How Can A Marriage Therapist Help?

Updated December 6, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people think that a marriage therapist is the last resort for a couple, but this is not necessarily the case. A marriage therapist's job is to talk to the couple, help them realize what their issues are, and then come up with a plan to solve any problems they may be having. Marriage therapists can also help a couple strengthen and enhance their relationship, even when things are going well.

Couples Counseling Can Enhance Relationships

Arguably, the biggest threat to a relationship is a lack of communication. If you can't talk to each other, then the situation is primed for breeding feelings of hurt, doubt, and a lack of trust. This can become dangerous when one or both parties feel the need to seek what they lack from parties outside of the marriage.

Providing A Different Perspective

Maybe you just need to vent about how it seems like all your partner does is nap when you could use a little help with the kids. Maybe it's not your significant other who's the problem, but your overbearing mother-in-law. Getting an outsider's perspective can be incredibly helpful in dealing with issues like these.

When couples decide to see a marriage therapist together, it could be because they have some issues that they don't wish to ask their friends and family about such as their sex life, for example. Other times, a couple may decide that the marriage is over, but they may still want to see a marriage therapist to understand what exactly led to the break-up.

What Happens During A Session?

When an individual or couple comes to a marriage therapist, it is the therapist's job to listen to what they are saying, but then try to read between the lines to see what's actually going on. The next steps will depend on the issues that arise as well as the feelings and desires of both parties. 

Mediation

When the couple wants to save the marriage, the therapist's job is to mediate and help them agree to each other's rules and boundaries. That way, they can remember their love and respect for each other so they can get back to having a happy marriage. However, if the couple has decided the marriage is over, the therapist can coach them on the actions and behaviors they should leave behind going forward, so as not to see future relationships meet the same unfortunate end.

The therapist is there as a liaison to ensure that one person isn't steering the conversation and that no one is being bullied. The therapist is also skilled at helping the couple communicate and cope with emotions like betrayal or frustration that can come out during a session.

What A Marriage Therapist Can't Do

It is important to remember that a marriage therapist is not a psychiatrist. He or she cannot diagnose, let alone treat, a mental illness that may be contributing to a couple's marital strife. What the therapist can do, however, is observe the situation and make suggestions based on those observations. For instance, if one party admits to a history of drug abuse, depression, or a traumatic life event, the therapist recognizes that such issues can certainly contribute to stress within the marriage.

Couples Counseling Can Enhance Relationships

If the therapist is made aware of issues such as these, then it is up to him or her to refer that party to a medical doctor who specializes in treating such a condition. This is, of course, up to the discretion of the therapist and is not always a step in saving a marriage. If the therapist decides to refer the person to a doctor and he or she begins a treatment program, then the therapist can continue with the counseling as normal insofar as coming up with ways to save the marriage.

Suggestions, Not Orders

Even if a marriage therapist believes that a couple would be better off separated than together, it may not be a good idea for the therapist to tell the couple this. As a general rule, most therapists refrain from recommending a divorce. Instead, the therapist works to help the couple talk with each other openly and come to their own conclusions about the relationship.

Examples

For instance, the therapist may suggest that one partner not slam the cabinets in frustration while washing the dishes, even if she has asked the other partner to do them since she still has to get the kids ready for school and then go to work. In place of this passive-aggressive behavior, the therapist may suggest direct communication instead such as: "Please respect my time in the morning and wash your breakfast dishes when you're done with them." In addition to teaching a couple how to better communicate with each other, a therapist might also need to teach them how to listen.

Being The Voice Of Reason

It can be difficult to work on marriage in the face of everyday responsibilities. You may tend to put each other last when you're focusing on the children, for example. And when you do take the time out for anyone other than the kids, you may want to focus on achieving a personal goal of yours. A therapist can remind couples of the mutual goals they once set with each other and offer hope that not only are those goals not lost, but that there are still ways for the couple to reach them together.

What The Therapist Is Responsible For

The therapist is responsible for reminding couples of how considerate and thoughtful they once were of each other while they were still dating. This can be accomplished by reminding them of the unwritten "rules of marriage" that are so easy to forget amid the daily hustle-and-bustle. First and foremost, it is important for the couple to remember they are both parts of the same team, and that they both suffer if one person isn't pulling his or her weight. 

Life tends to boil down to the little things, and the same goes for marriages. It can be the little things that make a relationship, and it can be the little things that break it. Molehills can become mountains in no time, and it's up to the therapist to remind the couple to focus on what's important.

Finding The Right Marriage Therapist For You

If you’re trying to seek counseling, it can be taxing trying to find the right marriage therapist. How do you know the therapist you choose is going to have your best interests at heart, both individually and as a couple? It is important to screen a marriage therapist before scheduling a couples' therapy session. You can do this by scheduling an "interview" with the therapist before committing to receiving help from him or her.

Questions To Ask

During this interview, there are some questions you may want to ask. For one thing, is the therapist certified and qualified to offer couples counseling? Is he or she experienced in dealing with the kinds of issues that you are experiencing? Will the therapist show compassion for both of you and remain impartial? Does the therapist allow both parties to speak openly and equally without allowing the other to interrupt or control the conversation? Is the therapist in control of the session? Will he or she work with you and your spouse to develop a therapy plan that works best for both of you?

Affordability

It is worth establishing whether the therapist offers affordable fees or takes your insurance, as well as whether the therapist is easily available if one of or both of you require a last-minute session for any reason. Something else to look for is whether the therapist encourages you to tell him or her early on if you are comfortable with the services being offered. This shows genuine compassion and concern on the therapist's part.

Takeaway 

Many people experiencing problems in their relationship may be hesitant to seek out couples counseling in person. This is where online counseling for couples comes in. In an internet-based setting and from the comfort of your home, you may feel more comfortable opening up about your feelings and intimate issues. 

In recent studies, individuals undergoing online couples counseling have reported satisfaction with the experience. In many cases, these people say they forget they’re even talking to their therapist via videoconferencing.

If you’re experiencing problems in your marriage, or you just want to explore ways to strengthen it, consider reaching out to one of our BetterHelp counselors for assistance. We're available 24/7 to listen and assist you via couples or individual counseling.

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