Relationship and Marriage Counseling
|Marriage counseling, or relationship therapy, is a form of therapy which helps couples improve their relationships through identifying and resolving conflicts. Couples receive guidance from counselors in making thoughtful decisions about rebuilding their relationship or in arriving at the decision to separate.
Marriage counseling is most often provided on a short-term basis by licensed marriage and family therapists with graduate or postgraduate degrees and typically includes both partners. Sometimes one partner chooses to work with a therapist alone.
Relationship Counseling Background
Relationship counseling has been used in the U.S. since the 1930s, and it was originally referred to as marriage counseling, only being used to work with married or engaged couples. A marriage counselor would teach clients about family life and marriage, but the field was transformed after divorce rates soared in the 60s and 70s and the idea of a modern family started to evolve. Couples therapy today has been heavily influenced by family therapy, a profession that was shaped by Virginia Satir and Murray Bowen.
Currently there are many approaches to relationship counseling. Emotionally focused therapy will encourage partners to examine how their communication styles present themselves during interactions, while Imago therapy examines how our unconscious self chooses partners who reflect back our own flaws. Additionally, Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) helps participants to find balance, heal past traumas, and take responsibility for their emotions so that their partner is better to understand them.
- Marriage Counseling Basics – Exploring what marriage counseling is and why it is used.
- Premarital Counseling – Background about premarital counseling and its foundations.
- Principles of Effective Relationship Counseling – How to get the most out of your couples therapy sessions.
- The History of Marital Therapy – A timeline of marital therapy from the 1930s to present.
- Types of Marriage and Relationship Therapy – Exploring the different types of couples counseling.
When to Seek Marriage or Relationship Counseling
Couples seek counseling for a variety of reasons, although infidelity, sexual dissatisfaction, communication problems, and power struggles tend to be on the top of the list. Unfortunately, many couples wait until they have been unhappy for years before they pursue counseling. These issues have been allowed to worsen over time, and in some cases, a couple may decide to use therapy as a way to separate respectfully and amicably.
An effective counseling session will address a variety of aspects of your relationship, but communication is generally the main focus. When partners are constantly engaged in power struggles, communication problems can result. Failing to make proper repairs to a relationship after an argument can lead to resentment and marital unhappiness, and a good counselor will know that the first step in improving any relationship is to teach healthy communication skills. By teaching couples how to stay calm and regulate their emotions, both new and old problems can be resolved.
- Normal Signs that Your Relationship Needs Help – Outlining some of the most common signs that your relationship needs counseling.
- Reasons to Seek Marital Counseling – An explanation of the most common reasons that you might need couples counseling.
- Top Signs that You Need Couples Therapy – Some of the most common signs that you and your partner need therapy.
- Unexpected Reasons You Might Need Couples Therapy – Reviewing some of the most unexpected reasons that your relationship might need therapy.
- When to See a Marriage Counselor – How to tell that your relationship needs a marriage counselor.
Goals and Expectations
Getting the most out of therapy will depend on your dedication and motivation in the process. If you go into therapy with an open mind, you can expect to improve your communication skills so that you can better support your partner. Your therapist will help you to develop goals and work toward achieving them. While conflict is bound to come up during your sessions, your therapist should work to remain neutral.
Therapists that work with couples typically have a license in marriage and family therapy (MFT), but they can also work with you one-on-one. In some cases, your counselor may want to see you or your partner on an individual basis. These supplemental sessions can help you to work out individual issues and learn skills that can help you as a couple.
- Couples Therapy Goals – Important goals to work on when you are pursuing couples counseling.
- Improving Communication in Your Relationship – Helpful tips for how to improve communication with your partner.
- Relationship Goals – Tips on how to set and achieve your relationship goals.
- Questions to Strengthen Your Relationship – How to better understand what our partner wants and needs.
- Setting Relationship Goals – How setting relationship goals can help to improve your marriage.
Treatment Times and Effectiveness
Typical marriage counseling sessions will be held once per week, but this could vary depending on whether you are pursuing individual therapy. Marriage and couples counseling will be offered in a variety of settings, including group practices, university counseling centers, hospitals, and private practices. In many cases it is a short-term process and will only continue as long as the couple remains committed or until a resolution has been reached. Fortunately, research has indicated that about 48% of couples that attended marriage or relationship counseling demonstrated full recovery or improvement in their relationship satisfaction at their five-year therapy follow-up.
- Benefits of Marriage Counseling – This PDF from Dartmouth College explores the benefits of marriage therapy.
- Couples Counseling Before Marriage – Reasons to pursue couples counseling before you get married.
- Is Couples Counseling Right for You? – Find out if couples counseling is the right choice for your relationship.
- Marriage Counseling Statistics – Statistics that show whether or not marriage counseling really works.
- Reconnecting and Strengthening Your Relationship – Go above and beyond counseling with these tips to improve your relationship.