Sep 9, 2023

Couples Therapy for Trauma Survivors: A Guide for Therapists

To put it mildly, romantic relationships are tricky. We experience many feelings throughout their course, from intense joy and delight to unfathomable despair, fury, and anything in between. Contrary to widespread assumption, conflict does occur in healthy relationships occasionally. Learning to navigate the highs and lows of a relationship successfully is essential to maintaining its health and happiness. Lack of trust and poor communication are typical relationship "downers," also known as relationship issues. Depending on the severity of the issues and our communication skills (if your issue is bad communication, your skills here certainly aren't fantastic), we can sometimes resolve these issues with our partner.

Couples therapy in San Francisco has become an increasingly popular tool for couples to address challenging issues that arise in their relationships and heal from past experiences of trauma. Couples therapy can be especially beneficial when both members of the couple have experienced trauma, as it allows them to create a safe environment where they can talk about their experiences and learn how to communicate better with each other.

We will discuss the importance of creating a safe space for couples to talk about their experiences and techniques for helping couples process and heal from traumatic events. Resources available to assist therapists in supporting clients through this process. We will also guide how to refer couples to additional resources as needed effectively. By the end of this guide, therapists should better understand the unique challenges associated with providing trauma-focused couples therapy in San Francisco and be prepared to support couples through their healing journey.

What exactly is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy, commonly referred to as relationship therapy or couples counseling, is a type of counseling that aids couples in resolving their relationship problems. Couples therapy is sometimes known as marriage counseling when the couple is already married.

Of course, certified professionals who specialize in helping couples work through their problems, such as licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), guide couples therapy. This path frequently entails challenging but fruitful discussions regarding one's relationship and calls for open yet respectful communication from both partners.

Don't worry if you're scared about being entirely honest with your partner or talking to them gently; a family therapist's role is to moderate these conversations. They can assist you and your spouse in enhancing your communication so that you can better comprehend, pay attention, and converse with one another.

What is couples therapy for trauma survivors and why is it beneficial?

Couples therapy for trauma survivors in San Francisco is a treatment that helps couples work through and heal from the effects of traumatic events. Couples who have experienced trauma, whether it be physical or emotional abuse, a profoundly distressing event like the death of a loved one, or other significant losses, can benefit significantly from this type of therapy. Couples therapy for trauma survivors provides both partners with a safe environment to discuss their traumas and how their experiences have impacted their relationship. Couples therapists may also help couples develop effective coping strategies to navigate complex emotions and communication issues stemming from the trauma.

Couples therapy can foster greater connection, understanding, and trust between partners while helping them honor each other’s needs. Couples therapy for trauma survivors in San Francisco is also beneficial because it allows couples to make sense of their experiences, process emotions, and develop a deeper understanding of one another’s needs. In doing so, couples can learn how to support each other better emotionally, which can be especially powerful if the couple has experienced a profoundly traumatic stress event like the death of a loved one or physical abuse.

Couples therapists may provide resources such as reading materials and workshops specific to couples who have experienced traumatic events to help them strengthen their connection and navigate challenges more effectively. Ultimately, couples therapy for trauma survivors in San Francisco provides an invaluable service by assisting couples in healing from past traumas while deepening their bond.  By the end of couples therapy, both partners should feel empowered to support each other better and build a healthy, resilient relationship.

How Does Couples Therapy Operate?

Couples therapy works by assisting couples in recognizing and resolving their particular problems, which is a quick and straightforward response. Couples counseling sessions frequently include the following components, even if couples counselors' methods can differ.

  • A concentration on particular problems, such as addictions, jealousy, sexual assault, and unsatisfactory sex, along with many other specific relationship problems.
  • Change-focused strategies that support guiding the two couples toward a more fulfilling relationship
  • A detailed description of the treatment's goals can help you keep track of your progress and show you where you and your partner are headed.

What Are Couples' Therapy Activities?

Whether they meet remotely or in person, each partner will usually attend sessions together in couples counseling. They could also be required to participate in a few private sessions in addition to their regular couples therapy sessions to further their development. This will let their counselor get to know them better, evaluate their specific needs, and create the best game plan.

A therapist can assist you in improving how you express your emotions, communicate with your partner, and settle disputes by addressing your own needs and the needs of your relationship.

What Kinds of Couples Counseling Are There?

Due to the wide variety of relationship counseling techniques that can be used in sessions, as has already been established, marriage counselors' methods may differ. The couples therapists at Dr. Cammy's clinic use various therapy options, including the Gottman approach. These choices are based on the unique requirements of the relationship to benefit both parties.

Here are five of the most popular and successful methods for couples therapy:

Gottman's approach

Based on 40 years of research results about behavioral patterns in successful and unsuccessful relationships, John and Julie Gottman created this method. The Gottman method concentrates on "the four horsemen" (criticism, disrespect, meanness, and backpedaling), a small group of essential behaviors harmful to relationships. If your couples counselor employs this approach, you may anticipate sharing some background information about prior relationships, discussing points of dispute, working through triggers, identifying shared values, and learning strategies for handling current and potential future conflicts.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Since CBT is one of the most popular and successful approaches to therapy, you've heard of it. It's useful not only for couples but also for individuals with problems like anxiety and depression. Your therapist will assist you and your partner in identifying your relationship problems and discuss them from your separate viewpoints regarding CBT for couples. CBT will help you identify the source of the issue, eliminate erroneous assumptions, and improve your communication skills.

Emotionally-focused therapy

As you might expect, emotionally focused therapy focuses on emotions. It's simple to become engrossed in a heated argument and label oneself angry, but there are probably other underlying emotions, including fear or resentment. Couples therapists that employ emotionally-focused therapy assist their clients in exploring these hidden feelings further. The pair can address unfulfilled needs and desires once these feelings have been revealed.

Imago relationship therapy

The following method of couples therapy looks at problems and patterns that extend beyond a couple's current romantic partnership; it considers problems as the result of childhood neglect or unfulfilled needs. This neglect or unmet needs cause conflict in one's relationships later in life. If your couples therapist employs imago relationship therapy, you and your partner can analyze your childhoods and comprehend how earlier experiences may have influenced your current understanding of relationships. They will then assist you in addressing any unfair actions or unfavorable emotions you may have mistakenly linked to your partner.

Solution-focused therapy (SFT)

SFT is probably a suitable fit for you if there are one or two key issues that you and your spouse want to resolve in couples therapy. You can see and actualize the improvements you wish to see in your relationship with the aid of your couples therapist. They collaborate with you and your partner to create a strategy with concrete measures to enable you to reach your goal (s).

Indications that couples counseling is necessary

  • Ineffective dialogue with your partner
  • Wishing to gain knowledge on constructive conflict
  • Repeating the same argument without ever finding a solution
  • A desire to strengthen your bond
  • You feel cut off from your lover either by domestic violence 
  • Feeling as though you're not getting what you need, like attention or time
  • Managing a significant life event, such as a move, a new position, or a difficult choice
  • Managing the journey from being a couple to becoming a new parent
  • Managing the change from being a parent to being an empty nester
  • There is a betrayal present
  • Considering divorce or debating whether to end your relationship?
  • A desire to establish a solid foundation before getting married
  • Feeling overly reliant on one another
  • Past traumas that are still evident in your relationship

How many relationships survive couples therapy?

Nearly 90% of clients report improvements in their mental health when a couple's treatment is over, as written by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). However, divorce statistics show that more than 50% of all married couples split, and long-term divorce or break-up rates vary. Couples and marriage counseling may impact a marriage's long-term results.

EFT is said to have one of the best success rates, with 75% of partners claiming that it saved their relationship or, at the very least, enhanced communication and satisfaction through healthy relationship skills. 

Can couples therapy make matters worse?

There isn't any statistically substantial evidence that couples therapy can worsen a relationship's dynamics or overall health. This is necessary so that changes that must be made can be addressed expertly and empathetically while also focusing on the positive, supportive qualities of both partners. Both partners must be open to couples therapy since each person's relationship will likely improve with equal partner involvement.

What challenges may therapists face when working with couples affected by trauma?

Therapists working with couples who have experienced trauma can face several unique challenges. Couples affected by trauma often present a range of complex emotions and issues that need to be addressed, including guilt, anger, loneliness, substance abuse, or shame. Couples may struggle to trust each other due to past traumas, leading to communication breakdowns compounded by deeply entrenched defensive behavior patterns.

Another challenge for couples therapists is ensuring the safety and well-being of both parties in the therapy room. Couples affected by trauma often have difficulty expressing themselves without fear of judgment or criticism from their partner; therefore, therapists must create an environment where both partners feel supported and respected. Couples may also require emotional regulation skills and strategies to help them navigate through difficult conversations.

When working with couples affected by trauma, therapists must provide a secure base of support, accept the couple without judgment, utilize effective communication techniques, and develop individualized Couples Therapy.

What resources are available to help therapists provide adequate care for these clients?

Various resources are available to help therapists provide Couples Therapy in San Francisco. These include online and in-person training, books and articles, and professional networks dedicated to Couples Therapy.

Online training allows therapists to practice Couples Therapy skills without meeting with clients face-to-face. Many online courses also focus on communication techniques that can be tailored specifically toward couples affected by trauma. Additionally, webinars or interviews with professionals with experience working with couples affected by trauma can provide valuable insight into the best practices for Couples Therapy.

Books and articles written by experts in Couples Therapy are excellent resources for learning how to work effectively with couples affected by trauma. These can provide therapists with valuable information on techniques, strategies, and therapeutic modalities to help couples navigate their issues. Professional Couples Therapy networks are also available to connect Couples Therapists in San Francisco and discuss the latest research, best practices, and other considerations for Couples Therapy.

By utilizing these resources, Couples Therapists in San Francisco can better equip themselves with the tools necessary to provide adequate care for clients affected by trauma. This will ensure that Couples Therapy remains a safe and effective way for couples to work through their issues together.


Couples therapy is a potent tool for mending relationships damaged by trauma, to sum up. Couples therapists in San Francisco may ensure they give their patients excellent care by utilizing online training programs, articles, books, and networks for couples therapy. Couples therapists can better assist couples in overcoming their trauma and developing relationships based on trust and understanding by doing this. Couples who have experienced trauma may benefit from this sort of couples therapy, which can strengthen and improve their relationships.

At Dr. Cammy's Clinic, we know that depending on the problem or situation, couples may require very different types of therapy. You can explore your emotions and resolve issues as a couple in a supportive setting provided by our licensed professionals. To learn more about couples therapy in San Francisco, get in touch with us right away. Call us right away to begin the journey to happy partnerships!

We are eager to assist you in achieving your partnership objectives!