Relationship therapy is a form of psychotherapy, a broadly defined type of psychology that generally refers to using communication between a therapist and client to assess and solve issues. It is performed by a trained therapist who communicates with groups of clients in order to help resolve conflicts and issues within their relationships. Types of relationships can include couples, families, coworkers, or any other groups who may need professional assistance in learning how to communicate effectively, handle disagreements without escalation, or deal with any personal underlying issues that cause distress within the relationship. Relationship therapy is usually short-term, around 12 sessions, with clear goals in mind to have accomplished by the end.
A relationship therapist meets with patients and discusses problems each of the individuals may be having that affect the relationship in question, such as infidelity, substance abuse, or even just simple personality conflicts. During a relationship therapy session, a therapist typically will have clients discuss which issues are the most problematic to the relationship and then offer solutions for them to enact. Usually, a therapist will assign exercises as “homework” to the clients for them to complete after each session, such as verbally explaining to one another how certain behaviors make them feel rather than letting it lead to yelling arguments. Exercises differ greatly depending on the specific techniques a therapist feels are most effective in his or her practice.
There are life circumstances in which relationship therapy may be most beneficial. For instance, a significant life-changing event, such as the first birth of a child or a death in the family, can cause tension in a relationship between spouses or parents and children. Therapy does not necessarily have to be used for serious circumstances exclusively. It can also be used for improving the dynamics of workplace relationships by having a therapist meet with sets of coworkers and discuss ways to improve teamwork or simply give advice on how they can learn to communicate and get along better.
Generally in a therapy setting, the objective of the therapist is to offer an unbiased, objective assessment of a relationship situation. He or she does not pick sides but instead offers strategies on how to keep a relationship healthy and functional. At times, one client could potentially unknowingly suffer from a mental or emotional problem, such as depression, that contributes to problems in his or her relationships. A relationship therapist’s job is to recognize the problem and offer helpful treatment options as well as teach family or group members how to cope with the other person. The therapy procedures and advice are tailored for each individual case.