One of our top recommendations for couples experiencing marital problems is marriage counseling. We’ve seen marriage counseling, also known as couples counseling or marriage therapy, reshape relationships on the brink of divorce, teaching partners new ways to communicate and strengthen their bond.
However, there’s a perception that marriage counseling is solely a last-ditch effort—a final attempt for couples who’ve run out of options. Some even mistakenly believe that marriage therapy itself leads to divorce. But professional help can help anyone work through issues, whether they’re engaged, going through a major life transition, or struggling with a specific problem. (Note that this type of couples counseling presumes a safe, non-abusive relationship.)
Ideally, couples see a marriage counselor early on. Premarital counseling can help work out major questions about tricky topics like budgeting, parenting, or religion before habits are set. Couples who see a counselor when their problems still seem relatively minor can often work out differences and move forward in a stronger partnership. Couples therapy is also good if a partner is managing depression or another mental health issue, though individual therapy may be a necessary complement.
Common reasons for seeing a counselor include:
Sometimes a life event like new parenthood, an empty nest, or retirement upsets whatever marital balance has been in place and pushes a couple into counseling. A tragic or stressful life change, like the loss or sickness of a child, health problems, or unemployment can also trigger new problems in the relationship.
Today, most marriage counselors practice Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), which revolves around changing an emotional response, not behaviors or thoughts. The ultimate goal of EFT is to create a more secure, solid attachment. Both partners should come away feeling like themselves and feeling understood.
For some couples, this takes time—maybe 6 months or even longer. For others, a few sessions with a therapist may be enough to run with what they’ve learned. According to Psychology Today, EFT has a 75 percent success rate, higher than other less quantifiable methods used in the past.
If you’ve been considering counseling, it’s easy to put it off. Counseling isn’t always covered by insurance, and it can feel challenging to find someone you trust.
Fortunately, many counselors offer a free consultation to see if the fit is right before committing to treatment. Ask your primary care physician for a referral. Check with your insurer, a clergy person, or trusted friends or family members who may be able to recommend someone. Once you have a few options, be sure you understand their fee structure and get a sense of their proposed treatment plan.
Sometimes one partner resists the idea of couples counseling completely. You can, however, still attend on your own. Of course, some couples try counseling and ultimately decide divorce is the better option. Even if this is the result, we’ve seen that the expectations and communication channels opened in counseling can make for a smoother, more compassionate divorce.
If you have decided not to pursue couples counseling for your own marriage and instead you’d like to proceed with a divorce, please contact the Marietta divorce attorneys at Bivek, Brubaker & Prescott to begin the conversation.