Marriage counseling is a type of therapy that aims to help married couples resolve conflict. Many people seek out marriage counseling for a variety of reasons. They may be looking for clarity within their partnership, they may want to discuss serious problems, or one person may need help communicating something difficult to their partner.
In marriage counseling, therapists often use specific treatment modalities to address conflict among couples as a unit. Marriage and family therapists (MFT) focus much of their graduate coursework and practitioner work using a solution-based, systems approach as a way to find resolution for the pair. Therapists who work with couples look at scenarios from a family systems viewpoint, rather than focusing on the individual alone.
People may enter marriage counseling at different stages in their relationships. Pre-marital counseling occurs before a couple gets married. However, marriage counseling often occurs when a couple is currently married and is at a stage in their relationship further down the road.
Counseling can help both partners gain a deeper awareness of present issues, emotions, and experiences. By understanding reasons and underlying causes for conflict, couples may begin to fix their relationship and find harmony.
The Need for Marriage Counseling
Marriage can be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences people may go through in their lifetimes. However, the need for marriage counseling is stronger than ever with divorce rates reaching as high as fifty percent for all couples in the United States, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). “The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” Marriage counseling is a healthy alternative that can help couples meet their need for clarity, satisfaction, and resolution.
When to Decide That It’s Time for Marriage Counseling
Taking the first step and deciding to go to therapy is one of the best things you can do for your relationship. Ignoring issues, spontaneously separating, or continuing to argue or fight will only exacerbate problems.
It may be time for marriage counseling if arguments have been persistent and are getting increasingly worse. This is especially important if there are minor children in the home. Also, if there have been prolonged periods of silence or temporary separation, marriage counseling may be helpful in order to find clarity. Therapy can be a place to speak up and express yourself in a safe and nonjudgmental space.
The conflicts that arise over the course of a marriage may have grown into something unmanageable. However, that is why a therapist is there. The therapist is an unbiased party who can help you listen and communicate in the healthiest and safest way possible. Whenever you decide to start marriage counseling, realize that you have already taken a courageous and empowering step towards healing.
What Occurs in Marriage Counseling
Marriage counseling is similar to individual therapy. Sessions are often forty-five to fifty minutes. Counseling sessions usually take place in a therapist’s office. There you and your spouse will speak with a trained therapist about the reasons that made you seek out marriage counseling in the first place.
One of the essential elements for marriage counseling is that you feel comfortable with your therapist and that you actively participate. Confronting unpleasant events and emotions often occurs in counseling. However, counseling is not a negative experience. Regardless of the outcome, marriage counseling can provide stress relief, a safe forum to express emotions, conflict management, deep awareness, and peace.
Respectfully listening and sharing is essential for productive therapy sessions. Couples should never give up hope or be skeptical of sessions. Studies show that couples that entered counseling, “found significant improvements in relationship satisfaction from pre- to post-treatment and over the course of one to two years following counseling.”
In session, marriage counseling can vary based on the therapist, how much information is shared, and how deep underlying issues run. Therapy will look and feel different for all couples because all couples are different. Their issues and experiences add unique elements that require different approaches, communication methods, and patience. Regardless, the therapist is there for both people in the marriage. The aim is to always find understanding and resolution for everyone.
Benefits of Marriage Counseling
One major benefit of marriage counseling is that couples will learn how to communicate more effectively. A therapist, particularly a marriage and family therapist (MFT), is trained to work with more than one person during a session. Whether it’s a family or a couple, a marriage and family therapist has focused their training on the family system.
Marriage counseling can also help control disagreements or arguments from escalating. One of the greatest benefits of marriage counseling is that conflicts are discussed in a respectful and productive way. When couples have disagreements on their own, the negativity and toxicity of exchanges has no limits. These out of control arguments are often what lead many couples to therapy.
Regardless of treatment style, therapists provide a safe place for people to share their feelings, experiences, and thoughts without judgment and with compassion. In session, tone is crucial towards achieving understanding and awareness. A therapist will encourage both parties to try to be as even and respectful as possible, while ensuring that all parties are heard, and that everyone has a chance to speak.
Marriage counseling is also helpful because it tackles the painful task of addressing long-term conflicts, while also encouraging both parties to capitalize on the positive aspects. Whether it’s positive steps made in session or working on productive exchanges outside of therapy, marriage counseling can be a way to strengthen a marriage.
When problems are kept secret, conflicts often escalate into something serious and unmanageable. While you can’t control your partner’s reactions and responses, you can find healing from counseling. Listen and actively participate. Do the homework that your therapist may have encouraged, prepare questions and things you would like to discuss prior to session, and make the most out of every minute of the session. Do not hesitate to seek out marriage counseling. The first step is often the hardest, but the rewards are limitless.