Marriage counseling, also known as couples therapy or relationship counseling, aims to help couples improve their relationship by resolving conflicts, strengthening their emotional connection and enhancing communication. It provides a safe and supportive environment for partners to explore their issues, communicate effectively, and work towards shared goals.
In a private practice such as my own (Bud & Blossom Therapeutics, LLC) a couple can expect to complete an initial assessment where the couple will meet together with the Therapist to gather information about the relationship, identify the main concerns, and understand each partner’s perspective. Information is collected regarding the history of the relationship, individual backgrounds, communication patterns, and specific issues causing distress. This information is used to develop goals that will guide each of the couple’s sessions. The Therapist will collaborate with the couple to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-sensitive) goals and objectives to achieve those goals, which can range from resolving conflicts to improving intimacy to overcoming infidelity. Setting goals helps provide a roadmap for therapy and enables progress to be measured. Various therapeutic approaches tailored to the specific needs of the couple may be used to include, but not limited to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Emotionally Focused Therapy.
There are also many therapeutic techniques that can be formatted to suit the couple to include:
• Communication Skills Training: Couples will learn effective communication techniques, such as active listening, expressing emotions constructively, and managing conflict.
• Conflict Resolution: The Therapist helps couples identify and address recurring conflicts, teaching them healthy ways to resolve differences and find mutually satisfying solutions.
• Emotional Connection: Strategies are used to enhance emotional intimacy and strengthen the couple’s bond, such as exploring emotional needs, fostering empathy, and rebuilding trust.
• Individual Growth: Sometimes, individual issues or unresolved past traumas can impact the relationship. The Therapist may guide each partner in addressing personal challenges and fostering self-awareness.
• Homework and Practice: Couples are often assigned homework exercises to practice the skills learned in therapy sessions. These exercises help reinforce new patterns of behavior and promote ongoing growth outside the therapy room.
Throughout the counseling process, the Therapist regularly assesses the couple’s progress towards their goals. This allows adjustments to be made if necessary and provides an opportunity to address any concerns or obstacles that may arise. Couples counseling can be short-term or long-term, depending on the complexity of the issues and the couple’s progress. Once the couple and/or the couple and the Therapist feel they have achieved their goals or if the couple decides to end therapy, the Therapist will facilitate the termination process, ensuring a smooth transition.
What we know about marriage counseling is it requires commitment, effort and time while allowing the partners opportunity to change and grow together. Couples counseling/marriage counseling is beneficial for those seeking to explore potential problem areas prior to getting married (i.e. premarital counseling), for those experiencing relationship challenges as well as for maintenance purposes for those couples who want check-ins regarding minor concerns before they become major issues. Couples counseling provides opportunities for both partners to feel heard and understood in a way they may not have been able to effectively help their partner to understand them, therefore improving emotional intimacy and communication. Couples/marriage counseling may not be for all couples depending on severity of issues, individual motivation, and the compatibility of the couple. In some cases, individual therapy or other forms of intervention may be more appropriate.
It may be time to seek counseling for the following reasons:
• Frequent disagreements: especially about minor issues
• Major life changes: loss of a family member or friend, adoption, birth of a child, blending families, career changes
• Communication breakdown: hostile, negative, extreme defensiveness; expressed needs are met with defensiveness or stonewalling
• Lack of emotional connection: feeling distant, disconnected or emotionally unsupported by partner
• Lack of intimacy: emotional connection and/or physical touch that is met with tension and resentment
If your partner does not want to attend couples counseling with you, it may be possible to consider speaking with a trusted friend or family member, whom you both would feel comfortable seeking relationship advice. It is also possible to seek assistance from a spiritual advisor you both trust. More importantly, inquire of your partner the reason(s) he or she does not want to visit a Therapist for guidance on the relationship. He or she may already be disconnected from the partnership and/or he or she may not believe in the possibility of the counseling being effective. In this case, start with your own individual counseling to better yourself and implement what has been learned. Your changed attitude and behaviors can foster belief in your partner that counseling can be effective for the relationship.
The cost of marriage counseling can vary depending on several factors, including the location, qualifications and experience of the Therapist, and the specific services provided. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as fees can range significantly. In general, marriage counseling sessions can range from around $75 to $200 per session. Some Therapists may offer a sliding scale fee structure based on income or financial circumstances, while others may have fixed rates. The duration of each session can also vary, typically lasting anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes, which will alter the fee per session. It’s important to keep in mind that investing in marriage counseling is an investment in your relationship and overall well-being. While cost is a factor to consider, it’s essential to prioritize finding a qualified and experienced Therapist who can provide the necessary support and guidance to work through relationship challenges. To get an accurate understanding of the cost, it’s advisable to contact Individual therapists or counseling centers in your area and inquire about their fees and insurance coverage.
Here are a few ways to locate a couples/marriage Therapist:
• Online Directories: Utilize online directories specifically designed to help individuals find Therapists and Counselors. Websites like Psychology Today, GoodTherapy, and NetworkTherapy allow you to search for couples/marriage counselors in your area based on various criteria.
• Referrals from Friends and Family: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or colleagues who have attended couples therapy and inquire about their experiences. They may be able to recommend a skilled marriage counselor who can help you.
• Professional Associations: Check with professional associations or licensing boards in your country or state. These organizations often have directories of licensed Therapists and Counselors, including marriage and family therapists.
• Primary Care Physician: Consult your primary care physician and ask for recommendations. They can provide valuable insights and referrals to reputable marriage Counselors in your local area.
• Religious or Community Organizations: If you have specific religious or cultural affiliations, consider reaching out to local religious or community organizations. They may offer counseling services or be able to provide recommendations based on your specific needs.
• Online Platforms: Virtual counseling has become increasingly popular. Platforms like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Regain offer online therapy services, including couples counseling, and can connect you with licensed professionals remotely.
Remember to research and evaluate potential Therapists based on their qualifications, experience, and approach to therapy. It’s essential to find someone who is a good fit for you and your partner, as the therapeutic relationship plays a crucial role in the success of counseling.