Marriage counseling, or couples’ therapy, is psychotherapy to help couples resolve problems and conflict in their relationships. The process can help improve the current relationship, rebuild a damaged relationship, or in some cases, therapy can aid in making the difficult decision to end the relationship. Couples’ therapy is appropriate for those who are married, engaged, living together, or dating. All types of intimate relationships can benefit from couples counseling, gay or straight, married or not.
Depending upon the depth of the issues, couples' counseling is usually short term, from a few sessions to a few months. If there are serious long-term problems that have caused deeper, more painful wounds emotionally, such as domestic violence or infidelity, therapy may be needed for a longer period of time. Both parties may also benefit from individual therapy to resolve their past issues from their own family of origin or negativity lingering from past relationships.
Couples’ counseling is provided by licensed counselors, clinical social workers, psychologists, and sometimes ministers, priests, pastors, and rabbis. Most have graduate degrees and are licensed by the state in which they practice. This type of counseling is usually covered by most health insurance plans and Employee Assistance Plans through employers.
Problems That Can Be Resolved in Couples’ Counseling
Couples decide to seek counseling for a variety of reasons - to save a marriage that has lost its spark or to strengthen a good relationship and prevent future problems down the road. Many couples are now seeking pre-commitment counseling to sort out differences and agree upon compromises before they further their commitments to each other. This can be very helpful to prevent problems down the road. Other common issues which can be explored in couples’ counseling include:
- Anger, fighting, bickering
- Communication difficulties
- Sexual problems
- Substance abuse (other services may be needed)
- Money and financial disagreements
- Conflict over parenting, disciplining children
- Blended family issues
- Domestic violence (usually requires other services if escalated)
- Life transitions
What if my Partner Refuses to Participate?
Ideally, couples’ counseling includes both parties. However, if your partner is not willing to attend, individual therapy for yourself could help. You can learn how your behaviors and reactions are affecting the relationship. If your partner sees a positive shift in the relationship, often he or she will be willing to join you at a later date.
Making the decision to seek couples’ counseling can be difficult, but ultimately it can be a pleasant and productive experience for both of you. Many couples attribute the success and longevity of their relationships to being open to learning more effective communication skills and new ways to relate to their partner during the process of marriage or couples’ counseling.