How Can A Marriage Therapist Help?
Although there can be stigmas about reaching out for support from a licensed marriage therapist, any couple may choose to take advantage of their services. Marriage therapy is not only for those struggling, arguing, or considering divorce. Couples might also attend marriage therapy as a tool to help them communicate, learn more about each other, and deepen their connection.
Marriage therapy often focuses on communication, as studies show it to be one of the most essential aspects of a marriage. If you and your partner struggle to have conversations, talk about emotions, or discuss challenging topics, marriage therapy may benefit you. However, even if you communicate well, there can be other areas in which marriage therapy can serve couples.
Gaining A New Perspective
If you’re looking to vent, discuss outside factors, or gain insight into why your relationship patterns might occur, talking to a therapist could be beneficial. Marriage and family therapists are neutral third parties without connection to the couple, meaning they can offer non-judgmental and unbiased advice and support. Having a new perspective on a challenge in your relationship could help you further understand it in a way you haven’t considered.
Couples might also reach out for support to their family and friends. However, there can be issues about which a couple might not want to talk with those they know, like sex, intimacy, or personal challenges like infertility. A couples therapist can offer support to these subjects in a discreet manner.
What Happens During A Marriage Therapy Session?
When an individual or couple sees a marriage therapist, the therapist may ask questions during the initial session to learn more about the client’s goals. If it’s a couple, they may ask both partners to come in individually and then together to discuss their concerns. After the first session, the therapist might start implementing a treatment plan and can continue to open discussions with the couple to learn more about their needs.
Suppose a couple comes in with concerns about breaking up or considering divorce. In that case, the therapist may mediate as both partners set boundaries and discuss their feelings about the situation. Therapists aren’t necessarily going to offer a solution or tell you to break up. However, they can guide you as you make your own decisions and offer tools to support your marriage if you want to do so. If you have decided the marriage is over, a marriage therapist may also be a supportive option during the divorce or separation process, which can be challenging for many couples and families.
The therapist can also ensure that both partners have a turn to speak, are respected, and feel safe in therapy. They are often skilled at helping couples communicate and cope with emotions like frustration that might come out during a session.
What Does A Couples Counselor Do?
It’s common to wonder what couple’s counselors do during therapy sessions. A marriage therapist is typically a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) who helps individuals and couples overcome relationship issues and deepen their bond. This may involve facilitating conversation between partners and working with one partner at a time. Marriage therapists may observe the situation as a neutral third party and make suggestions based on those observations. For example, if a couple is experiencing conflict within their marriage, the therapist might offer communication strategies to help the couple work through their difficulties.
However, a marriage therapist’s focus tends to be on the couple as a unit instead of individual concerns. They typically work within the context of relationships and family systems rather than offering one-on-one therapy services. If you are worried that your mental or emotional health is affecting your relationship, you might also consider seeing an individual therapist outside of your couples sessions.
While they are mental health professionals, marriage therapists are not typically psychiatrists and may not hold a doctoral degree. Thus, your marriage counselor likely cannot diagnose mental health conditions such as depression or prescribe medication for either partner. If a therapist believes their client might benefit from individual therapy, diagnostic testing, or medication, they may make a referral to another provider.
How Can A Marriage Therapist Support Couples?
Offering Suggestions Instead Of Orders
Many couples may worry that their therapist will tell them to break up or place blame on one individual. However, therapists are trained to remain professional and offer suggestions instead of orders, as well as to not impose their own, personal beliefs or values onto their clients. Additionally, therapists do not often recommend divorce or separation to couples. Rather, they guide conversations about a couple’s connection and help them make their own decisions. If a couple does not want to break up, unhappy marriage therapy can be a tool to improve the relationship. Studies show that 70% of couples find couples therapy effective and believe the results last for years after treatment.
One way a therapist might offer suggestions is through activities and worksheets. If a couple struggles to communicate, the therapist can give them a homework assignment to try a new type of conversation, for use in both general communication, and especially if an argument arises over the week. The couple can leave themselves reminders around the house or on their phone if they struggle to remember to practice the new skills.
Offering Reason And Logic
It can be challenging to work on marriage in the face of everyday responsibilities. You may put each other last if focusing on children, work, school, or other responsibilities, or you might sense that you and your partner spend too much time together or struggle to be alone.
A therapist can offer room for logic and reason and help couples understand why these dynamics might occur. For example, they could teach couples about their attachment styles. Using research, the therapist can help couples understand how their patterns might work and let them know they’re not alone in their experiences.
Giving Healthy Reminders
The therapist may remind couples of their connection, love, intimacy, and care. They may remind couples to consider why they fell in love and encourage them to engage in activities that rekindle the feeling of love they may have felt at the beginning of their relationship. Often, team-building or problem-solving activities help couples feel less alienated from each other. As they work together to solve problems and see each other as equals, they might feel closer to each other once more.
For example, a marriage therapist might recommend that a couple complete a fun activity like an escape room to connect with one another. Using suggestions from their therapist, they can try to solve a puzzle to get out of the room. If they want to practice therapeutic skills during the activity, they can practice forms of communication they learned from their therapist if arguments or power struggles arise.
How To Find A Marriage Therapist
Marriage therapists are trained professionals with many hours of clinical experience. Licensed marriage and family therapists typically have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field such as psychology. Before beginning their clinical practice, they likely also received additional training through an accredited program, such as those offered by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.
While the majority of LMFTs are qualified to help you and your partner, it can still be challenging to find a good fit. Feeling comfortable with your therapist is typically an essential part of marriage therapy. Screening therapists before you decide on a match may help you find a suitable option. If you or your partner are uncomfortable with someone, consider consulting with other providers.
When consulting with a provider, you can ask the following questions:
What are your licensing, experience, and qualifications for couples counseling?
Are you experienced in the topic my partner and I hope to discuss?
What is your approach to couples therapy?
Do you practice a specific form of therapy?
Do you prefer to be in control of the session?
Do you want to meet with us individually before we have couples sessions?
What is your approach to conflict?
How much do sessions cost? Are there any late or cancellation fees?
Do we pay one sum or two separate fees for counseling?
If you and your partner are parents and experiencing challenges related to parenthood, it may also be worth considering whether a family therapist could benefit you. Family therapists specialize in helping parents support their children in each stage of life. They may have relevant clinical experience in social work, family systems, or childpsychology that could be helpful for couples experiencing issues related to parenthood.
Whichever therapist you choose, it may be worth establishing whether the therapist offers affordable payment plans or takes your insurance. You can also ask about their availability. If they are not available often, it may be beneficial to find a therapist with a more open schedule.
Counseling Options: What Does A Couples Counselor Do?
Many couples experiencing relationship concerns may be hesitant to seek support in-person due to cost, availability, or distance barriers. Some couples might be unable to take time off work or other responsibilities to meet during the day. In these cases, online therapy can be a more flexible choice. You can meet your therapist at home, and you and your partner can attend sessions from two separate locations as long as you have an internet connection. Additionally, scheduling can be done after regular business hours or on the weekends for some providers.
In recent studies on internet-based counseling, individuals undergoing online couples counseling reported satisfaction with the experience. The study participants reported feeling comfortable with their therapist over a videoconferencing therapy method and found it on par with in-person treatment. If you’re experiencing relationship concerns or hope to strengthen your marriage, consider signing up for an online platform like BetterHelp for individuals, or ReGain for couples. Both platforms offer connection to a growing database of over 30,000 therapists, many specializing in marriage and family therapy.
Marriage therapy can be beneficial for couples looking to strengthen their bond, learn therapeutic skills, or discuss relationship conflicts. Marriage can be complex, and therapists are trained to help couples with various concerns, including intimacy, love, communication, commitment, and unique dynamics. If you’re interested in trying this form of therapy, consider reaching out to a marriage counselor for further guidance and support.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does therapy really help marriage?
What is the difference between marriage therapy and counseling?
What is the goal of marriage therapy?
Why do people go to marriage therapy?
Is it better to see a counselor or therapist?
Should married couples see the same therapist?
Can you fix a broken marriage?
How do I know if my marriage needs therapy?
Should I be honest with a therapist?
What is the number one killer of marriages?
What questions are asked in marriage counseling?
What is the disadvantage of couples therapy?
What's the difference between therapist and psychologist?
How many times should we go to couples therapy?
How often should married couples go to counseling?
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