Referrals and Resources

In the chart below, you can see the four primary types of help couples seek for relationship problems. For each of the four types of help, we’ve described some of the major considerations in selecting between them. At the bottom of this page, you can find more information on these four types of relationship help.

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Want more information on these four types of relationship help? Click on one of the links below.

Click here to view web resources. Read on for more information.

Advantages

  • Web-based interventions are empirically validated
  • Convenient
  • Inexpensive

Disadvantages

  • Relationship advice often is not empirically validated
  • Difficult to choose from the available resources
  • Disappointment if things do not go as expected

Using online resources can be a great way to improve your relationship – after all, that’s what brought you here. There are many website that provide relationship advice. Some of the sites are run by professional organizations, others by private groups of psychologists and others by people who just like to share their thoughts on relationships. Each site has its own structure and agenda. Professional websites will often provide you with information that is available on research in romantic relationships, while search engines can help you find providers in your area. Other sites will address specific questions you may have about your relationship. Similar to print resources you want to make sure that there is proof that the treatment has shown to be effective and not is not just rooted in somebody’s personal belief. Forums have become a popular venue for people to discuss their relationships problem and exchange their opinions with like-minded people. One of the newer trends are web-based couple intervention programs. Essentially, these online interventions try to provide treatment similar to what you would experience if you saw a therapist in real life.

As with other self-help resources, you should carefully evaluate the basis of the claims that are being made. Anybody can post his or her opinion on the web, so there may be advice that is well intended but will do more harm than good. However, once you have made an informed choice about what resource you want to take advantage off, the results can be quite positive. If you and your partner decide to consult these resources together, you can both benefit greatly. You could both read through the tips provided by experts on how to change your behavior towards and with each other to increase your understanding of each other’s needs as well as increase your overall satisfaction in the relationship. Be aware, to not fall into the trap of expecting overnight change and blaming your partner if things don’t go as smoothly as expected. This is especially important to keep in mind if you decide to partake in forum discussions. Online communities can be a great source of support when going through a rough patch in your relationship but you don’t want to bother your friends and family with your problems. However, although most forums have a moderator who oversees the forum members’ interactions and makes sure things stay peaceful, advice given by members –even with the best intentions – are often biased and not professional opinions and therefore, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Finally, web-based couple interventions are similar to couple therapy in that they are interactive and tailored to the couple’s need. One of the newest programs, OurRelationship, is based on a therapy technique called Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy (IBCT), which is an empirically validated method to help couples improve their relationships. In this program, which can be completed from the comfort of one’s own home, couples learn about the dynamics of relationships and how it impacts their way of interacting with each other. Once the partners have gained a better understanding, they will then work with their partner to resolve their problem. This is a great alternative for distressed couples and individuals who want to improve their relationship but may be unable to attend in person therapy.

Click here to view some web resources.

Advantages

  • Tailored to your specific relationship needs
  • High success rate
  • You work with your partner instead of alone

Disadvantages

  • Not very cost-effective
  • Time consuming
  • Need to talk a stranger about your problems

A relatively small percentage (about one third) of couples who experience challenges in their relationships seek out couple counseling. The reasons are often manifold. Sometimes, people don’t want to share their personal emotions with a stranger whereas others think that their partner just has to change and everything would be fine.

Couple counseling offers many opportunities to improve your relationship. The goal of couple therapy is not to change who you are as a person but to help you and your partner re-connect and develop strategies that allow you to handle differences more effectively. Couple therapy provides a safe environment where you and your partner can voice your views without the risk of getting caught in a spiral of accuse, blame, anger and withdrawal. A good couple therapist will address both partners’ concerns equally and will not take sides. S/he will teach you how to communicate more effectively with each other; how to express your feelings in a non-blaming way and how to empathetically listen to your partner’s concerns without becoming defensive. Once both you and your partner have gained a better understanding of each other’s differences and needs you will eventually be able to re-negotiate your commitment to each other. Especially after some serious issues have arisen in your relationship such as infidelity, couple therapy can help you re-connect and re-build the loving relationship that you used to have.

Attending couple therapy requires commitment on many levels. Most sessions are between 50 and 60 minutes long, in addition to the time it takes you to get there. You may have to arrange child care opportunities while you and your partner attend therapy. Depending on the level of health insurance you have, couple therapy is covered, but it is likely that you will need to pay out of pocket for at least part of it. Most importantly, however, it requires both you and your partner to be committed to improving the relationship and being willing to face emotions that to date you may have successfully avoided. Talking in front of a stranger about some very private issues may be uncomfortable and stir up emotions that have been buried for a while. In this case it is important to keep the end goal in mind: a more fulfilling relationship with your partner.

Couple & Individual Therapy Locators

While we’re really excited about our online program, we recognize we’re not a good fit for every relationship. Below, we’ve included links to help you find other recommended online resources, skilled couple therapists, individual therapists, or hotline operators.

Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy website. Therapists are available in numerous cities in the United States who have been supervised and/or trained in Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy, an empirically validated treatment approach for distressed couples (which also used in the OurRelationship program).

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) referral website. ABCT is one of the premier research-based organizations for psychotherapy. In searching for a couples therapist, be sure to click “Marital Therapy” under SPECIALTIES, not just “couples” under type served. Doing so will provide you with psychologists who have extensive experience in marital and couple therapy. You’ll also be able to search for other specialties (e.g., depression, anxiety, parenting).

American Psychological Association’s (APA) referral website. The APA is the national organization for doctoral-level psychologists. At this website, you will be able to conduct a search for a psychologist in your area who specializes in couples therapy or specific individual problems. Additionally, they provide an 800 number if you’d rather talk to an individual in person to help you find a therapist.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) referral website. AAMFT is the national association of masters-level marriage and family therapists who often have specialized training and experience working with couples.

If you have experienced relationship violence and would like to talk to someone immediately about physical aggression in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website to find out more (Available 24-hours).

Click here to view some therapy resources. Read on for more information.

Advantages

  • Can help you deal with your individual and relationship problems simultaneously
  • Easier to discuss concerns you have with therapist before revealing them to partner
  • Your partner doesn’t have to be available to go

Disadvantages

  • Up to you to improve your relationship – your partner isn’t involved
  • Time consuming
  • Expensive, especially if insurance won’t pay for it.

In our surveys of over 1,000 individuals, people with relationship problems generally first turn to a trusted friend/family member or try a self-help book or web-based program to improve their relationship. Those approaches are much cheaper, quicker, and can be done from your own home in your own time. However, if someone decides they need outside help, seeking individual therapy is a common next step. Additionally, in these same large surveys, talking with an individual therapist is rated as being very helpful – in some cases even more helpful than going to couple therapy. So, what are some of the pros and cons of seeking individual therapy to solve your relationship problems?

One important advantage – and also an important disadvantage, as we’ll discuss in a moment – is that your partner isn’t with you in individual therapy. As a result, it’s easier to bring up individual concerns such as depression, anxiety, or work stress as well as your relationship. Not having your partner in the room can also make it easier to have more frank discussions about whether you want to stay in the relationship and what you are and are not willing to do to make the relationship work. Logistically, going by yourself can also make scheduling individual therapy easier than scheduling couple therapy.

However, not having your partner in the room with you (like you would in couple therapy) also creates a number of disadvantages. First, if you want to improve your relationship, it put the entire responsibility on you – either you need to change or you need to do things to get your partner to change. In couple therapy, the therapist would be helping/encouraging your partner to change. As a result, we would generally expect couples to see more change in their relationship from couple therapy compared to individual therapy. Second, one of the most powerful things in couple therapy is hearing your partner’s perspective on things – and he/she hearing yours. You may believe that you know exactly what your partner is thinking/feeling (and vice-versa), but you’d be amazed at the things you can learn. In sum, if your partner is willing/ available to come and you can focus on relationship (as opposed to individual) problems in therapy, we generally recommend that you go to couple therapy rather than individual therapy.

Click here to view some therapy resources. Read on for more information.

Click here to read some self-help book reviews. Read on for more information.

Advantages

  • Inexpensive
  • Can be completed at own convenience
  • Great resource if you are mildly distressed or just want to make your relationship even better

Disadvantages

  • Very little guidance in day – to – day interactions
  • Tendency to misinterpret what you have read
  • Advice may sound “intuitive” but may not be be empirically validated

No matter whether you search at your local book store or online – you will find an overabundance of self-help books available to you, making it a challenge to decide which one is best for your particular situation.

Self-help books offer several advantages over in person therapy. If you are hard-pressed for time and simply are not able to set aside a specific time per week to devote to seeing a therapist, a – self-help book may be the right choice for you. It allows you to progress at your own pace (might be a better word) whenever it is convenient for you. You can choose to read for 10 minutes (instead of having to spend an entire hour with a therapist) or can you go on as it suits you without having to stop after the allotted 50 minutes of a typical therapy session. In general, it will take you less time to read through a self-help book than to attend an unknown number of therapy session. However, it’s important to remember that the effort/time invested into something often corresponds to the outcome, so using a self-help book is not necessarily the “easy way” out.

Reading a self-help book allows you to customize your efforts so that they match your personal strengths and weaknesses. This is usually a good thing; however, in the case of relationship issues it has the potential to backfire. While you may be convinced that one thing is a problem in your relationship, your partner may disagree, leading to even more friction between the two of you. Ideally, your partner will take an active role in the improvement of your relationship which will allow the two of you to negotiate which aspects of your relationship you want to work on. If your partner is not willing to read the book with you or even listen to your suggestions it will be more challenging to introduce positive changes to the relationship. while there are books teach you how to make a difference in your relationship if it’s only you working on an issue, you are more likely to be successful if your partner is as committed as you are to making a change.

Another drawback of self-help books is that while you may understand what is said in the book but find it challenging to actually apply those skills in real life. As opposed to couple therapy where both you and your partner will receive feedback from the therapist on how you are doing and what other aspects of your behavior you still need to work on, you have no guidance when using a self-help book as your main source of information. Additionally, if you decide to go with a self-help book you should to make sure that it is founded in research not someone’s personal opinion that is based on anecdotal evidence (even though it may sound intuitive at times). This usually means that a researcher has tested his opinions by conducting experiments to test the effectiveness of his or her treatment.

In summary, self- help books are a great source to improve your relationship as long as you are aware of the drawbacks. They are especially appropriate for couples who are mildly to moderately distressed or couples who are simply looking to better their relationship even more. If you and your partner are severely distressed or are considering separation, a self- help book may be helpful but will require a lot of self-discipline and commitment from both partners.

Click here to read some self-help book reviews.