In This Article
In This Article
According to statistics, for the last 40 years, around 50% of marriages ended in divorce.
When divorce happens, it creates difficulties for adult partners and children. Even though in specific instances divorce might be the wisest and healthiest option, in many cases it is driven by obstacles that could be overcome with marital counseling and therapy.
Marriage counseling is a type of psychotherapy focused on resolving marital problems.
Studies have shown that relationship issues are managed best by understanding the effects of individual clients’ symptoms and challenges on partnership.
A marriage therapist will guide the clients into a better understanding of each other and help them learn the tools needed to strengthen the communication between them.
The marriage counselor will work on salvaging the relationship by making the bond stronger through better communication and conflict resolution.
What is marriage counseling?
Marriage and family counseling can be short-term depending on the needs of the couple.
Marriage therapy dates back to the 1930s. Therapy for couples back then had the goal of assisting the individuals to adhere better to their traditional roles and was conducted through individual sessions. Any problems in the relationship were interpreted as a result of interlocking neurosis. For example, a person with a need for control would marry a person dependent on them.
As time passed, a shift occurred and therapy was seen as a way to discover the truth and determine which of the spouses was right and which was wrong. The work was still done in individual sessions with a possibility of the partner joining in as an observer.
In the 1950s, therapists started regarding problems more in the context of relationships. Relationship challenges were seen as a result of the interactions. This produced a significant change - treatment was focused more on the couple instead of the individual. Since then various theories were made and refined. As time progressed, the therapist moved from a referee role to the role of a mentor guiding the couple to recognize the patterns of conflict and improve communication.
There are diverse proven methods of marriage therapy, and in most cases, the marriage counselor will choose the most appropriate method or a combination of them.
Moreover, the therapist will mix techniques from different therapy modalities to tailor the approach that fits your relationship challenge.
Still, you can educate yourself on currently used methods in marriage counseling. You can start your research with couples and family therapy, religion-based, Gottman method, narrative therapy, emotionally focused therapy, imago counseling and Terry Real’s relational life therapy.
Modalities like family system therapy can be applied in therapy work with an individual or preferably with the whole family, focusing on interpersonal dynamics in family and its effects on the couple.
The religious approach is beneficial and can provide support in troublesome times of marriage instability. The religious approach allows people to stay within their belief system and find professional help where the expert will understand their perspective.
Gottman method focuses on establishing trust, improving intimacy and empathy for one another, while helping the couple put the conflict in a new perspective and end it. It relies on the idea that there are nine components of healthy relationships named by the authors as The Sound Relationship House Theory.
Narrative therapy helps partners look for hidden benefits from the problems they are experiencing by helping them look at them from a different angle and distancing from them. Recognizing what is the problem's role in the story of their partnership helps them start a new chapter in the story. In this new chapter, the problem is understood and replaced with a better way to reap the hidden benefits.
Emotionally focused, as research shows, is one of the most effective and empirically validated forms of therapy. EFT has its roots in attachment theory and helps clients express buried emotions from a place of vulnerability and communicate their needs better. Improving the attachment bond between partners allows them to find comfort in each other and decreases disconnection.
In Imago therapy the therapeutic sessions are focused on moving from blame to comprehending each other's needs and emotional wounds we carry. While growing up we all learned what love is based on what was provided to us from our primary caregivers. When we grow up, we try replicating these patterns and look for the familiar replicating early experiences. Encouraging the couple to become the masters of their dynamic and understand each other's patterns lead them to have more empathy and make more conscious choices.
Terry Real’s relational life therapy addresses the most troubling problems from the very first session as one of the key concepts is Joining through the truth. The key is honesty and sincerity through which the therapeutic alliance is formed. This therapy focuses on challenging relational behaviors and past experience that lead to current problems while helping the couple find new models of relational functioning that works for them.
There are many different therapy types to choose from when seeking marriage counseling, as listed above. Each therapy modality offers different guidelines for supporting clients and each therapist implements them according to their own personal style. Regardless of which therapy type you prefer, the guiding idea is the same - help partners use conflict as an opportunity to grow and heal. No matter what approach you choose, rest assured the therapists tailors the approach to couples dynamics and relationship challenges.
Finally, if the couple approach is not suited for you, an individual approach can be a solution as well. This is recommended when only one of the partners is willing to work on the marriage and themselves. Since the partnership is a dyad when one of the partners changes it affects the other and inevitably introduces a shift in the relationship. Individual counseling can also be recommended prior to couple counseling when there are issues one of the partners needs to address alone before addressing relational problems.
What to expect from marriage counseling and how does marriage counseling work?
Ordinarily, the first sessions are spent:
After some time, you will start getting to the root of the problems, develop goals and acquire new skills that move the relationship forward.
What does marriage counseling consist of and what happens in marriage counseling?
Once a specific problem is identified, the counselor and couple will work on figuring out the cause of it.
To be effective, the counseling will call for:
How can each side participate in being a part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem?
During marriage therapy, you will learn how to resolve conflict and improve your communication skills.
This talent will benefit you outside your marriage as well.
Marriage counseling questions your way of communication and teaches how to be more assertive in accepting and setting boundaries.
Marital therapy will provide a safe environment for expressing frustration and sadness and can help partners understand each other’s dissatisfaction.
Partners are sometimes surprised over the willingness of their partner to invest and resolve issues when there is a mediator.
If your partner still does not want to meet you halfway or put in any effort, at least you can have the opportunity to reconsider staying in the relationship without the feeling of guilt.
Once you can clearly see what the other is (NOT) offering and you have done everything you could without progress following, you will be able to consider the idea of leaving.
On the other hand, during therapy, you may start seeing a completely different person in your partner, gain a deeper understanding of their needs and maybe fall in love again.
Uses of marriage counseling
When to get marriage counseling? The first signs of trouble in marriage are lack of communication, negative talks or fear of speaking up.
In this scenario, the therapist can act as a facilitator helping the couple improve communication.
Concealing secrets, contemplating or having an affair, a decline of sexual desire are just some of the challenges clients often come to therapy with. All these challenges will be a clear indicator of when to seek marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling is recommended even though you do not feel there is an overwhelming issue. Counseling can be useful even when you merely want to renew the bond and improve understanding.
Most often, couples tend to leave counseling as a last resort after they have already exhausted all other options. Ideally, you would start with counseling when you notice the problem keeps recurring with no progress in its resolution. Remember, there is no wrong time to seek counseling.
Marriage counseling can be useful in many instances, including:
According to the Psychological Association, around 75% of couples manage to salvage and improve their marriages after completing the marriage counseling. So three out of four couples get back on track of having a successful and happy marriage.
Even though marriage counseling works in the majority of cases, no one can vouch it will be 100 % effective.
No therapy can be a solution to all issues and challenges. Furthermore, many couples expect from marriage counselors to do all the work and will provide little to no participation in the process of therapy.
This can result in no progress in terms of therapy movement. Some problems will ask for significant investment from both partners and will not be a quick-fix. This can induce a period of stress and anxiety for both partners.
Additionally, past issues and fights can resurface and one or both partners could desire to terminate the process due to it.
Furthermore, not everyone wants to share and open up in front of a third party. Some marriages are just not destined for therapy and can be resolved only with couples working on their own.
Every so often the chosen therapist might not be the best fit, which can cause confusion and additional frustration. When that happens, it is advisable to replace the therapist and look for resources somewhere else.
The lack of interest and investment of one partner can be detrimental to the process. Investment in the therapy process for both partners should be on a similar level.
It is completely natural to feel nervous due to it and allow some anxiety to exist.
When you meet your therapist and form an alliance all will become much easier. It is okay not knowing completely how to prepare for a first marriage counseling session. Trust yourself you made the right choice with the therapist and trust yourself you will recognize if you didn’t (and change the person).
An idea of being in a secluded space with the partner you are angry with and an unknown therapist can be terrifying. Being at least vaguely aware of what to expect can alleviate a part of that sensation.
No matter how you start, let the few sessions pass before deciding to replace the therapist or abandon the counseling.
If you feel you cannot "click" or do not feel safe and comfortable enough, speak up first and share your expectations. If nothing changes, change it for yourself.
Rethink your approach, change the therapist or start looking for something else as a resource in marital conflict.
You can prepare yourself by anticipating marriage counseling questions, as the therapist will start with the most basic ones.
Visiting a marriage therapist can take many different directions, all depending on the types of issues and your approach to the process. Sometimes it might take just a few sessions to achieve a better conflict resolution and get on the track of creating a marriage full of love and understanding.
It might not be easy to find an affordable marriage counseling near you.
However, when put on paper, marriage therapy will be cheaper than a divorce (both financially and emotionally speaking). You can also try researching “free marriage counseling near me”, “best marriage counselors near me”, and “free online marriage counseling” in case your finances are not in a good place.
Those services are often provided by mental specialist trainees who are under strict supervision acquiring their license.
Thanks to marriage counseling online, you might be able to find a marriage therapist easier.
The prices range from $50 to $200 an hour, depending on many factors.
Marriage counseling is a tremendous resource for couples that struggle and feel they are stuck in their problem-solving.
It can help them learn to better communicate and perceive the situation from the other’s perspective. Furthermore, it can encourage your decision to stay and invest or to leave the marriage.