Can Marriage Counseling Save Our Marriage?
- Can couples counseling really help save marriages?
- Marriage counseling techniques
- How to find a counselor you both like
Even the healthiest of relationships must navigate troublesome issues and lapses in communication now and then. But most couples aren’t prepared for these conflicts or understand how to communicate effectively to resolve them.
Marriage counseling can help couples work through their problems in a loving and cooperative way, whether they’re experiencing a minor marital blip or on the verge of divorce. Marriage counselors use specific therapies designed to teach spouses how to openly communicate and behave in ways their partner can understand and accept so healing can begin.
Can counseling really help save marriages?
Yes – but both spouses must want it to help. Marriage counseling gives couples access to meaningful insight and tools to help make their communication more effective and compassionate so they can resolve their issues.
Does marriage counseling really work? Professional help is often the very thing that ends up saving a marriage. While success depends on the counselor, the therapy, and the couple, research suggests that marriage counseling positively impacts approximately 70% of couples who choose therapy.
Healthy communication is key to a successful marriage. Read about the importance of good communication skills: Communication as a Predictor of Marital Success.
What techniques or exercises do marriage counselors use?
Couples facing conflict often lack skills for open communication, emotional control, and empathy. The therapist’s job during counseling sessions is to work with these couples to give them the tools they need to explore and resolve their conflicts in healthy ways.
Marriage counselors use many different types of therapeutic approaches, both alone or in combination with other therapies, that can help couples understand the dynamics of their differences and communicate more lovingly and effectively to enable resolution.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
EFT is typically a short-term attachment-based therapy that teaches couples how to better understand each other and resolve their differences using a three-step approach: de-escalation, restructuring, and consolidation. Couples learn to identify the negative patterns they’ve been using that hurt their relationship, become responsive to each other’s needs, and develop communication tools so they can interact in ways that prevent more conflict.
The Gottman Method
The Gottman Method has been around for many years. This therapeutic model helps couples strengthen their relationship in specific areas, including their friendship and emotional connection. It also helps them manage conflict and create a life of shared goals and meaning.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavior therapy is based on the belief that conflicts are often caused by faulty thinking patterns or destructive behaviors. CBT therapy helps couples challenge thoughts that keep them stuck in destructive patterns. Although commonly used in individual therapy, it’s also often used in couples therapy to help individual partners recognize their own harmful patterns and learn better ones.
Imago Relationship Therapy
Many problems within a marriage result from one or both partners’ wounds or issues that developed during childhood and later become emotional trigger points in their adult relationships. Imago therapy teaches partners deep listening skills and how to reflect back to the other. A goal is to try to understand each other’s childhood wounds more empathetically and, thus, be more understanding of one another.
Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)
Solution-focused therapy is a positive therapy approach that focuses on solutions to an issue instead of deep-diving into a couple’s past and overarching behaviors. SFT looks for realistic workable solutions for specific problem-solving rather than exploring and understanding the cause of the problems. This therapy works best for couples with specific one-issue problems that don’t involve a lot of emotional mining.
When one partner wants to make the marriage work but the other isn’t sure, discernment counseling may be the right option. A discernment counselor will ask both spouses to consider three options: staying married, getting separated or divorced, or committing to a six-month term of couples therapy, after which they can decide whether to break up or stay together. If the couple chooses the short duration of therapy, they agree to temporarily shelve any talk of divorce until it’s over to give it a fair shot.
How do we find a counselor we both like?
Your first resource will be your insurance company. Find out if marriage counseling is covered and which providers are in your insurance company’s network. There are also excellent referral directories at the following websites:
- The Gottman Referral Directory
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
- The National Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
If you’re already having difficulty agreeing with each other in your marriage, finding a marriage counselor you both feel comfortable with may be challenging. But marriage counseling can only be successful when both partners feel comfortable and heard by their therapist. It may take visiting a few therapists before you find one you both feel comfortable with.
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FAQ about marriage counseling
How much does marriage counseling cost?
Most marriage counseling is not covered by insurance unless one partner is diagnosed with a mental health condition and couples therapy is prescribed as part of their treatment. Consequently, most couples must pay for marriage counseling on their own.
The cost of marriage counseling varies by geographical location, the kind of provider you see, the type of counseling you seek, and how long you continue therapy. Average hourly rates for marriage counseling range from $50 to over $200 an hour. Note: A private practice couples therapist who meets with you in person is likely to cost more than online therapy with a couples therapist.
There are also several options for online marriage counseling that can be done from the comfort of home. You will want to ensure that the therapist you choose is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in your state.
How long will counseling take?
Depending on your needs, marriage counseling can be short-term for one-issue needs or much longer for serious issues and behavior patterns. It also depends on how willing each partner is to work and embrace ways to make their marriage work.
Free downloadable checklist: Questions to Ask a Potential Divorce Therapist or Coach
How do we know if counseling was successful?
Marriage counseling can demand a lot of hard work, and there are no guarantees of success. A lot depends on the couple and their dedication to using the tools they learn about in their sessions.
Counseling is seldom successful if both partners don’t work together toward the same goal. You will know if your counseling is working if you and your spouse are enjoying new ways of openly communicating and finding a connection that was lacking in your relationship before.
Marriage is always a work in progress. If both partners are committed to it, you may very well find that marriage counseling helps your relationship survive a difficult time. However, if you and your spouse have decided that the most practical solution is to end your marriage and go your separate ways, it may be helpful to get the assistance of a divorce coach to guide you through all the practicalities of divorce with a common sense and cooperative approach.