Marriage Counseling: What, Why, How
What is Marriage Counseling? Any intervention in which a third party – Psychologist, Marriage Counselor, Life Coach, Medical professional or clergy –provides types of ‘therapy’ for either a married couple or a partnership who tries to resolve problems in their relationship. Typically, the two attend the counseling sessions together, or in the case of Online Counseling – the same phone or computer conference call. There are however many cases in which only one partner may actively participate as each may have different agendas.
So what is ‘therapy’, in the context of marriage counseling? It is a systematic and structural process in which the marriage counselor, who must be trained in psychotherapy and family systems, focuses on understanding the clients’ symptoms, underlying needs and expectations and the way their interactions contribute to problems in the relationship.
What is the difference between ‘good talk’ with a friend or a family member and the discussions with a professional Marriage Counselor? Marriage counselors are trained in behavioral science models, psychotherapy processes and techniques and anonymity with no bias to one or the other. Most likely the professional also consults with colleagues or other experienced therapists regarding their cases.
How does it work? Marriage counseling is usually a short-term therapy that may take only a few sessions (1-12 sessions) to work out problems in the relationship. Typically at first I ask questions about the couples’ history and personal background, their past and current roles, dating, sexuality and communication patterns, personal or mutual goals, and their current value/belief system. I summarize my initial meeting with the couple, assessing the aspects of the relationship; thereafter we create a preliminary understanding about their issues, regarding sexuality, recognition, achievement orientation, etc. The process in most cases continues to zoom in on the ‘Identified Client’ – the partner who “appears” to contribute the most to the problems in the relationship. The talented professional will soon diffuse and reveal to both clients the fallacy of one being the sole responsible and help them see the reciprocal nature of the events. Only with total acceptance of this, can the two explore ways to change their interacting. A well practiced tool is a ‘contract’ in which each partner describes and commits to remedial behavior he or she will try to achieve.
Does it Work? I know that my marriage counseling processes help 70-75% of the couples who meet with me to deal more effectively with problems and alternately, years of agony and unhappiness could end within two or three months of working together. Case follow-ups after a year show that those problems with tendencies to reappear do not repeat themselves in most cases. My personal data is aligned with continuous academic research results: effective professional marriage counseling does improve the couples’ physical as well as mental health, while improving their satisfaction with the relationship.