In my couples counseling practice, couples spend almost the entire session talking directly to each other, typically discussing the most difficult issues in their relationship. Couples are applying skills they learn from a manual that I give them. When couples begin to escalate, I give feedback about what’s problematic. Then I recommend how to express oneself more effectively—translating the language. The most skilled couples are eventually able to give feedback to each other and be responsive to that feedback.
In between sessions, I want couples to practice their newfound skills with issues they are likely to manage. If couples escalate, typically because the topic is more difficult than expected, the couple can try one more time. If they are still unsuccessful, the couple brings the issue back to couples counseling. If a couple practices this skill set with issues they can manage, this strengthens the couple’s ability to resolve problems.