15 of the Best Couples Therapy Techniques to try

Couples therapy is a form of therapy that aims at solving interpersonal conflicts and issues arising between you and your partner. It involves the therapist acting as a mediator between romantically involved individuals to form a communication bridge that was previously missing. Studies published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, it can be seen that 70% of marriages have worked out after going to couples therapy!

Read More: Psychology Behind Relationships

The main objective is to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for the couple to air out problems and concerns regarding or arising within the relationship. It is aimed at fostering a healthy environment with a mediator for the couple to face the conflict head-on and become equipped with better tools to form or reassert a healthy relationship bond. Therapists incorporate various techniques and activities for the couple, these may be performed by the therapist, the couple or both!

Read More: What Is Couples Therapy, And How Does It Work?

Bridging The Communication Gap

Have you noticed how most debates involve people simply yelling at each other? Indeed most disagreements happen when people are not willing to listen to one another. Communication is a skill that requires you to listen actively and assert clearly while being open-minded and respectful. Couples therapy involves providing couples with communication enhancement techniques such as:

Read More: Let’s sort it out: Importance of Healthy communication in relationships

Reflective listening is one of the most common techniques used to enhance communication between partners. This involves using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘You’ ones. For example, “I feel I am not important enough for you”. Such phrasing helps the speaker to look inwards and let go of a more attacking position towards their partner. For example, “You do not value me”.

Effective Communication Relationship worksheet is a fun activity for couples to try out. It lays out tips for effective communication such as maintaining eye contact, use of appropriate language (verbal and bodily), honesty, using personal pronouns, cultivating understanding, asking open-ended questions and so on. Then they are given some questions that ask them to elaborate on their understanding of these tips.

Naikan Reflection involves couples asking deep questions regarding their relationship which can help them gain more understanding and awareness about where the relationship stands. This includes reflective questions such as “What have I sacrificed for this relationship?”, “What have I received from it?” and so on.

Positive Language Exercises help in minimizing the negative tone which after a while of conflict must become overwhelming. This includes rephrasing issues or sentiments in such a way that it sounds more positive and unlike criticism, also has some sort of appreciation. For example, instead of saying “You give too much time to work”, say “I love how dedicated you are to your profession, however…”.


Therapies Used

Just like each artist has his style, the same is true with therapists. Therapists employ various forms of therapy to guide couples as they work through their interpersonal conflicts. Some of these are detailed below:

  • Gottman Therapy was developed by John Gottman in the 1990s. His studies on divorce helped him analyze the major reasons behind communication breakdowns and aggravation of conflict. He developed a technique “Sound Relationship House” which includes nine positive components that are to ask deeper questions, build newfound fondness, turn toward each other, positive perspective, conflict management, mutual support, trust, commitment, and shared meaning.

Read More: I Love You But I Can’t Commit!

  • Imago Therapy is yet another therapy that aims at helping couples get a better understanding of each other. This therapy is based on the idea that childhood experiences and trauma guide who we are as people and how we form relationships. This therapy helps in getting a better understanding of where your partner is coming from and identifying negative patterns that have influenced their bonds in the past.
  • Behavioural Marital Therapy, similar to the classic CBT, is focused on identifying patterns of behaviour or recurring actions that hurt the significant other and then finding alternate behaviours that would be more suited. For example, if a person continuously uses certain terminology that upsets their partner, then the partner could try praising the partner whenever the person uses better terminology.
  • The Developmental Model in couples therapy is similar to the stages in child development. This therapy was initiated in the 1980s and assumes that relations develop gradually over time in terms of stages. These stages are namely bonding, differentiation, practising, rapprochement and synergy. Conflict arises when partners are at two different developmental stages in the relationship. The therapist identifies the differing stages and then together, they can work towards going to the next developmental stage.

Intimacy Building Exercises

Conflicts often take away or blur the established intimate bond between the couple. This leads to further resentment and distaste. Thus, most couple therapies begin with reestablishing some form of intimacy between the couple. Some such exercises are:

Intimacy Bucket is a concept given by Garcia that includes various types of intimacies such as intellectual, experiential, social, sexual and emotional. Perhaps somewhere down the line, partners could have lost touch with these aspects of their relationship. Thus, they must try to be stimulated in all these areas by each other. Have more insightful conversations and debates, try new things together, get together with your group for a fun activity, rebuild a sexual connection and be vulnerable with each other.

Identify Love Languages using the Love Language Quiz as given by Dr. Gary Chapman. He laid out 5 different love languages in his book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ (A very creative name). These are namely acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time and gift giving. Identifying your partner’s love language can make it easier for you to love them in the way they can identify as well as notice the way they have loved you!

Read More: Why do People Fall in Love?

Love Mapping is an exercise that aims at gaining a better understanding of your partner. When you learn new information, you form a mind map which helps you store the information in a concise and more comprehensible way. Similarly, the love map will allow you to get to know all facets of your partner’s personality and life experiences which will help foster a deeper connection.

Creative Expressive Activities

It is extremely important to find respite in times of high-pressure situations. When things are getting very heated, it is a nice idea to take a step back and cool down, this can be done by engaging in creative activities together. Some such activities could be:

The power of Music is undeniable. Studies have found that having similar music preferences leads to better relationships and increased social attraction. So, one activity could be making playlists for each other or listening to each other’s favourite music. This will help you get closer and perhaps even find a new hobby together!

Couples Journaling is a surefire way to understand how your partner feels about a certain issue. It helps regain clarity about each other’s emotional patterns as well as helps build emotional intimacy. While this can be a completely free-form exercise, some prompts can be provided by the therapist to help initiate the conversation. A prompt example could be ‘I feel [blank] when you [blank]’.

Paint through the Pain is a form of expressive therapy. You and your partner can paint something for each other, explain what your idea behind painting it was and then have an expert analyze the art and help you uncover underlying issues. For example, you could paint portraits of each other or express through art how you felt when you first met each other.

Partner Yoga is a very popular activity across the globe. Essentially you can partake in yoga with your partner. Multiple workshops take place in this arena. Such workshops can happen online, offline as well as in various retreats and so on. This activity helps foster mindfulness, connect through physical intimacy, rebuild trust and much more. Studies have found a direct link between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction.

Read More: Yoga and Psychology: Connections Between Ancient and Modern Knowledge

These exercises have been proven extremely fruitful in times of interpersonal conflict and can help make relationships healthier even when there is no active issue since all of these are based on simply getting to know your partner more and establishing a deeper and more meaningful bond.

References +
  • Goltzman, J. (2023, November 27). 25 Tips and Techniques to Try Couples therapy. Healthline.
  • Boer, D., Fischer, R., Strack, M., Bond, M. H., Lo, E., & Lam, J. (2011). How shared preferences in music create bonds between people. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(9), 1159–1171.
  • Madeson, M., PhD. (2024, January 18). 21 Best Couples Counseling Exercises, Techniques, & Worksheets.
  • Couples therapy techniques. (2023, February 22). Well Marriage Center.
  • Team, C. (2024, February 21). Communication skills. Corporate Finance Institute.
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