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What Happens at Marriage Counseling?

March 8, 2009

Knowing what happens at marriage counseling sessions might make you a little more comfortable about the prospect of turning to marriage counseling for working through relationship problems. Many of the negative stereotypes of marriage counseling come from television shows and movies. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is currently working on producing a new reality TV series tentatively called “Marriage Ref” scheduled to be aired on NBC that will hopefully soon dispel many of these negative stereotypes that so many people associate with marriage counseling. While the show is aimed to be a comedy, and not a therapy show, I can’t say for sure if it will accurately show what happens at marriage counseling, but it does bring some hope that it will help people realize there’s nothing to be embarrassed about asking for help with their marriage – and that many people DO need help to keep their marriage happy.

Admitting there is a problem and getting help for it is the first big step in marriage counseling. Both parties in a relationship do not have to be willing to try marriage counseling in order for it to work. Often, if just one partner seeks counseling it can have a positive impact on the relationship. This is because you can’t change someone else – but you DO have the power to change yourself. Your own behavior and attitudes can greatly affect how others around you respond, react, and behave. Some people can have great success with marriage ebooks and books, others need an objective third party to help them really identify the issues and work out solutions in their relationship problems.

Once you have determined that your relationship needs help, the next step is to identify where to find help for your marriage. There’s several ways to go about this. You can contact your insurance company to see what mental health benefits are covered and their participating providers. You can speak to other counselors you know who may be able to make recommendations. Good old Yahoo and Google and even your phone book can also help you find therapists in your area that are available to help you. Choosing a good marriage counselor that is compatible with you is important, and you will want to make sure you verify their experience, qualifications, and ask them personally what you can expect, since different therapists often have different methods and practices.

Once you have scheduled an appointment with the marriage counselor, it helps for you and your partner to each think about why you are going to a marriage counselor and what issues you want to work on being resolved before the date of your actual marriage counseling appointment. This will help you be prepared to answer any questions the therapist has, as well as help the therapist understand the full scope of the problems in your relationship that you want to work through.

The first session will be most likely introductory in nature only. The therapist may ask questions like where you met, how long you’ve been married, and a few other basic questions. You will likely not feel that on the first session anything has been solved, resolved, or even has a direction of where the relationship will go or how the counseling will go, but it is an important first step – the therapist needs to get to know you a little bit better before diving right into how to solve the problems. This will help them decide the best way to work through your relationship problems with you.

The next several sessions may involve both you and your partner, or you may each see the counselor individually. Seeing the counselor individually allows you to express your feelings and concerns to the counselor without consequently and unintentionally hurting your partner’s feelings or making the problems worse. You may be dying to know what your partner has said about you in the counseling sessions that you are not present at, but typically it isn’t anything that you won’t understand and discuss later in couple sessions of relationship counseling.

After a few initial sessions, it is then likely the marriage counselor will give you and your partner some exercises to practice or assignments to do before the next session. They can range anywhere from playing games together, writing, drawing, or practicing other different techniques that will help your relationship.

By the 5th or 6th session, the marriage counselor will then start working on you with equipping you both with the right tools and resources to work through your relationship problems. This will greatly depend on the couple’s situation and needs, but generally they are suggestions on how to communicate more effectively, how to get along together, and other methods they can practice that will help them resolve and work through the problems in their relationship.

It’s important to understand that marriage counseling may or may not result in your marriage being happy go lucky or being “saved”. Not all couples are able to work out their differences, especially if one of the partners may have already made up their mind that the relationship should be ended. However, if you’re both willing to get the help your relationship needs, it can be a very good sign that things can work out for the better.

Now that you know a little more about what happens at marriage counseling, feel free to ask any questions or share your own marriage counseling experiences in the comments below.


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