Picture this: After years and years of failed relationships, you’ve finally found what you believe is the love of your life.
The spark you feel between the two of you is undeniable, and you feel on top of the world as you begin to envision your future together.
When you think of them, your heart swells, and you begin to feel butterflies.
However, there is a downside.
They live across the country.
Long-distance relationships tend to have a reputation of being impossible and often not even worth the effort in trying.
While the communication barrier, lack of physical intimacy, and loneliness can be defeating at times – long-distance relationships are completely possible with the right tools and intentions.
Long-distance relationship therapy is one way for couples to navigate the challenges these types of relationships can bring and help identify any areas that may be hindering full commitment and trust – two critical requirements needed for a healthy long-distance relationship.
In this article, we’ll look more in depth at the benefits long-distance relationship counseling can have for those separated from their partner.
What Does Long-Distance Relationship Counseling Help With?
Oftentimes, people may see long-distance relationships as too much work.
The reputation that they are doomed to fail is widely accepted due to a variety of factors.
While a long-distance relationship does require more work, using resources such as relationship counseling can help you and your partner not only succeed but thrive.
Healthy communication is important in any relationship; however, since the majority of the relationship is done via text and phone calls, learning not only what to say but how to say it is vital.
By working with an online therapist, you and your partner can learn more effective ways to communicate.
Unhealthy communication can get misinterpreted quickly and cause cracks in the foundation of any relationship.
Relationship counseling can provide a safe space for couples to speak without the other interrupting – requiring active listening.
In addition, a therapist can ask more vulnerable, in-depth questions that you and your partner may not have ever thought to ask.
This can open up a deeper level of connection besides the mundane surface conversations.
Working through trauma
Relationships are one of the main ways unhealed past traumas arise.
When a relationship feels threatened (in this case due to separation), old wounds can begin to manifest. These are wounds you may not even know affected you until now.
Distrust, jealousy, anxious thinking, or fear of abandonment are just a few symptoms of unhealed hurt. These can cause a partner to overstep boundaries and take irrational actions they normally wouldn’t.
As a result, past trauma can significantly affect a long-distance relationship by creating unnecessary strain and adding stress to an already stressful situation.
Through long-distance relationship counseling, a therapist can help identify and uncover past traumas and guide you in overcoming them.
With long-distance relationship counseling, a therapist can provide a third-party, unbiased opinion on the obstacles in the relationship.
With the use of talk therapy, a counselor can listen and provide effective relationship-building strategies for optimal, healthy discussions.
Therapists are trained to see through any accusations of “right” and “wrong” and can provide long-distance relationship advice for both partners.
Long-distance relationship problems can be a variety of different things. With this being said, a major struggle experienced by couples can be finding things in common.
Time spent apart also means the time when each person is growing and developing into their own self and taking time for their own interests and activities.
One way long-distance relationship counseling can help this is by providing a mutually shared experience between you and your partner.
In the case a relationship begins to be put on the back burner due to stress with work or other life commitments, having a weekly, scheduled time with a counselor can be extremely beneficial for both partners.
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What Does Long-Distance Relationship Counseling Look Like?
The end goal in long-distance relationship counseling is to strengthen the bond between a couple.
Using an assortment of techniques, a therapist can facilitate this progress by providing guidance in resolving issues and developing healthy behavior patterns.
Therapists are trained to guide couples through an array of exercises with the objective of uncovering any unresolved stressors and, in turn, improve the bond between them.
Once a couple makes the active decision to start relationship therapy, they may feel confused as to which type of counseling to do. For those without a psychology background, the choices may feel overwhelming.
We’ve broken it down for you – here are the 5 most common types of relationship counseling:
Types of Relationship Counseling
1. The Gottman method
This type of intervention, developed by the University of Washington Professor Emeritus John Gottman, has a strong focus on building a healthy foundation for a successful relationship.
When starting this type of therapy, couples undergo a thorough assessment, including individual and conjoined interviews and a questionnaire detailing the relationship.
Once these steps are completed, a score is then calculated defining the couple's strengths and weaknesses, and the most probable effective treatment plan is suggested.
The interventions used by the Gottman method strive to strengthen a relationship in 3 key areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning.
Using the Sound Relationship House Theory (a metaphor designed to detail the key aspects of a healthy relationship), couples will be led in exercises proven to improve emotional connection, increase intimacy, improve friendships, and develop long-term changes that will assist couples in achieving their goals.
The Gottman method is best for couples that want to improve the overall quality of their relationship and build a healthy, effective foundation for the future.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
The way we think has a major impact on our relationships. Unhealthy or negative thinking patterns can cause unnecessary stress and problems.
CBT uses a technique designed to address those negative thoughts and stop them in their tracks.
By doing so, a therapist can guide an individual or couple with redirecting those thinking habits as soon as they begin to arise.
CBT is founded on the principle that thoughts control feelings and feelings control actions. By changing the way you think, your actions will then follow.
Using this method, therapists will aim to determine how a couple thinks about problems and then guide them in developing healthier modes of thinking.
With an emphasis on developing healthier behavioral skills such as positive thinking and effective communication, cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective option for couples struggling with anxious thinking or harmful assumptions.
3. Emotionally focused therapy
EFT is a method of couples therapy rooted in John Bowlby’s attachment theory.
Bowlby’s attachment theory states that there are 4 different types of attachment styles adults can display, and each different type stems back from attachments formed in childhood.
In emotionally focused therapy, counselors are trained with the knowledge that adults can frequently seek out relationships as a way to provide themselves safety and comfort, using (often unhealthy) patterns of relationship behavior learned in childhood.
Using tactics such as de-escalation, restructuring, and consolidation, EFT can help couples struggling with poor communication and frequent conflict.
Couples that tend to fight often about surface-level situations typically have much deeper rooted issues that need to be tended to first. With EFT, the therapist's goal is to uncover what truly drives the emotional responses in a relationship and how to better resolve that.
By bringing these underlying issues to light, a couple can work on developing a strong acknowledgment that the relationship is secure.
Emotionally focused therapy is best for couples struggling with long-distance relationship problems such as past infidelity, anxiety, depression, or traumatic childhood.
4. Narrative therapy
As human beings, it is in our nature to internalize problems, whether personal or relational.
We often identify parts of ourselves as the problem rather than looking at the problem as a separate matter. When we do this, we allow excuses to be made for the behavior, as if the act was somehow a given and unavoidable.
When using the narrative therapy method, issues are viewed as distinct from the couple, and the therapist will refer to a problem as a noun, furthering that separation.
An obstacle is removed from the relationship and set free to stand on its own and be observed by all parties involved.
Narrative therapy challenges the stories individuals and couples tell themselves, allowing for the problem to be externalized rather than internalized.
Once the problem is detached from the individuals, new stories are able to be written.
Couples that are experiencing low relationship satisfaction, anxiety, attachment issues, or depression are greatly benefited from using this technique.
5. Solution-focused therapy
While it still has some of the same features as other methods of counseling, solution-focused therapy is a bit different than other types we’ve discussed.
Rather than uncovering the root cause of a problem, or the details of the problem itself, this type of therapy is focused on one goal: the desired outcome.
Oftentimes, couples are bringing in one specific situation or struggle they are facing.
With solution-focused therapy, counselors seek to understand and help develop an ideal direction for the relationship to go.
Questions such as, “What is your desired outcome for this relationship?” or “In spite of the hurt you’re experiencing, what are some actions you would like to see beginning to happen?” are asked as a way to help couples transition from problem-focused talk to solution-focused talk.
Solution-focused therapy is best for couples who need help working through a narrowly specific situation they’re up against.
How to Find a Long-Distance Relationship Counselor
Since being in the same place at the same time just isn't possible in a long-distance relationship, online counseling is an extremely effective tool for separated couples.
Online therapy allows couples to join a session anytime, anywhere. For those separated not only by miles but time zones, this can be quite helpful.
Contacting your insurance provider to see if any online therapists are covered is the first step in the right direction. If not, most online counseling platforms are still very affordable.
Think or write down your goals ahead of time. Explore what areas of your relationship or obstacles you’d like to address as a priority.
Taking the time to research therapists is essential. Not only do you want a credible counselor you feel comfortable with, choosing a therapist who is experienced in working with couples is critical as couples therapy differs from individual therapy.
However, if one partner opts out of counseling, individual relationship therapy is an option as well.
Do You Need to Prepare for Long-Distance Relationship Counseling?
In order to fully gain the benefits of long-distance relationship counseling, it is recommended to prepare a bit beforehand.
Make sure both parties are fully invested in therapy. Relationship therapy simply will not work if one partner is more committed than the other.
In addition, talk with your partner about the goals and desires to achieve in relationship counseling. The chance of therapy being effective is great as long as both partners are on the same page.
Lastly, making either a mental or written list of which struggles are the most important can help the therapist determine which course of action to take that will ensure optimal results.
Strengthen Your Relationship With Therapy
While the idea that long-distance relationships are predestined to fail is not uncommon, find comfort knowing that these relationships can absolutely work as long as both parties put in the effort.
Online counseling is an effective and valuable tool to help couples experiencing the struggles that come with this specific circumstance.
With the right therapist, long-distance relationships can not only succeed but thrive while creating goals, sharing desires, and working through difficult and complex issues.
Even 5 years ago, long-distance couples had no choice but to either make the trip to see a therapist together or simply not go.
This could be part of the reason the reputation around long-distance relationships is so dim.
However, we live in an age with technology and resources available. These services are here to assist and encourage couples not to give up simply because they have geography between them.
If you feel as though your long-distance relationship can benefit from online counseling, experienced therapists at DoMental are here to assist you in your journey.