The thought of going for couples therapy can be distressing, especially for couples who are going to therapy for the first time. However, the experience can be fruitful and easier when the couple knows what they can expect from the therapy sessions. 

Couple’s counselling is a structured process involving various stages aimed at helping the couple navigate through their relationship issues effectively. The structure of therapy usually depends upon the style of therapy being used by the couple’s therapist, but understanding the general structure of couples’ therapy can help couples prepare for it effectively

  • Initial Assessment

The first stage of couples counselling usually involves initial assessment and intake. In this stage, the therapist creates an open and welcoming environment, a safe space for couples to share their issues. Both partners are allowed to speak about their worries and concerns. The therapist may ask questions of the couple regarding their relationship history, areas of conflict, current challenges and individual backgrounds. This stage helps the therapist understand the unique relationship dynamics, allowing them to tailor the counselling approach accordingly.

  • Goal Setting

Once the assessment is done, the therapist and the couple collaboratively establish goals for the counselling process. These goals could include improving communication, resolving conflicts, rebuilding trust, or addressing specific issues such as infidelity or intimacy issues. Setting clear and achievable goals provides a clear roadmap for sessions.

  • Treatment Planning

Based on the goals, the therapist and the couple will develop a plan of action or treatment. In this stage, the therapist will use exercises, observation and guided discussions to help couples identify negative patterns of interaction that might require changing. The therapist may also conduct a few sessions with each partner individually to understand their perspectives on the relationship. This stage is important as it increases self-awareness among partners, while also helping them uncover areas for growth within the relationship.

  • Skill Building

Once the areas for improvement have been identified and a treatment plan is in place, the couple and the therapist work towards building skills that will help improve the relationship dynamics. This may include communication techniques, conflict resolution skills, emotional regulation, and empathy-building exercises. 

  • Exploring New Patterns of Interaction

Once the couple learns new skills in the therapy space, the therapist encourages them to implement these skills in real-life situations. This stage involves practising effective communication, problem-solving, and conflict-resolution techniques in everyday interactions. These newly acquired skills help the couple create healthier patterns of interaction, leading to positive experiences

  • Regular Reviews 

Reviews are an important part of the counselling process. Periodic check-ins and feedback help the couple and the therapist understand if the process is going in the right direction. The therapist frequently evaluates the effectiveness of interventions, addresses any emerging issues, and makes changes to the treatment plan when required. This regular assessment ensures that the counselling process remains focused and tailored to the couple’s evolving needs.

  • Termination And Maintenance

Once the goals of therapy are achieved or significant progress is made, the therapist and the couple mutually agree to terminate the counseling process, This may be done by gradually reducing the frequency of sessions, allowing the couple to practice the newly learned skills independently. The stage also involves reflecting on the changes and making plans to sustain these improvements. Sometimes the couple may also choose to schedule follow-up sessions to monitor the progress and address any relapse in issues if it occurs.


Couples counselling is a structured process aimed at helping couples identify areas for improvement and make positive changes in their relationship. Each stage in the couples therapy process, starting from initial assessment and goal-setting, treatment planning, termination and maintenance, aims to empower couples to create healthier relationship dynamics. Understanding the stages involved in couples therapy will help couples feel more confident while starting their counselling journey. 


  1. Brady, K. (2019, September 18). Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Keir Brady Counseling Services.
  2. Jim. (2023, June 9). What Are the Different Phases Involved in Marital Counseling? Advent Counseling.

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin