Couples therapy has a way of sounding super scary. But that’s totally understandable considering it’s most often associated with a relationship in serious trouble.
According to the experts, though, couples therapy can be helpful at just about any stage of a relationship—even when you think you’re pretty happy together. “I have worked with a lot of couples who come in to work on an issue before it gets out of control, which is a great approach,” says psychotherapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., and author of She Comes First.
The major benefit of seeing a couples counselor is that the sessions teach you and your boo stellar communication skills—helpful if you’re working through something as small as where to have dinner or as big as where to spend the holidays. No matter where you are in your relationship, seeing a therapist can be a major relationship asset, not just a Hail Mary when the road gets rough.
“In many relationships, we hear what the other person has to say a thousand times and tune it out or get defensive,” says Franklin Porter, Ph.D., a psychologist and couple’s counselor in New York City. “A therapist can engage each participant in a way that helps them listen to their partner with fresh ears.”
At least that’s true for almost all stages of a relationship, says Porter. “If a relationship is in a fledgling stage and you haven’t had a chance to try to work things out on your own, I think it’s always preferable to seeking help immediately,” he says.
Your own how-to-lose-a-guy-in-10-days experiments aside, here are six occasions you should consider booking a couple’s therapy session.