I wanted to write a response to an article in The Huffington Post written by author and coach, Laura Doyle, entitled “6 Reasons Why Marriage Counseling is BS” (10/13/2012).
For a variety of reasons, the author encourages couples to avoid marriage counseling if they are struggling. This is harmful to those who have used this valuable resource and discourages those who may be considering finding a marriage counselor. This shame based approach invalidates the courage that it takes for a couple to acknowledge that what they are doing is not working. Additional relationship tools or a different understanding can improve a relationship, married or not.
A qualified marriage counselor is specifically trained to understand the dynamics of a distressed couple. They also understand that many couples wait too long until their choice is between calling a marriage counselor or a divorce attorney.
Marriage counselors understand that their role is to create a safe space in which to gently challenge partners to explore those areas that are getting in the way of their relationships and encourage them to make changes.
Marriage counselors understand that two people were once drawn to each other for very specific reasons and try to recreate those positive interactions.
Marriage counselors understand that the families in which you were born affect the way that you ‘do’ relationships now. They understand that sometimes there are roadblocks that get in the way of intimacy and sometimes new tools are needed.
Marriage counselors are licensed mental health professions who are trained to diagnose and assess mental health issues that may interfere with a couples’ satisfaction. Marriage counselors are also trained to recognize signs of emotional and physically unhealthy relationships and understand the appropriate steps to take.
There is a substantial body of research that supports the effectiveness of marriage counseling, including individual counseling, as well as couples’ satisfaction.
Research indicates that marriage and family therapy is as effective, and in some cases more effective than standard and/or individual treatments for many mental health problems such as: adult schizophrenia, affective (mood) disorders, adult alcoholism and drug abuse, children’s conduct disorders, adolescent drug abuse, anorexia in young adult women, childhood autism, chronic physical illness in adults and children, and marital distress and conflict. After receiving treatment, almost 90% of clients report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health. A majority of clients report an improvement in their functioning at work, and over three-fourths of those receiving marital/couples or family therapy report an improvement in the couple relationship. (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy – www.aamft.org).
Yes, marriage counseling is an expense – the same way you would pay to maintain your home, your vehicle, secure your future, or your entertainment.
Yes, you have to work on the relationship even if you are in counseling. You don’t get fit just by buying a gym membership.
Relationship counseling can change relationships, heal past hurts, open hearts, and empower couples to change their lives.
How do you find a marriage counselor with significant training in treating couples? Explore the database of the members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) on www.therapistlocator.net and find someone that you feel comfortable with.