Marriage counseling is a type of psychotherapy for a married couple or an established partner that tries to resolve problems in the relationship. Typically, two people attend counseling sessions together to discuss specific issues.
Marriage counseling is based on research that shows that individuals and their problems are best handled within the context of their relationships. Marriage counselors are trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and focus on understanding their clients' symptoms and the way their interactions contribute to problems in the relationship.
Marriage counseling is usually a short-term therapy that may take only a few sessions to work out problems in the relationship. Typically, marriage counselors ask questions about the couple's roles, patterns, rules, goals, and beliefs. Therapy often begins as the couple analyzes the good and bad aspects of the relationship. The marriage counselor then works with the couple to help them understand that, in most cases, both partners are contributing to problems in the relationship. When this is understood, the two can then learn to change how they interact with each other to solve problems. The partners may be encouraged to draw up a contract in which each partner describes the behavior he or she will be trying to maintain.
Marriage is not a requirement for two people to get help from a marriage counselor. Anyone person wishing to improve his or her relationships can get help with behavioral problems, relationship issues, or with mental or emotional disorders. Marriage counselors also offer treatment for couples before they get married to help them understand potential problem areas. A third type of marriage counseling involves post marital therapy, in which divorcing couples who share children seek help in working out their differences. Couples in the midst of a divorce find that marriage therapy during separation can help them find a common ground as they negotiate interpersonal issues and child custody.
Marriage counseling helps couples learn to deal more effectively with problems, and can help prevent small problems from becoming serious. Research shows that marriage counseling, when effective, tends to improve a person's physical as well as mental health, in addition to improving the relationship.
Reasons to Seek Marriage Counseling
All marriages are not salvageable. In the process of marriage counseling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be apart. However, for those relationships that can be salvaged, and for those couples willing to commit to the process, marriage counseling may be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way.