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50 Couples Counseling Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy Sessions

Couples counseling is known by other names, including couples therapy and marriage counseling. These names can be a bit deceiving because couples counseling can be beneficial for couples in various stages of their relationship, including those who are dating and separated. Couples counseling is a widely accepted approach to reducing relationship distress that partners experience, while also enhancing the quality of their relationship. This form of counseling can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or with other therapeutic interventions, which allows couples to receive support for an array of relationships, emotional concerns, and health problems. Keep reading to learn 50 couples counseling questions you can ask your clients in counseling sessions.

Research estimates that approximately 70% of psychotherapists offer couples counseling, which supports the expectation for couples counseling to continue to grow as a widely used treatment intervention. So, what has led to the growth of couples counseling in recent times? One contributing factor is the prevalence of couples’ distress and the role that this has on couples separating or divorcing. Approximately 40% to 50% of first-time marriages end in divorce, and we are now seeing divorce occur in areas of the world where it was previously a rare occurrence.

Another factor to look at is the role that an individual’s distress has on their partner and children. One study found that the most common cause of emotional distress was challenges within their relationships. Individuals who experience distress within their relationship are more likely to develop mood disorders, substance use disorders, and develop physical health concerns. Children who have witnessed the couple’s distress can experience a range of ripple effects, including physical health problems, and a decline in academic performance, among others.

A third theme that has been observed in couples counseling is that individuals have grown to have higher expectations for their relationship than in the past. Historically, marriages were not necessarily expected to be happy, healthy, or loving. Many individuals choose to stay in relationships that they were unhappy in, for their reasons. Today, couples have higher expectations of their partner and their relationship together.

Some various techniques and theories are often used in couples counseling, including:

Within the different therapeutic approaches used, there are common themes that arise during couples counseling. Most therapeutic strategies work to promote empathy and understanding, focus on the strengths within the relationships, invigorate positive connection, mutual understanding, and ownership of the role each member had in the development of the problem, and learn conflict resolution skills that can be used in the future.

Those who engage in couples counseling will be in a better place regarding their relationship at the end of their treatment than 70% to 80% when compared to couples who have not engaged in therapy. Couples therapy can be molded to fit the needs of the couples, which can contribute to differences we see among the length of care and if sessions are joint or individual. 

Getting Ready for Your Couples Counseling Session with New Clients

When you are preparing for a couples counseling session, there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you have a smooth and productive session. One step that you could take is to take time to review the information that was provided to you, including their relationship history. This can give you some insight into their presenting concerns.

Based on the information you have to review; you may have an opportunity to prepare interventions and techniques that could be helpful for the couple. If you have found that worksheets are a beneficial addition to your therapy sessions, TherapyByPro has various couples counseling worksheets, including a Couples Counseling Worksheet Bundle which includes many customizable worksheets.

You may find it beneficial to take time to check in with yourself to ensure that your own needs are met presently and that you are ready to meet with your new clients. You may find it helpful to drink water, stretch, practice mindfulness strategies, or have a light snack.

When you meet with a new couple, your first session may focus on laying the groundwork for later sessions. This includes clarifying goals for counseling, creating a safe and supportive environment, and setting clear expectations for everyone involved. 

Couples Counseling Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy

Using thoughtful and intentional couples counseling questions can help you navigate your couple’s challenges, and help them meet their identified goals. Examples of relationship counseling questions you may use include:

  1. Can you tell me about how you met each other?
  2. How did your relationship evolve after you met?
  3. How would you describe the early stages of your relationship?
  4. Can you tell me about what you appreciate about each other?
  5. Can you tell me a bit about what you are hoping to gain from couples counseling?
  6. Do you have specific goals you would like to work towards?
  7. Can you describe how you respond to disagreements?
  8. How would you describe your conflict resolution skills?
  9. Can you tell me about a recent conflict or disagreement, and how you worked through it?
  10. Do you have any shared values or goals?
  11. Can you tell me about any values or goals that are different between you?
  12. How do you feel that having different views and goals affects your relationship?
  13. Can you tell me how you each express love?
  14. Can you share what makes you feel loved by your partner?
  15. Can you walk me through the different responsibilities that you both have within your relationship?
  16. Are you happy with how the responsibilities are divided between you both?
  17. If you were to think about a difficult time that you have had, can you tell me about how you coped?
  18. How often are you able to find time with each other?
  19. What are some things that you enjoy doing together?
  20. Can you tell me about your thoughts about intimacy and physical affection?
  21. Are you happy with the level of intimacy and physical affection within your relationship?
  22. Do you feel as though your partner supports you?
  23. What makes you feel this way?
  24. Would you say you feel emotionally supported?
  25. Can you tell me about a time when you felt heard and validated by your partner?
  26. Can you tell me about your ideal relationship?
  27. What would you like to see change in your current relationship to work towards your ideal relationship?
  28. Can you tell me about any unresolved issues that are taking space in your relationship?
  29. What has kept this issue present for you?
  30. Can you tell me about how you both approach decision-making and problem-solving together?
  31. Do you feel as though your thoughts about finances and budgeting align?
  32. Do you feel as though your household chores are manageable?
  33. Do either of you feel as though they could be divided more equally?
  34. Can you tell me about any areas of your relationship that you feel are out of balance?
  35. How do you feel your personal goals and ambitions tie into your relationship?
  36. Can you tell me about your relationships with each other’s family and friends?
  37. Do you feel as though these relationships enhance yours, or do they introduce more stress and conflict?
  38. Can you tell me your thoughts about forgiveness?
  39. Are there any situations where you have shown forgiveness?
  40. How do you each feel that your mental health affects your partner?
  41. Are there any particular mental health concerns that you are experiencing?
  42. Would you be open to receiving therapy and support for your mental health challenges?
  43. Can you tell me how you feel your relationship distress affects those around you?
  44. Do you feel as though religion or spirituality is an important aspect of your life?
  45. Can you speak about how your religion and spirituality affect your relationship?
  46. Can you share with me how you respond to political indifference?
  47.   Please share with me a time when you were proud of your partner.
  48. How do you show gratitude towards each other?
  49. Can you tell me about how you have coped with times of transition in your life?
  50. How do you feel about seeking professional help for your relationship?

Final Thoughts on Couples Counseling Questions to Ask Clients

Thank you for reading our article about relationship counseling questions! Couples who seek professional help may face a range of challenges and concerns that can impact their treatment plan, goals, and questions used. As psychotherapists, we work to provide support for those who are experiencing distress. We must be mindful of our own biases, reactions, and countertransference feelings that may come up for us when working with clients. Being mindful of how we respond to and manage these reactions is a crucial component of our work.

If you have noticed a rise in the rate of your own couples counseling sessions or would like to learn more about effective couples counseling sessions, you may find that continuing education and other training opportunities provide you with valuable resources, tools, and insights.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health forms, worksheet, and assessments here.

Resources:

  • Lebow, Jay, and Douglas K Snyder. “Couple therapy in the 2020s: Current status and emerging developments.” Family process vol. 61,4 (2022): 1359-1385. doi:10.1111/famp.12824 
Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC
Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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