Infidelity seems to be a hot topic, so there are many books and articles that address this relationship issue in some fashion. Some books/articles list the statistics; some explore the reasons that people cheat; and others attempt to identify gender differences. I've even seen a few articles that provide lists of "cheating signs".
Since I tend to view infidelity from a clinical perspective, I will point out some of the most effective ways of facilitating the recovery process after an affair occurs.
First of all, the couple is not always ready for couples therapy, despite popular belief. Think about it. When there has been infidelity in the relationship, the situation is usually volatile. Both parties are vulnerable. Emotions are raw. Not much will be accomplished in couples therapy.
I always recommend individual therapy first. Here's the rationale:
Both parties are dealing with very different thoughts/feelings/therapy issues;
Each party is processing the incident at a different pace;
There is a higher probability of honesty and disclosure;
There is more opportunity for personal growth;
Everyone should have the opportunity to speak to someone (a professional) in private with confidentiality, regardless of the topic;
Relationship-building skills and communication skills can be introduced in individual sessions;
Enough time passes to allow for some healing to take place before couples therapy begins. The couples therapy can be more productive.
So when does the couples therapy start? It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes, the couple does very well in both individual therapy AND couples therapy simultaneously. I have even worked with people who only had individual therapy. There is no perfect program. A good therapist will assess each situation and treat each one accordingly. We follow general guidelines that are designed to improve relationship-building and communication skills, and overall well-being.
After the relationship is back on its foundation, I still recommend follow-up sessions periodically...both individual and couples. The follow-up sessions can provide both parties with ongoing support and accountability.