A couple approaches the marriage counsellor / couples' therapist either because the partners would like to remain in the relationships or because they are considering breaking up.
An important point is to promptly investigate whether that intention is common. If there is no common goal, the counsellor's role is to aid the partners in acquiring one, as a necessary prerequisite of further cooperation with the couple.
Couples often seek therapy when their interpersonal problems have reached a level where feelings of anger, resignation and desperation are the dominant ones in the relationship. Communication has become fully disrupted, there is repeated conflict with no resolution and negative cognitive schemata become central and are expressed through mutual accusation and prejudice. The therapist should be in a position to embrace both sides' negative emotions and face them as a fair and objective facilitator during the crisis.