on the complexity of the issues and your willingness to stay committed. 

Does marriage counselling work after infidelity?

Marriage counselling is effective even after infidelity as it provides a safe space to acknowledge the underlying cause of what led to the affair. The final decision would be yours, but the success of counselling after infidelity is possible with your commitment to rebuilding the relationship.

Who needs marriage counselling?

Any couple at any level of marriage, even the couple with the healthiest relationship, can approach marriage counselling. However, it is also beneficial for couples experiencing many challenges, such as communication issues, marriage conflicts, trust issues, and lack of intimacy. 

What is the success rate of couples counselling?

According to studies, the success rate of marriage therapy is 70%. It is important to note that each relationship is unique, and various factors such as the severity of issues, willingness and expertise of the therapist may influence the outcome. 

Is it too late for couples counselling?

It is never too late, even if the relationship is on the brink of divorce or separation. Couples counselling is an opportunity for you to address the underlying issues and explore possible solutions. 

Is it a good idea to do marriage counselling if I’m considering leaving the relationship?

Marriage counselling can be beneficial even if you’re considering leaving the relationship. It provides an opportunity to explore underlying issues, improve communication, and gain clarity on whether to continue or end the marriage.

Are all therapists qualified to do marriage counselling or couples therapy?

Not all therapists are qualified to do marriage counselling or couples therapy. Look for therapists who have specific training and experience. They will have the necessary skills to address relationship dynamics, communication issues, and other challenges that couples commonly face. 

Marriage counselling is not recommended in cases of active abuse or when there is a risk of harm to either partner. Your safety should be your top priority. If you are in an abusive relationship, you must seek help from authorities. Once your safety concerns have been addressed, you may consider therapy, but it is important to work with professionals experienced in dealing with abuse-related issues. 

What is marriage counselling vs couples counselling?

Marriage and couples counselling are often used interchangeably and refer to the same type of therapy. Both focus on improving the relationship and addressing issues that teams may face. The terms may vary based on the therapist’s preference or the context in which they are used. 

Can we bring our kids to our couples therapy session?

It is generally not recommended to bring children to couples therapy sessions. Couples therapy is designed to provide a space for open and honest communication between partners, and the presence of children may hinder the session’s effectiveness. 

When should you start marriage counselling?

When facing challenges or seeking to improve your communication and connection, you can start marriage counselling at any point in a relationship. Early intervention can prevent issues from escalating and help establish healthier patterns of interaction. Also, marriage counselling can be beneficial during transitions, major life changes, or when couples want to strengthen their relationship and deepen their understanding of each other. 

Continue to Couples Series Part II: Does Marriage Counselling Work?

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.

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