If you are having difficulties with your primary relationship, you’re probably thinking about where you can look for help. A lot of help is available, but it can be difficult to work out which types of marriage counseling will help you the most and how to access the marriage counselors or marriage therapists who have the most experience with problems like yours. Here are a few of the best types of marriage counseling for some common situations. Even if your situation isn’t exactly the same, any good counselor will at least be able to direct you towards appropriate help, so don’t be afraid to talk to someone today.
1) Couples Counseling
At the most basic level, it’s important to seek one of the types of marriage counseling that focuses on working with both of you at once. While individual counseling might help one or the other of you to overcome personal issues that could well affect your relationship, looking at your relationship as a whole is a job for the couple as a unit, not as individuals. Most marriage counselors know this and will only work with an individual if the partner has agreed to join sessions later. However, it’s preferable that you both be involved from the beginning of the process.
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2) Family Therapy
If it is difficult to get your partner to agree to couples counseling or there are wider problems within your family, you might want to consider one of the types of marriage counseling that involves the whole family. Models such as family systems therapy can be used at anything from an individual level to a full extended family, and some of the best types of marriage counseling are those that consider the dynamics of the wider family and their effects on a couple. Family therapy might look at ways that individuals in a family take on or are assigned roles in everyday life, how those roles make them feel, and how to move the roles around if members of the family are unhappy with their places. It can be useful to combine family therapy with other types of marriage counseling, such as more traditional couples therapy, in order to get a broader picture of the problems and hence possible solutions.
3) Religion-Based Counseling
If either of you is a member of a religious community, it might be useful to look into the types of marriage counseling that your faith group can provide. Many people find the concept of support from a higher power and its earthly representatives reassuring in times of crisis. Organized religions are also generally very supportive of stable marriages and often provide resources to support these in times of trouble. No matter what your religion, you can find help by speaking to your local representative. At a minimum, you can choose from local marriage counselors or marriage therapists who come from a similar religious tradition.
4) Imago Therapy
Your partner may be reluctant to commit to counseling if he or she believes that all types of marriage counseling are based on standard psychotherapy talking cures. Fear of criticism or of being asked to talk about feelings that are difficult to put into words can be very off-putting. Imago Relationship Theory seeks to avoid this by looking at how couples form relationships based on their individual weaknesses and how these are mirrored in the choice of partner. It is a way to heal these needs without assigning blame and can be very successful in terms of helping couples rethink their dynamic. Marriage therapists who use this technique generally subscribe to the relational model of psychotherapy as opposed to the individual model, further reducing pressure on any reluctant individual. Sessions are based on conversations between the couple, not on external techniques or theory. By using this technique, marriage counselors are promoting the idea that the couple’s needs are what matters rather than seeking a particular outcome or vindication for either partner.
5) Marriage-Friendly Therapy
While you would hope that most counselors would provide marriage-friendly therapy, it’s a sad fact that many marriage therapists are actually trained initially in the individual model of therapy. They therefore have a tendency to put the happiness of individuals above the happiness of the couple or family as a unit. This can lead to situations, such as after one partner has had an affair, where couples are advised that the work required of them individually is too great and that they may be happier apart. While this may help the members of the couple as individuals in a more rapid time frame, it is done at the expense of their relationship and often creates wider problems within the family. Choosing from the types of marriage counseling that focus on repairing and sustaining relationships rather than seeking quick fixes for the individuals in those relationships can help to avert this, so it’s an important question to ask before you choose your counselor.
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6) Tailored Programs
Many types of marriage counseling come as fixed programs, with durations ranging from only a weekend to a few weeks. While fixed programs can be helpful in identifying the issues within a marriage, resolving issues properly for permanent relationship growth may require a long-term commitment from you and your partner. This approach resembles dieting: you put weight on over a long period, and it needs to come off slowly to stay off. Similarly, if your relationship appears to have issues that have developed over a long period rather than being precipitated by a temporary crisis, you may want to look at therapists who can offer types of counseling that stretch over months or even years to support you as you and your partner make the gradual but vital changes that will keep your marriage alive.
7) Gottman Method
For over 30 years, the Gottman Method has been tested and proven, both in clinical settings and in real life. This is a method that uses specific couples counseling techniques to increase closeness and intimacy. One of the powers of this method is to work out resentments that couples often build up over time. This emotional cleansing can act as a reset button for the relationship. The expression of respect and admiration, something that was instinctive when you first met, can once again become part of every day together. The Gottman method recognizes that conflict will always exist. In this type of therapy, you learn to manage the conflicts, rather than trying to fix each and every one of them.
8) Narrative Method
This technique involves telling a counselor about your story and then getting help rewriting the negative aspects of your life together. One of the most important features of this technique is that each spouse learns that problems and issues don’t define the person. One of the powerful aspects of this story-telling technique is that it allows you to view your issues from more than just a personal perspective. Since you’re able to pull them out and “put them on the table,” you can view your issues and concerns from political, social, and religious perspectives. This technique is excellent for allowing you and your spouse to see the issue in the context of your life.
Picking the Right Types of Marriage Counseling
While it might seem like you need to sit down and figure out what type of marriage counseling you should use, very often, it’s the counselor who will listen to each of you and will choose a method. In fact, often your counselor will use many different techniques from one session to the next. In other words, don’t worry about it; find someone that you’re comfortable with and go with that.
An Alternative to Marriage Counseling
In addition to the above types of marriage counseling, you might also consider Marriage Fitness with Mort Fertel, which is an alternative to counseling.
Many people don’t like all the family of origin work that counseling generally gets into. Other people feel silly practicing the standard communication techniques and problem solving strategies.
Marriage Fitness is a revolutionary step-by-step relationship-changing system. The focus is on the future, not the past. So you don’t have to dig into your history, dredge up your problems, or practice communication techniques.
Learn more on how to avoid divorce in our Marriage Counseling Guide.