Katrina Waller

Most people tend to associate couples therapy with intractable problems that they and their partner are struggling with. Couples usually wait until their situation has reached the breaking point before seeking couples therapy, often putting themselves through months or years of unnecessary disappointment, distress and destructive behavior.

As an experienced couples psychotherapist, I can say with confidence that much of the distress, heartbreak and breakdown in couples’ relationships could have been avoided with early intervention. Your couple relationship can harbor rich rewards for your mental and physical health, and significantly contribute to achievements and life satisfaction in both your personal and professional life.

We now live in an age where there is awareness and acceptance of the wisdom and payoffs of preventative health; most people accept that paying attention to what they eat, taking some exercise, and finding ways to manage mental stress are key to staying healthy and preventing many avoidable mental and physical health issues. Often a little goes a long way, so making even some small tweaks to your diet, exercise or stress management can result in significant rewards.

Why not apply this logic to your couple relationship?

It is interesting that for one of the most challenging but potentially rewarding life experiences – our relationship – we usually just expect to be able to “get on with it” and will only consider reaching out for expert and professional help if things go badly wrong. Seeking advice and support from healthcare experts is accepted as being proactive and valuing yourself and your health.

Yet seeking couples therapy tends to carry many misinformed and unhelpful stigmas. People rarely recognize that couples therapy as a preventative measure shows how much you and your partner value your relationship while acknowledging you are likely to encounter conflict and challenges in learning how to navigate your individual wishes, expectations and needs. We are not born with an innate map of how to foster a mutually successful and satisfying couple relationship but we can learn those skills.

A couple is better able to support each other in learning the skills they need when there is goodwill and stability in their relationship than when resentments are high and their situation unstable and unravelling. The payoff of in investing some of your time and money in couples therapy early on could be enormous.

In fact, seeking couples therapy even though you are in a stable and generally mutually satisfying relationship is not unheard of. Some couples do make the decision to seek intervention as soon as alarm bells suggest they are getting stuck with a dilemma before lack of communication, misunderstanding or resentment starts piling up.

For example:

  • Making a key life decision such as having children or relocating due to a career opportunity
  • Coming up against some frustrations and disappointments now that the ‘honeymoon’ period of your relationship has ended
  • Having been a couple for a while and being unsure whether to get married or co-habit
  • A waning or mediocre sex life
  • The impact of a new baby and/or young children on your relationship
  • Managing the demands and expectations of extended family
  • Navigating the impact of a mental or ongoing physical illness on your relationship
  • Being able to remain united and function as a team with a challenging child or teenager
  • Supporting each other through a significant loss
  • Managing a key life transition such as heading towards retirement.

Many couples will find ways of ignoring the fact that, for no fault of their own, they just lack the skills to manage conflict and dilemmas well. Instead they perhaps live with underlying niggling resentments that grow over the years, and they become more estranged from each other while putting on a brave face that “all is well.”

Just as poor daily habits impact overall mental and physical health, developing unhelpful habits in your couple relationship will take its toll. Learning the right skills early on could make all the difference to your relationship and your life.

Couples therapy provides a safe, supported and non-judgmental place for a couple to learn about each other and how to navigate conflict including their needs and wishes to foster a mutually satisfying relationship that supports and nurtures them as a partner and as an individual. It provides a fantastic opportunity to learn about yourself and develop new skills for getting more of what you want out of life including your couple relationship.

So, alongside the investment you are making into your mental and physical health think about the rewards in also investing in couples therapy. For some couples this could be their only way of safeguarding their relationship from ending up in intensive care, but for the vast majority of couples early intervention is just what they need to foster a fully flourishing couple relationship with a robust bill of health.



Katrina has over 20 years experience as a couples and family psychotherapist. She is a fully accredited UKCP registered systemic couple and family psychotherapist, and a member of the Association of Family therapy. Katrina provides insightful, dynamic and practical support for enabling couples and families to develop more helpful ways of communicating and behaving in their relationships. She has specific expertise in working with couples where one or both may be experiencing mental health issues. Her consulting rooms are in East London and Brentwood, Essex.

Category: Couples' Blog

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Alana jhon
Alana jhon
3 years ago

Hello Katrina Waller,

I’m so happy to see your blog is alive and well. I enjoy your voice. You’re writing on a topic that’s close to my heart. This is the best article i have ever read on Internet. I am from Philadelphia and looking for the Best psychologists in Philadelphia because of some relationship problems and was really thinking of suicide but I must say that this article is so much helpful in this critical situation of my life.

Thank you,
Alana Jhon

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.